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.

Hire RAD-INFO today!

Why Zoom Now?

In 2013, I was in the video conferencing space working with Vidtel. How did Zoom come out of nowhere and take up so much air in the room? There are a few factors.

One factor is that US broadband has gotten better in the past 6 years. A lot better. Starbucks offers top quality wi-fi now; not then. LTE was released in 2013. Now it is almost the standard. Better broadband makes video calls better.

Computing power has greatly increased – both on the laptop and in the smartphone. Faster computing makes for better video calls.

Also, 6 years ago WebRTC was just getting off the ground. Now most browsers support it. Some video calls utilize WebRTC.

More millennials have entered the work force in the last 6 years. They grew up making video calls.

There are probably a couple of other things that played a part, like focus and execution on the part of the Zoom team, but the improvements I listed – computing power, broadband and WebRTC – certainly helped. A work force that likes – or at least doesn’t mind video calls – added to the advantages.

Six years isn’t a long time, but it is a long time.

PS (This also helped)

Webex, Skype, GoToMeeting – all took their eyes off the ball. Microsoft changed Skype a number of times in the last 6 years. Webex was too proprietary and clunky. LogMeIn just plain screwed up. They bought Jive, they had Join.me and GoToMeeting – and couldn’t figure out how to capture the market – and keep it – the way Zoom did.

Why CPaaS Now?

Have you ever purchased a domain from GoDaddy?

Have you ever purchased business cards from VistaPrints?

Now sell a Phone Number (DID) the same way. Grab the DID and 15 screens of add-ons later, you hit the shopping cart. What add-ons? SMS, email, voicemail, ACD, IVR, video chat, conferencing, et al.

Through this process you help a business owner build a communications system off your platform that will work for her.

Upon examination, Twilio has the functions to do this. They acquired SendGrid to offer email and email marketing. They can do DIDs, toll-free, SMS, IVR (see their book on building an IVR) and now contact center. Twilio just doesn’t make it easy.

Personally I don’t think UCaaS was a mass market service offering. Too many buyers, especially CIOs, like mission critical – or at least customer facing – systems to be in-house (on-premise).

After 15 years and about 15% market penetration, the mass market solution is dial-tone replacement with build your own phone system.

Seth Godin says “that marketing today is about solving your customers’ problems. “We can’t do that with cost savings and product replacement.”

Seth also says, “Making average stuff for average people all the while hoping you can charge more than a commodity price” won’t work. ” It hasn’t. We need to make something magical, like the way you felt when you first used Skype or FaceTime.

The mass market is no longer important – the edges are what’s most important.” – Seth Godin (from his book, This is Marketing)

In the CRM space, there are thousands of competitors. Plenty of CRMs have gone vertical. There are CRM systems built just for real estate agents, just for e-commerce companies, just for concrete companies. UCaaS could learn from that. UCaaS needs to stop thinking it is as mainstream as POTS – unless it wants to be POTS!

Consider that most folks default to their cell phones for all comms – SMS, WhatsApp, talk, even video calls (FaceTime). Where does that leave a business app? Will it be as stable, secure and smooth as WhatsApp or FaceTime? That’s the Butter.

Why CPaaS now? With Avaya and the other legacy PBX vendors giving up, that leaves cloud comms (pushed as UCaaS). The Baby Bells have given up on copper. POTS lines are between $60 and $110 per month!) The unfortunate thing is that many businesses are just looking for dial-tone replacement with one or two functions. Seats are as low as $15 regularly. This isn’t fun for anyone.

We need to be looking at it like Vonage now is: how do you communicate with your employees, vendors, customers? Do you want to send/receive text or social media? Do you want a chatbot or live agent? What software do you need to integrate with – CRM, practice management, G Suite, etc. How do you want incoming calls to be handled? Do you want a caller to have a rich communication experience whereby the system recognizes the number and asks: “Do you want to speak with Peter again?”

These functions are all available. The buyer isn’t aware of all that is available. All they know is that $20 per seat per month is more than they are paying now – and they don’t own anything!

These are the reasons that CPaaS is the way to go – if done correctly.

Build Your Own Phone System coming soon.

Channel Hurdles, Part 4 with Carl Moore

I am currently working on my new book, The ABCs of Channel Programs: Channel Sales Enablement. To help me flush out some content for the book, I decided to talk with some friends in the industry about what hurdles they see in the channel right now.

Today’s podcast is with the VP of Channel at GTT, Carl Moore, a veteran in the channel. Carl and I discuss topics including on-boarding, enrollment, air cover and executive buy-in, all elements of a successful channel program. Give it a listen and let me know your thoughts.

Another Partner Picked Up

AppSmart finally announced a badly kept secret: they are acquiring master agency CNSG. This is AppSmart’s third acquisition following WCG and Telegration.

Ever since ScanSource bought Intelysis, there has been a driving desire to get bigger in the master agency space. There has been some M&A but I thought there would have been more.

The VADs (Ingram, Tech Data, SYNNEX and ScanSource) have all made moves to get bigger as well. Some of that is driven by the shift from on-premise hardware to cloud services, whereby the hardware bypasses the traditional VAD (and also the VAR or MSP). Theirs was M&A by necessity. And I’m not certain they have done enough to counter-balance the shift to software/cloud. We’ll see.

