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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Friction

In 15 years, cloud communications had not even hit 15% penetration of the market. A pandemic pushed it to 25% (maybe 30%). That means it wasn’t really anything the CSPs did; they just answered the phone when people called (and if they didn’t drop the ball, they got a customer).

UCaaS messaging centered around voice and PBX replacement, yet when the pandemic hit, businesses were buying Facetime and MS Teams. This functionality was built into every UCaaS bundle. How did it go so sideways?

Webex, PGi, GoTo had all been offering video conferencing for years, but Zoom swooped it and stole the show. Even on the education sector, when schools went virtual, did any of the legacy players take market share? Marketers have to examine that to find out why.

As I think through the MS Teams win, I chalk that up to Microsoft marketing muscle and the fact that Office365 was already in front of so many businesses. It made sense for businesses to leverage that on the fly. And lean on it as it is embedded now – email, messaging, documents. The unified inbox.

When enabled, the MS Teams app will contain docs, email, chat, presence, SMS, voicemail, video and conferencing. That’s kind of the Holy Grail the market has been waiting for. And Microsoft’s plan to extend MS Teams infiltration to every business is moving forward. Every Metaswitch shop will be pushing MS Teams as the “softphone” going forward.

A lot went into play to get to here for Microsoft including how many gyrations of Lync, Skype, Office. Also, a ton of marketing muscle especially to their partners.

Why did Zoom win so big? 1 Million phones in 24 months! Was it the price, the pandemic, or a confluence of factors? Is $10 the price point to move seats? MS Teams Direct Routing runs between $5 and $10 per seat, so perhaps that is the sweet spot.

Or was it the simple (frictionless) way to add voice? No phone was shipped, just a tab on the Zoom app was added / turned on. In other words, voice is the pull-through (fly-wheel) from the video service.

It took 8×8 and RingCentral over 10 years to hit 1M seats. In 2020, both pushed out Meetings apps. This is chasing the market leader. Does anyone have a Zoom problem? Because if you aren’t solving a problem your market has, harder to get traction.

This leaves me asking you: How easy is it to buy from your company? I secret shop the cloud comms space frequently. It is not simple or easy.

For Microsoft users it was just easy to transition to MS Teams. Most companies already use some Microsoft product. Not a lot of friction to upgrade or add more products. Microsoft is also salient (top of mind). Marketing and ease of business.

Hard to be a Buyer of Telecom

It must be hard to be a Buyer for telecom services. The old acronyms – PRI, POTS, T1 – are hard to procure. In some cases, even buying a PRI doesn’t get you a PRI; it gets you PRI signaling.

If the Buyer is current, is he/she looking for CPaaS, UCaaS, CCaaS, cloud comms? How does he/she know? In one Best Of article this morning, the list of CPaaS providers was thin and misinformed. In another, good list but still missing key players. One research firm calls the CPaaS market the Internet Communication Cloud market.

There has never been a better time to be a telecom consultant. Buyers need much assistance in procuring communications at a fair market rate while getting the best technology to service their business and its employees and customers.

It isn’t just the right technology but the most aligned vendor. Then someone needs to keep a watch on the project in order for all the elements to come together – whether it is multi-vendor or single sourced.

One thing is certain: the vendors have taken cost cutting, automation and consolidation too far to actually serve its customers. Each install is taking up more and more time and effort for my clients.

Whether it is a clean, new install of an Internet pipe or a migration from PRI to SIP trunking, someone has to keep an eye on the ball — it cannot be left up solely to the vendor to “do its job”.

Hiring a telecom consultant may not mean all your problems are solved. For example, in Louisiana right now, SuddenLink (Altice USA) has been down since the hurricane(s) and has been totally unresponsive to customers for repair. However, you will have one more voice that is familiar with the vendors who talks their lingo and has an incentive to help you.

If you are procuring communications services, call RAD-INFO INC for assistance today! (813) 963-5884

What to Look for in 2021

Don’t expect the vaccines to change the landscape in the short-term (for many reasons – call me if you want me to elaborate). Even Dr. Fauci predicts Fall of 2021.

