Peter Radizeski is Founder and President of RAD-INFO INC. He is an accomplished blogalyst, speaker, author and consultant. He has helped many service providers with sales training, marketing, channel development and business strategy. He is a trusted source of knowledge about the telecom sector. His honest and direct approach make him a refreshing speaker.

Look for his innovative ideas and analysis of current technology on his blogs.

Meet him at one of the many conferences he attends and speaks at.

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Survey Says Cloud Still Not Every Partners Cup of Tea

Corelea Group conducted a survey of 300 US and Canadian channel partners about cloud, but specifically UCaaS and CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service).

The striking statistics for me are as follows:

  • Many Agents still find Cloud business not cost-effective for themselves (40%).
  • 80 percent of the respondents are selling UCaaS or CCaaS already.
  • 60% said they were selling SD-WAN. It makes me wonder if they meant sold or offering.

No surprise that none are prepared to stop selling network and go 100% cloud.

Partners’ have a confidence issue in cloud providers delivering a good customer experience. That reiterates my claim that Service Delivery or Customer Experience has to become Job 1 for the service provider that wants to rise to the top.

Partners cannot clearly differentiate the cloud services. In other words, the service providers have done a poor job of messaging. Can you name the target buyer of any cloud service?

I understand why the message has been 1 to 1000 all these years: the Hosted VoIP space has not taken off like many predicted and revenue – any revenue – is acceptable to the providers even if they have to forego revenue or profits.
However, the pricing pressure that UC providers are feeling correlates to their inability to position themselves in the marketplace.

In the pharmaceutical world, once a drug comes off patent and the generic hits the market, everything changes for the brand manufacturer. The advertising tone changes, prices drop, coupons start, and other ways to hold market share while overall revenue from the off-patent drug plummets. It must feel like Broadsoft has come off patent for many UC providers. Only none of that have prepared the marketing for it. They all still act like they are patent protected and no one else has the active ingredient. They couldn’t be more wrong, since even the channel partners can’t differentiate!

That same pricing pressure means that many won’t/can’t change. They won’t invest in the product, in marketing, in training or in research. They will continue to do what they have done – the definition of insanity.

As an agent, I hear from VoIP/UC players all the time. (Quite a few are clients.) While I hear the SD-WAN hype loud and clear, cloud backup and security providers have not done a great job of getting the message out. Security messaging is usually tied to a product (secure Internet or secure SIP) unless it is a LEC pushing their latest product. “We got some DDoS here! Who wants some DDoS!” With about that much sophistication.

The partners in the study even remark that there is a lack of reliable SIP Providers. Technical challenges (like Fax over IP) and lack of end-user education are also factors as to why partners aren’t jumping into the VoIP game.

If we take UCaaS as being the largest cloud service actively being offered by channel partners, then the other providers can learn from this segment.

On the service delivery, providers must consider that post-ink there is a lot of work to be done (data to be gathered) in order for the customer to have a positive experience. User mapping is probably the largest puzzle piece, but hunt groups, ACD and IVR scripts are also important for UCaaS/CCaaS deployment. Number porting and toll-free are just one more moving part that must be included in the deployment checklist with the customer.

To be done properly, service delivery needs to be a PMO. “A PMO is a Project Management Office. It’s a function within an organization that defines the standards for project management. The main purpose of a PMO is to make sure that projects and programs are run in a repeatable, standardized way,” according to Ten Six Consulting and Wikipedia. Checklists and repeatable processes can go far to improve service delivery.

There are things that will improve reliability and call quality of SIP trunking and UC. One is the fact that ISPs are providing fatter Internet pipes to businesses. Many cablecos are rolling out DOCSIS 3 or higher. Meanwhile 4G has improved as well. These two pipes are utilized in several SD-WAN deployments in order to increase uptime, speed, reliability and packet delivery. This will make its way into a better service delivery (without a managed solution with MPLS or a dedicated drop just for voice).

Other parts of the survey, beg the question: what is the master agency doing to solve either the Service Delivery issue or the vendor positioning problem?

I have had discussions with master agencies about why they have so many vendors. There are numerous answers from agents ask for them to we needed to fill out our portfolio. Unfortunately, that means that there won’t be anyone who can explain the difference between the vendors. Therein lays one of the issues the channel is facing.

If you walked into a pharmacy aisle for over-the-counter cold medicine and the pharmacist couldn’t help you decide which one to buy, would you go back to that pharmacy?

There are already a few master agencies that have specialized. An example is COLOTRAQ in the data center space. Yes, they have 400+ vendors globally but they have subject matter experts to help agents choose a vendor. And they have placed that knowledge at your fingertips with DCITRAQ.

Another example is LANtelligence, who specializes in the design, deployment and support of UC and CCaaS. LANtelligence offers an expertise that covers solution design, implementation services and post-project support, as well as vendor selection and sales support. They don’t have a hundred vendors, just some of the best in the space like Mitel, Genesys, Lifesize and 8×8. Our industry is in need of Subject Matter Experts like LANtelligence. It seems to be what the channel is asking for.

