Channel Vision Expo is collocated with ITEXPO. This year MSP Expo was also collocated and Microcorp's Partner learning experience was down the street. (Telarus had an event the week before and Metro Connect for carrier execs was in Miami Beach the same week. It was Telecom week in South Florida, although I didn't see Sam Levine and a few other agents I usually run into. But I got to have dinner with Lenny Chesal of Host.Net twice!!!)
Anyway, what are the take aways from all that telecom.
Voicebase won IDEA Showcase. Voicebase is a cool concept doing real-time voice transcription and analytics. (They will probably get acquired by a shell corp owned by a three letter agency.) Voice to text companies used to be a staple at these shows, but most were all acquired. Voice to text is still a customer need, especially for doctors and lawyers. Remember Dragon Speak?
Windstream is in the throes of re-organization. For many that means RIF (reduction in force or layoffs). It turns out that it also means that WIND is no longer selling their Metaswitch Hosted PBX service. It was replaced by both Hosted Avaya and MITEL. And they are calling that UCaaS. Who's idea was that? [I'll rant about the difference between built for cloud and hosted later.]
Microcorp is celebrating 30 years in business as a master agency!! Congrats!
PGI is a conferencing company (UC&C as they say). Just so agents understand how much money is in conferencing, PGI was acquired by private equity for one BILLION dollars!
UC provider, Panterra, has a Slack killer, according to CEO Artie Chang. It is integrated with their Smartbox app, which is a file sharing app. Panterra has contact center functions with analytics. Lots of features at Panterra, but maybe too many for a partner to fully grasp and sell.
At least two more UCaaS providers popped up at ITEXPO - one with both a Broadsoft and a Metaswitch; and one using proprietary software - so the number may be closer to 3000 Hosted VoIP providersin the US!! I even heard of one using a garage in a residential neighborhood as its "data center" with an Asterisk boxand a cable modem for 400 users. It is always good to check out the vendor you choose.
Star2Star is huge, the 7th largest UCaaS provider, according to Star2Star. 400,000 endpoints. I'm skeptical because their INC5000 numbers are always different from their verbal.
RapidScale is white labeling cloud services to cable companies. So is VAR Dynamics.
3CX re-vamped and then re-launched its partner program.
SD-WAN was a hyped up topic. So was IOT. But there are still phone vendors boothing it. No one has a Polycom problem, except Polycom. More phone vendors entering the market at a time when desk phones are disappearing. I heard some frightening stats about the popularity of apps/ softphones over desk phones. Maybe that means VoIP Providers can stop being phone distributors and start talking about there too-many-to-list features (and how those features can solve pain points).
Level3 is now offering managed Skype for Business for 500+ seats and above.
There was a booth: Workforce as a Service. We might have gone too far with the AASes.
I do have to say that one theme I keep hearing from channel managers and execs is that channel partners don't ask the right questions. We agents don't sell solutions; we sell product; we sell on price. I get that we don't sell the way you want, but maybe you should be an agent for a week and see how it is today in the real world on the street without the salary and benefits.
The one thing I see over and over is that customers just want what they have cheaper and that telecom is just below a root canal over what they want to have done to them. Implementation, porting, delivering on time -- the telecom hassle keeps going up. Even the amount of paperwork that needs to be signed is crazy. (Mortgages are now e-signature, why can't you folks in supposed technology get on the e-sig bandwagon?)
You haven't even delivered a SIP trunk that can be used for fax yet!!! But you have added a ton of others features that one person may be excited about some day. Thanks!
So yeah it would be nice to have a conversation about business goals and pain points, etc. And when that happens I love it. But usually the grog of the daily grind prevents that from happening.
UPDATE: An email from an agent, Michael Bremmer of TelecomQuotes.com, who liked the last 3 paragraphs added that most channel managers cannot clearly express the company story (Position their company properly in this hyper-competitive market place) - so that is another reason it becomes about price.