Customer Experience (CX), Customer Engagement, API and UX/UI will be the focal point, according to analysts, bankers and VCs. Let me tell you that what really counts is Service Delivery. On the ground, turning customers up and getting them going smoothly is platinum! It garners word of mouth, referrals and reviews! That is how you get more sales. [Note: I wrote about customer experience here.]

I have been hearing remarks that smaller providers are in trouble. Not really. Focus and sales will win the day. Large providers, especially public ones, worry about quarterly metrics to maintain stock price, which is a stupid way to run a billion dollar company. Regional providers worry about getting and retaining customers. Period. They will need to be able to craft a story around why using them over Zoom or RingCentral is better.

Mr Quinn on the CCA call confirmed what I have been saying for over a year: BroadWorks is end of life. He mentioned that no more BroadWorks licenses were being sold. BroadCloud and Webex are the future for Cisco. Vodafone (a BSFT shop) partnered with RingCentral. Comcast acquired Blueface. Verizon uses Aircall for contact center and acquired Bluejeans for video. So bigger BSFT clients have seen the writing on the wall. Don’t panic, but have a plan.

Mr Quinn also confirmed that the ROI on the RingCentral partnerships is naught. RNG has joined forces with Telus, BT, AT&T, Vodafone, Avaya, Alcatel… where are those sales in the S1 filings? Think about this: Why aren’t the giants developing their own UC product? AT&T had CallVantage early on (2004) (and canned it).

Some say that the big guys don’t want to develop their own product; telcos traditionally resell AT&T Labs/Lucent tech. CenturyLink (now Lumen) doesn’t have a serious UCaaS product. AT&T is back at RNG having killed AT&T Collaborate. Maybe they ceded this product line. The big boys are only interested in billion dollar products. When you have $100B in revenue, anything under a billion is a rounding error for a junior accountant to deal with.

Zoom saw big growth – 370%! The Big 3 UC Players did not see even 50% growth. Microsoft did. So what does that tell you?

Video calls are here to stay. (Here)

The big acquisitions this year – Microsoft + Metaswitch; Slack + Salesforce; kandy to a SPAC; more M&A coming all the time. Over 500 deals during the pandemic in the telecom/IT space. There was much acquisition in the cloud contact center space too.

Pundits say UCaaS is hot. Is it? Or is voice, conferencing, video, contact center and collab functions that people are using? Which can come in UCaaS or a variety of other ways.

Microsoft launched a CPaaS platform on Azure. At some point direct routing to Teams will go away. My guess is two years max. Why CPaaS? Read my thoughts here. Quinn said that in LATAM CPaaS is winning. Dial-tone with some added functionality is what I figure most businesses need since gloablly and in the US more than 85% of businesses are small businesses.

2021 will see a new FCC. Bye Pai! Who knows what that will bring – maybe less deregulation. Probably not.

The RDOF money went to Charter, Frontier, Windstream and Starlink. It looks like no fiber to the home deployments; instead our tax dollars are paying for fixed wireless (from WIND & FTR) and satellite!

Are you ready for 2021? Sales Planning and Goal Setting for the new year with a review of 2020’s wins and losses would be a smart way to spend the rest of the year.

Read more of my musings on 2020.

MicroCorp Goes to AppSmart

I have been a MicroCorp partner since 2002. I was on the Board for quite a few years. It is a fantastic group of people there – and one of the industry’s best channel managers (Cynthia Briggs) works there.

2020 pummeled the channel. Yes, some partners did well in 2020; but a good portion did not. Just like the rest of the economy, if you were heavy in hospitality or travel or restaurants, you had a hard hard year.

Without in-person events, we discovered that many folks can’t sell or recruit or manage partners. That isn’t good. It made for extensive musical chairs in an industry that is famous for musical chairs.

Yet companies didn’t train their people. A few companies did … thank you! But most did not. But expect results anyway. Huh?

Virtual events… they just suck. Period. Maybe they will get better, but likely not since a major reason to attend in-person events is not just free food and drink, but camaraderie. Meet peers and friends, sharing, laughing and learning from one another. No one has virtualized that yet.