The channel is in the middle of a transition. However, it is challenging to transition a business (like a MSP or an Agency) when the current revenue is in jeopardy. Also, change is uncomfortable; moreso when you don’t have confidence in the new line-up of vendors. Microsoft may have made mistakes, but it was fixable – and they weren’t going out of business and no one was getting fired for choosing Microsoft. That can’t be said for cloud communications or other cloud services just yet.

Until the cloud vendors become as stable as Cisco or Microsoft, the channel may need to lean on specialized agencies like LANtelligence and COLOTRAQ in order to better serve their customers.

What Was Cool at EC18?

What was cool at Enterprise Connect 2018?

Not much. Microsoft launched TEAMS. ” @MicrosoftTeams now includes cloud recording, providing one-click meeting recordings with automatic transcription and time coding, enabling all team members the ability to read captions, search within the conversation, and playback all or part of the meeting,” according to reports. I don’t think that will take off like wild fire like others think. MS has been hot and cold in the PBX space. They have had famous mishaps. (Like IBM did in Oregon!) Any upgrades with MS have to be taken with caution. Win10 hasn’t exactly been an awesome upgrade for anyone. Lync to Skype to Teams in a matter of a couple of years is whiplash to users, especially when you went from SIMPLE Skype to a now over featured Teams.

1 million features – miles from the simplicity of Skype.

Plantronics and Microsoft have a nice mobile device cradle (see it here).

In that space, Atlassian launched Confluence and Stride to run alongside Hipchat. Slack’s CTO was a keynote; no women keynotes. None.

Counterpath is now a SaaS provider of Stretto™ Provisioning Platform – empowering enterprises and operators to deliver flexible UC capabilities for specific users and communications requirements. For providers that don’t want to play with CC-1 from BroadCiscoSoft, this is an alternative.

Metaswitch is hoping that MVNOs jump on the native dialer wagon with their new MAX. In a way this is a One Talk competitor. In another way, it is an avenue for RLECs to capitalize on NRTC’s Telispire to offer a mobile UC play to businesses.

I think the most courageous booth was NEC. They didn’t bring UC. They brought all the fun stuff – like SSO (single sign on – NEC TouchPass) and Smart Hospitality.

8×8 and Vonage showcased their communications platforms. The Vonage Business Cloud gives businesses the opportunity to build its own platform for communications with widgets from Nexmo and other systems Vonage has. So the business could add SSO, IVR, click to call and other functionality it wants without having to pick a Gold, Silver or Bronze bundle.

Polycom showcased the positives of its merger with Obihai, including T.38 ATA’s and a handset made for key system emulation. (AireSpring should take a look.) The endpoint management technology that they got from Obihai is similar to Tampa-based Phonism’s technology.


VoIP Innovations (with new leadership and fresh off the Apidaze acquisition) was showcasing their CPaaS capabilities. “VoIP Innovations and Telinta, Inc. have announced that they have tied up to offer a novel messaging solution for Mobile VoIP service providers,” according to another release. What’s next at VI? We’ll see soon. They look to be just getting started.

There’s the thing UCaaS, HPBX, CPaaS – none of it matters to the customer. The customer wants reliable dial-tone, SMS, voicemail to email and a few other features. Until you do Discovery, you won’t know why they are switching or what they are trying to accomplish.

If CX (Customer Experience) is the next thing (or at the least the significance of Service Delivery), then you better evolve a culture to deliver it. The CEO at the podium, a few press releases and a sign do NOT mean that your company actually demonstrates a care for CX or SD.

Not the first. Psst… Amazon.

No idea what this means. If you can explain it to me, I’ll buy you coffee!

Is This Cloud Comms 2.0?

It’s been about 15 years since Broadsoft rolled out to service providers in the hopes of selling more than SIP Trunks, but IP Centrex. Then it became Hosted PBX. Then Cloud Comms. Not its UCaaS or UC&C.

Quite a few providers have re-launched platforms. Shoretel bought M5 then launched Connect before the MITEL acquisition.

Broadvoice just launched b-hive based on an acquired platform, replacing Metaswitch.

Vonage just closed Vocalocity

Dialpad isn’t like most offerings on the market.

Ooma buys Canada’s Voxter and Magicjack sells out. Changes.

Even VZ chose to try something new with OneTalk instead of re-vamping VCE.

So many providers have entered the fray. But things have changed in 15 years. Cloud is all we talk about – for everything. Smartphones and 4G made that possible. Ubiquitous broadband (3G, 4G, wi-fi) has changed things. Computing is cheap and mobile.

Mobile phone penetration in the US is more than 100%.

Freelancers became a big chunk of the economy.

Yet, we think everyone is a mobile worker or knowledge worker or freelancer. Many businesses are pretty traditional – landscapers, drugstores, dry cleaners, chinese take-out, pizza joints, home repairs, etc. These places still use traditional phones or need auto attendant in cloud. A softphone is going to help a forklift operator.

Maybe platforms are being re-tooled because of the 29.5 Million businesses in the US, “Around 23.8M of these businesses are considered “non employers” – they have no paid employees and their average revenue is around $46,000/year”. That leaves 5.72M businesses with employees (payroll).