As network revenue write down continues in the carrier space, it has caused problems resulting in consolidation and bankruptcies. As the carriers get bigger, the larger master agencies want to get bigger to maintain their voice.

This drive to get bigger and bigger is coming at a time when the channel has driven more and more revenue for many providers, especially mid-market sales for UCaaS players. Just check any investor decks. This has increased the awareness and perhaps the significance of the channel. More vendors want to use/leverage the channel. The technology has surpassed the average person’s understanding and cognizance. The channel is aging (and on the IT side is cashing out via M&A).

The bigger the masters get, I am not certain they become as effective. Even VADs aren’t great at distributing the Long Tail. The top vendors – IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Schnieder, et al – are well represented but outside the top 20% of vendors, there are not any SMEs on the products/vendors in the bottom 80%. There are millions of SKUs; just like there are 400 UC providers powered by BroadWorks. Hard to distinguish and find the best fit for the customer – which is the main job of the partner, who relies on the master agency or VAD for some of that assistance.

The Long Tail creates problems for new vendors. The 23rd UC provider or the 19th SD-WAN player or the colocation company with 2 remote data centers in the master agency portfolio isn’t getting a lot of attention UNLESS they are awesome; spend a lot of money; or are unique in some market demanding way (see: Slack or Zoom for examples).

So I understand WHY we get consolidation in the master agency space; I just don’t know how that will work out for the partner or end user.

In this one particular case, AppSmart is on its third acquisition. It has come with quite a few executives who have held a CEO title, who now have a new organization and supervisory reporting structure. It will be interesting to see how this works out. There are also 4 different cultures that have to meld together – AppDirect, WTG, Telegration and CSNG. No easy task.

The message needs to be clearer as well. I am not certain what AppSmart is besides a portal. It sounds like ScanSource a little. Is there where everyone thinks the channel is going? I will sell this small business owner a laptop, a VPS, cable modem, LTE backup, GoDaddy domain and hosting? For one thing, most of these items are cheaper and easier to get on Amazon. Second, the margin for a partner to sell all of that is still less than the time she would expend doing so. Lastly, as indicated by the investor decks of the UC players, partners are going up-market. So I don’t know how this all works out, but I’ll be watching.

Let me acknowledge that Informa reports, ” Subagents have credited AppSmart for automating the back office and simplifying their day-to-day operations.” Like GeoQuote and DCITRAQ, partners don’t mind using a portal that is easy to use.

5 Trends to Make Money With in 2020

It is important to note that while these tech trends won’t be new, we are still in the early days – and the market opportunity still lies before us. Take UCaaS for example. Despite being around for over 15 years, the market penetration hasn’t even reached 20%. In SD-WAN, there are less than 30K businesses on SD-WAN. (I originally thought it was 10K, but then Cisco announced they had 20k). It is still early days. And everything takes longer than we think, says Hofstadter’s Law.

We often talk about being the “Trusted Advisor” without talking about what that looks like. It doesn’t mean that you are an expert at everything. It means that you apply your knowledge, your contacts and your network to solve business problems. You don’t have to know everything. You do have to ask really good questions!  If you ask the right questions, you can find out where your client is trying to go and what the hot buttons are. What pain are we trying to solve?

As a Trusted Advisor, you bring to the table a number of things, including best practices, real world experience, and what their competitors are doing. That knowledge coupled with really good questions puts you on the road to success. In this slide deck I have included a selection of questions to ask your customers in order to provide added value to them — and open up the conversation beyond just network. Good luck in 2020! and Happy Holidays from the RAD-INFO team.

Other trends discussed in this November 2019 webinar with AireSpring included SD-WAN, 5G. CPaaS, AI, IoT, Collaboration, and Cyber-Security. 5G isn’t going to be much different than 4G in actual experience (in my opinion), but it dovetails with Internet of Things (IOT) projects like connected cars and smart cities.

Artificial Intelligence has been around since 1956 but quantum computing, big data, machine learning and other advances in IT have brought it out of the lab. IBM Watson, Kandy by Ribbon, Amazon Alexa, Google AI, and other platforms have empowered AI for the SMB – with chatbots, virtual assistants, IVR & speech recognition, wearables, drug discovery, facial recognition and personalization of insurance.

I think UCaaS will give way to CPaaS whereby businesses buy dial-tone then add on functions that they want, like chatbot, ACD, IVR, voicemail-to-text, SMS and more. Bundles with Bronze, Silver and Gold should morph into verticals. For example, dry cleaners typically buy this package; if they use this POS system, they also get this. Although a really smart POS system will sell CPaaS as an add-on.

Collaboration is becoming a messy term. Video calls are increasing. Webinars and virtual meetings are common. HR departments use video calls for applicant screening. Slack, Workplace, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and more are allowing remote workers to collab/work together productively. That is the outcome we all were looking for.

Lastly, with hacks and breaches increasing at an incredible rate, the Cyber-security opportunity for partners lies in cloud back-up, cyber insurance and anti-phishing training. You don’t have to try to figure out DDoS from UTM (and all the other acronyms). Look for the window of opportunity – and supply it. Plenty of vendors to choose from (I mentioned dozens of them in the presentation below).