These things take a toll on the Channel.

In 2020, the big got bigger – Amazon and Walmart. There were over 500 M&A transactions in the channel in 2020. The driving factor is to get bigger. Sure, some of that is to fill in holes in the portfolio (for contact center and cybersec firms) but it was by and large to get large.

In the channel, 2020 saw both Ingram and Tech Data get bought by private equity. Telarus took a private equity partner.

The channel is aging. Some partners – MSPs, brokers, VARs and others – called it quits in 2020. I spoke to a couple who were going to ride into the sunset. They just didn’t have it in themselves to do it once more. Dot com days, 9/11, recession, financial disaster and now pandemic. Nope.

I spoke with partners writing down six figures in clawbacks. I also spoke with several partners doing well – seeing opportunity and capitalizing on it. It can be done if you have the team, the ability, the execution and you see it. A few pivoted.

Letting employees go is the roughest thing an entrepreneur has to do. There was too much of that in 2020. Add in isolation, maybe a health crisis in the family or with friends, income shrinkage, a declined PPP loan – a lot hurdles this year. Tough for everyone.

Now the largest master agency in the Southeast and one of the Top 10 in the US goes to AppSmart. Maybe that is a smart move. Go Big for financial strength, contract leverage, etc. Bigger has never meant better in telecom. Ask Lumen or Zayo or Charter or AT&T or Birch/Fusion or Frontier. I know those are mostly telcos.

I know the future of the channel as the prophecy says is Software. Maybe, but I don’t see many people paying the mortgage from Office365 sales. I do see mortgage payments from fiber though.

Let me point out that not many companies made bank on WFH. Zoom, Microsoft and Slack did. Big Time! RingCentral, 8×8 and Vonage — your S1 filings do not tell that story. Maybe a 10% bump, but nothing suggesting that you won in 2020. Nextiva says they crushed it – whatever that means for a company that doesn’t release numbers. Every carrier said they were crushing it — but phone calls and emails on the 28th of each month tell me that might not be the case. #justsaying

Looking Ahead! I think 2021 will be a mess. I think MDF will be off because the ROI was funky with MDF in 2020. I think in-person events don’t start until at least June. I think too many companies have Hope as a Strategy as it is. They need to get back to basics in sales and marketing – not hope that a bourbon tasting is going to hit quota.

I wish the fine folks at MicroCorp well as they integrate into AppSmart. I just don’t see how all these leaders from WTG, Telegration, CSNG and now Microcorp fit into one org. That’s a lot of entrepreneurs and different cultures to meld into one unified agency that mainly wants partners to self-serve through the portal. (And they still haven’t assimilated CSNG yet because, well, CSNG has a funky corporate structure, which just adds to it.)

A new master agency will fill the void. Every partner uses 5 masters. Every partner spreads it around in case. We have all been burned.

Hope everyone has a healthy and happy holiday season!

Lessons from the Pandemic

As you can imagine there have been quite a few articles about the pandemic. I have read a few articles about lessons learned during the pandemic. These are worth the (short) read.

This one is like a journal of thoughts. A couple of examples: “People can be unbelievably charitable and giving.” and “We are attached to our phones like never before.” For humor: “Our airplanes will now start deep cleaning and we wonder, “What were they doing before?””

Pew Research surveyed Americans. “The rest of this essay looks at a sampling of responses – including many examples presented exactly as respondents wrote them.”

The people at TED have been collecting stories. These stories are told in three lessons from 2020. Worth the read.

Pharmacy Times have 5 lessons learned. (1) Medical literacy is a problem. (2) Online meetings can work. (3) People are still our most valuable resource. (4) Remote teaching is not so bad. (5) Who has the Power.

The quote below comes from the lessons learned article by Michigan State Medical Society. In this article the first 4 lessons are for any business (and the fifth is just for the medical audience). (1) Change your own mindset to succeed. (2) Plan for what’s coming next (for example, cybersecurity, backups, ransomware or the next wave of pandemic). (3) Communicate with honesty, empathy, authenticity, and consistency. <- Leadership! (4) Recognize the pandemic’s silver lining: Innovation.