With the pending merger of Cypress Communications and Broadvox, I am expanding by research efforts into understanding and implementing Unified Communications (UC) solutions. While Cypress has the stronger UC solution for enterprises, both Cypress and Broadvox with C3 IP and GO!VBX have what would be considered virtual IP PBX solutions that serve SMBs well. It is important to note that the needs and decision processes of SMBs varies greatly from that of enterprises. And since most of the members of our VAR Partner Program sell to SMBs, it is useful to state the key drivers of a UC solution for SMBs.
I have chosen to discuss three, others may have more but these represent the most common that I see:
· Cost - the price of the system is very important. An SMB suffers from sticker shock very easily and is therefore quite price sensitive. This price sensitivity can be moderated a bit by conducting a Return on Investment (ROI) and/or a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis. Given that the decision maker in most SMBs is the owner a ROI analysis is usually the more effective tool when addressing price sensitivity. It is simpler and quicker to the point of identifying the financial benefit. An SMB is not purchasing a UC solution as an investment but as a tool from which can be derived immediate benefit. An SMB wants to see a good price, reduction in cost and an improvement in productivity.
· Simplicity - the human resource pool of an SMB is not the same as that of enterprise. There is less time available to train and study with regard to the use of new equipment and systems. Additionally, the culture of most SMBs is to get the job done quickly and well. A well designed solution for an SMB is intuitive and addresses major issues. It does not require a sophisticated IT infrastructure and significant support to be installed, operated and maintained. Users are not expected to attend long classes after implementation in order to take advantage of the new solution. With a UC solution this is even more important as much of the discussion around UC involves things of little interest to an SMB such as video conferencing, cross-functional collaboration, or handling of rich media. An SMB is looking for features that support their everyday activities like telepresence, Microsoft Office and Outlook integration, mobile and fixed-line delivery options and support for legacy and VoIP telephony systems.
· Experience - the reason so many branded UC solutions have traction is because the supplier (Cisco, Microsoft, IBM) has market credibility, references and presence within the current network or computing environment. However, a UC solution is made up of many different types of hardware and software manufactured by an array of different companies. An SMB relies upon the experience of the VAR or "trusted" advisor to perform some of the analysis and section of the varied components independently. The need to select interoperable clients (browser, PDAs, mobile, PC) and applications (collaborative, administrative, telephony (ACD, contact Center)) is very important and requires more research and knowledge than most SMB decision makers have the time to commit and acquire.
Broadvox and Cypress consider these things as they build and deliver solutions to a growing SMB market for UC.
See you on Friday...