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by Ralph Hawkins, senior vice president of PGi Partners
Change is constant. Telco mergers in recent weeks will have an impact on partners, agents and resellers. Social media has completely altered the way we do business, just as email and conference calling revolutionized the way partners worked 15 years ago. Below, Hawkins outlines the importance of staying on top of trends, in order to provide customers the products and services they want.
As I look back on how the channel has changed in my seven years running PGi’s partner programs, I am amazed and encouraged by the resiliency of this group. The channel continues to reinvent itself and evolve in new and exciting ways. Following are a few reflections on trends in the marketplace that are affecting our channel business and how resellers and agents can stay up-to-date on the changing market.
Communicate: Today, anyone with a phone – and let’s face it, everyone has a phone – can join a conference call. No matter how much IM’ing, texting and emailing we do in the workplace, the need to talk and communicate remains. There are even mobile apps to make conferencing on the road even easier. Search the Apple or Blackberry app stores for the PGi Mobile app. Many other conferencing and collaboration providers have branded mobile apps to make it easy to drive and host a team call.
Video conference: The video conference revolution begins now. In the recent past, video conferencing was reserved for those that could afford to build a six-figure end-point to end-point video room. Anyone with kids away at college or out-of-town grandparents understands the value of video chatting. Now, video enters the enterprise with our game changing product iMeet (OK, I work for PGi and I am biased) at a compelling price point and is as accessible as any conference call. As with any new technology, tips, tricks and training are key to getting customers up and running on a new product. Your partners should have the resources and personnel to support learning and marketing a new product.
Web conference: If you need advanced functionality for deep team collaboration, the web conference has practically everything under the sun. Web products – such as PGi’s new GlobalMeet web conferencing - give busy professionals the tools they need to work together in a variety of online formats. Wainhouse Research and other industry analyst firms have great analysis of the web conferencing market and bring a great third-party perspective on which web tool to choose.
Social media: Social media brings the world closer, and that’s a good thing. The fact is many of us have learned how to use social technologies for work by asking our teens for help (guilty as charged). But before we start moaning about how the times are a‘changing and start waxing nostalgic for the fax machine, let’s look at what social media brings to the Channel: tighter connections, more immediate ways to communicate, stronger relationships, and the ability for a small company to have instant reach. Need a crash course in social? Spend an hour or two with a few teenagers and watch how they interact with social networking technologies!
Use the cloud: Who knew the Cloud would be a viable destination for storing and operating IT networks? The big guys – both telcos and software companies - have built a strong case for utilizing the cloud and those of us in the Channel are embracing this technology at lightning speed. In fact, PGi built its new iMeet and GlobalMeet applications utilizing its cloud infrastructure. The cloud allows companies to be more nimble and supports it agents, partners and resellers more quickly. The cloud is solid, in my book. Outlets like CRN.com report on the latest innovations in the cloud and let you see who is entering and leading in the cloud. Use such sites as a way to prospect for those companies that provide the innovative services that will drive your bottomline.
Embracing the cloud, understanding social media, emphasizing video and mobile applications are all ways in which successful Channel professionals are continuing to grow revenues and maintain relevancy in a changing, crowded market. Even as the Channel evolves one thing remains: the Channel needs technologies that partners can sell with good margins that add value to your customers.