I have worked in telecoms for 10 years and it seems that most of that time the industry has been trying to evolve a converged proposition encompassing fixed line and mobile. It did not take me long to realise that customers have varied requirements and what suits a medium-sized or large corporate will not necessarily suit a business with five to 50 employees.
So far, the industry has produced a variety of offerings, from IP PBX integration with desk phones and mobile handsets through Mitel or Avaya systems, to mobile networking offerings such as Vodafone's scalable One-Net aimed at smaller businesses.
And now there is Microsoft Lync. As well as claiming to have everything you need, it is also made by Microsoft, which obviously already provides a vast number of UK businesses with IT infrastructure, email, storage and network management offerings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people I have spoken to in the telecommunications world are skeptical about Lync.
It is possible that they see it as a potential threat to their core business. Certainly uptake, particularly of the voice element, seems to be slower than you would think it should be, given the opportunities it presents.
I wanted to explore this reticence further so I placed a poll on LinkedIn in an attempt to ascertain what Microsoft Lync functionality people are using. Given the conversations I had had up to that point, I was surprised that about half of those who responded – some 120 from around the world – claimed they were using it for enterprise voice as well as IM, conference calling and document sharing.
Such a small survey is hardly conclusive, but it might give an indication that things could be changing when it comes to Lync.
One of the barriers to adoption is the notion of having all services accounted for on one bill. Historically, one bill had high appeal, enabling customers to incorporate line rental, call charges, and later on, data bandwidth into one document or page.
But now you have provision of services expanding into IM, video calling, digital collaboration and digital archiving, why would companies really want this all on one bill? The idea that there is a preference for one bill is something of a red herring.
What is probably more important is that the customer is looking for one point of contact for enquires and fault resolution. Really the question that should be asked is who do they want to guide them through the implementation and support them after delivery?
This is where two other worlds collide: product and proposition strategy. How do suppliers place themselves to provide a "complete solution" with as little disruption to the client as possible?
The best option seems to be partnering. This is already a successful model in the IT world, although customer ownership can always cloud the judgement of more reluctant telecommunications companies.
It would mean letting the lead supplier, whether SI or product reseller, support and manage the customer's IT infrastructure, bringing in specialists where necessary to achieve full integration.
Not a bad proposition, and I think the customers might just agree.
Stuart Cordingley is head of channel at Fusion Mobile
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