4.5M have less than 10 employees;
700K have 11-25 employees;
250K have 26-50 employees;
118K have 51-100;
83,000 have 101-500;
18,000 have more than 500+ employees.

At best you can capture 5% of a market. Which market do you want to capture 5% of?

Most providers are running up the chain to chase the 101K companies with 100 or more employees, which is actually 4 segments with varying buying personas. They will be fighting with Microsoft and Cisco (and their certified brand ambassadors) in these companies. But have it!

The largest untapped market is the 11-25 person segment. What most don’t realize is that it requires (as it stands now) buyer education then user education UNLESS you package a product that is an easy to use as an iPhone app.

The 4.5M in the VSB segement would gladly buy business-in-a-box if someone would package it right.

Even at the enterprise level, UCaaS adoption is a big issue. If the users aren’t using the features, the company is over-paying for dial-tone. That looks more and more like folks just need CPaaS. [I’m not certain any provider has worked out the business case for training and re-training customers on their product.]

Cloud Comms 2.0 will be a cross between CPaaS and Cloud PBX.

With new platform announcements from Vonage and RING, this may happen sooner than later.

So You Jumped into Voice

Either you decided to buy a voice switch – Netsapiens or Metaswitch or open-source like Freeswitch – or you went white-label with the likes of Coredial or with a platform like Alianza . Either way you decided to enter the highly competitive fray of voice services.

You need a billing platform, 499 registration, origination + termination, DIDs, LNP, CNAM, and nomadic 9-1-1. More important, you also need to package it into a service the customers will buy. How do you do that?

Know your customers. Most likely you already have a base of customers. Is it residential or business? What segment of business – SOHO, VSB, small, midsized or enterprise? Any specific verticals? What commonality? Use that data.

Here’s something to consider: only about 0.3% of US firms have over 500 employees. So the rush to go up market to enterprise confuses me. ALL of the competition is up there!

There are almost 11.5 million businesses with 1-4 employees!
2 Million have 5-9 employees.
1 Million more have 10-19 employees.

These 14.5 million businesses are underserved and uneducated on what communications platforms can do for their business.

Of the 2000+ companies offering Hosted VoIP, almost 800 of them are rural. Most of the voice sold in the USA is now from cable, which means mainly SIP trunking. I mention this because most people in the Hosted VoIP space don’t realize that UCaaS (or whatever you want to call cloud communications or Hosted PBX services) is still less than 20% of the total market – even after 15 years of sales and thousands out there trying to sell it.

Know that there is a big difference between a Managed UC sales and OTT VoIP – and it isn’t just the price! It is that the OTT VoIP buyer just wants dial-tone. They want to buy a replacement for POTS or PRI and save some money. This is what we have been teaching the buyer since the 1990s. We will sell you something to replace that for less money. (Now the industry is broke!)

CPaaS is the next platform to offer voice. This platform also can provide SMS, collaboration, conferencing and video calls. CPaaS platforms are aplenty: Nexmo by Vonage; Kandy by GENBAND (now Ribbon); Zang by Avaya; Mitel’s Corvisa from Shoretel; and the big daddy Twilio. I think CPaaS will be the winner. Most folks want cheap dial-tone and maybe a couple other features layered in like voicemail to text.

Mitel is a leader in going Vertical. Verticals is how the profits will be won; how margins will be maintained. UCaaS was supposed to be about business process improvement. You can provide an outcome for improved business in a vertical market easier than if you try to tackle the whole business realm. Isn’t it time that providers actually delivered on that promise?

So where does that leave the MSP with the white-label? You better think hard about what you want to deliver. Voice is hard enough with LNP, faxing and call quality. (Call quality is such a pain that many are slapping SD-WAN at it to improve the quality of service via line bonding, packet shaping and if really advanced analytics.

Who are you selling to?
What will they buy?
What outcome do you want to promise and deliver?
How will you go to market?
What pricing?
What endpoints (phones, softphones, bluetooth headsets)?

If you want help with these questions and the strategy behind them, please contact the RAD-INFO INC office at (813) 963-5884. We have helped over 50 providers offering voice services.

FYI… Calltower acquired Appia and Ooma is acquiring Canadian UCaaS player Voxter.

*”NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is the premier association representing nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies that are leading innovation in rural and small-town America.”

Pop Music or a Symphony?

Channel Strategy is a lot like music. You can have formula like pop music. It’s a fad but there is a Top 40 list that can make you money and feel good. But the numbers indicate that you will likely be a one hit wonder and fade to obscurity.

But a symphony carries on for years. And it moves people. Isn’t that what you want from your program- to move people and not fade away?

There are three factors to becoming a symphony. At the heart of every great opera or symphony is a story or an emotional narrative.

In addition, tonality is a key. Does it resonate with the listener? If it doesn’t, they won’t listen long. (Especially on webinars where the speaker is reading the slides in a monotone!)

Then there is the movement. To me the movement is the sell through. It isn’t about how many sub-agents that are signed up through your awesome plan to ink every master. It is about how many sub-agents align themselves with you – and sell your stuff! THAT is the most crucial part of the whole symphony – the movement!

So go make music, but try to make it a symphony and not a pop tune.