Jim  Burton
JIM BURTONFounder and CEO, CT Link, LLCCo-Founder, UCStrategiesJim Burton is Founder and CEO of CT Link, LLC. Burton founded the...
Read Full Bio >>

Jim Burton | June 19, 2012 |


A New UC Channel is Emerging

A New UC Channel is Emerging Advice for prospective vendors and channel partners as they reach a crossroads.

Advice for prospective vendors and channel partners as they reach a crossroads.

The UC channel is at a crossroads. One path is very complex, the other is very simple, and different types of channel companies will pursue the two different paths.

The complex path is for solution integrators (resellers, VARs, system integrators, etc.) that have evolved over the past 20+ years. In the early 1990s, these SIs had to learn how to integrate computer and telephone systems (CTI). In the late 1990s, they had to add VoIP and data networking to their knowledge base (IP-PBX). In the mid 2000s they had to add desktop applications and business process automation to the mix (UC). The future for these SIs looks to get even more complicated with the consumerization of IT, bring your own device (BYOD), mobile solutions, analytics, cloud, virtualization, etc.

At the UC Summit in La Jolla, CA, last May, we saw an early indicator that this channel is preparing for the challenges ahead. The attendees all appeared to have plans, or were working on plans, for how they will sell and support the new products and technologies that the vendors will be delivering in the near future. (However, I should note that the UC Summit is an invitation-only event and the attendees tend to be channel leaders, so it's not a representation of the broad mix of resellers out there.)

The other path, the easy path, brings back several memories. If you look at history, every time a new channel was needed, it somehow developed. When the FCC made the Carterfone Decision in 1968, intercom and paging companies evolved into the first interconnect companies. Later, a group known as trunkers emerged to deliver low-end solutions to the market. When RBOCs started selling Centrex, their solutions were sold by a new type of reseller that acted as agents for the RBOCs. All of the products sold by these channel companies were very simple compared to the products sold by today's SIs.

The introduction of cloud and hosted services is creating an opportunity for a new channel. The vendors for these products have invested heavily to make them easy to configure, install, maintain, manage and service. Most have pricing models that make them easy to purchase.

Some vendors think they are so easy to install and maintain that they try to sell them directly through a sales portal. My advice for these vendors is: To maximize your opportunity, you need a channel. Some of you get caught up in your own product promotion and forget that not everything is in the cloud. Customers need CPE, and SMB customers need someone to act as their IT department. You need channel partners.

It is easy to look back and see how the channel evolved. It is more difficult to see where and how a new channel might come to be. When looking at what characteristics a channel partner may need to succeed in the emerging cloud market, you find qualities similar to those of the agents that sold RBOC Centrex service. Their business model supported monthly annuity income from sales, as opposed to the big paydays most SIs have become accustomed to.

My advice for the channel partner is: To maximize your opportunity and differentiate yourself from the competition, you need to become your customer's IT department. For the SMB market, this may be as simple as supporting wireless and wired networks and the cloud service you are selling. For the SME market, you will need to help your customer integrate communications into their business processes. A vertical market approach can help simplify this process.

I will be focusing much of my writing on this topic. Catch me on and


April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

April 5, 2017

Its no secret that the cloud offers significant benefits to enterprises - including cost reduction, scalability, higher efficiency, and more flexibility. If your phone system and contact center are

March 22, 2017

As today's competitive business environments push workforces into overdrive, many enterprises are seeking ways of streamlining workflows while optimizing productivity, business agility, and speed.

April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.