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The Channel Industry Opportunity: Predictions for 2017

Zane Long

by Zane Long, Vice President of Channel Sales at RingCentral (www.ringcentral.com)

2016, Oh what a year! As the final days approach, some thoughts have come to mind regarding what the UCaaS opportunity looks like for the channel industry in 2017. These are based upon what I have seen as a channel executive over the last 15+ years; what we have seen at RingCentral; and our experience with valued channel partners and enterprise customers.

The channel industry has reached an inflection point, one which presents a “land grab” opportunity for cloud vendors to arm their partners with the solutions their enterprise customers are asking for, as well as a shifted approach to how channel partners package offerings for their customers. The notion of hybrid IT is going away, making room for cloud-centric business communications models that usher in a new era of profitability, flexibility, and interoperability for enterprises.

Following are my four main predictions for 2017:

  • The Bubble-Up Effect: Change demand for UCaaS is coming from customers, which is creating a bubble-up effect in the channel. Organizations are initiating conversations with their trusted IT advisors (channel partners) about moving not just core data-driven applications, but also their business communications systems to the cloud. Increasingly, I hear customers say that going forward they will be “cloud first” and “cloud only” when it comes to all things IT. In 2017, we’ll begin to see an increase in this customer-to-partner demand behavior, which will ultimately drive new channel business models.
  • The Proof is in the Platform: Today’s business cloud ecosystem is successful because of the various business application integrations that make greater work productivity possible. But this is still a nascent concept in channel sales. As this trend continues to unfold and enterprises adopt interoperable platforms, channel partners will realize that there is more to sell beyond the software. An integrated business needs integrated solutions, and only those vendors that offer up an open platform will win the business.
  • The End of Hybrid IT Models: The channel model of selling hybrid traditional on-premise hardware with cloud-based infrastructure and capabilities is coming to a halt. The value proposition for cloud is too great, and in particular, for cloud communications. According to a recent NoJitter report, more than half of companies surveyed said they currently use or will be using the cloud for their unified communications needs in the next 12 months. Over the course of next year, we will see a major shift in the way channel executives model their business, both from a sales and services perspective. We’ll see the channel redefine the model for technology services – blending both conventional and emerging IT approaches – to achieve long-term success, and less tightrope walking / more cloud conversion among mid and large-sized enterprises.
  • Enablement is King: Partners need the right sales support and enablement in order to be successful. It isn’t enough to have just an amazing product or the richest commissions, because if partners are not fully enabled to really market it, they will not position your product first. The cloud communications marketplace is crowded and the demand for these competing solutions is evident (as noted in my earlier predictions). Vendors need to “think partner enablement first,” making it easy to transact to keep their partners transacting and gaining market share for their solutions.

Ultimately, there is a huge opportunity in 2017 to further move away from on-premise, hardware-based legacy systems and advance towards more streamlined and agile cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions. I think we have one of the most exciting years ahead.

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