Choice is King

Choice is King

Once upon a time, not so long ago in fact, resellers had little or no choice when it came to selling applications to enhance the capability of the PBXs they were providing their customers. If a user wanted a call centre application then they sold the PBX vendor’s own solution, the same applied if the customer wanted computer telephony. This was due to the legacy operating systems that allowed only their own proprietary products to be added to their PBX. Except for a few applications that could connect to a PBX RS232 event port, call logging is a good example, third party applications were in effect ‘shut out’ of the loop.

All that has changed now and I am pleased to say that the third party applications market is thriving in an open environment where choice is now king.

Why is that important?

Well, you have to consider what PBX vendors are best at doing – making competent and reliable PBX systems. That is their core activity as even selling PBX systems today is entrusted to third parties – the channel.

In general, what the PBX vendors are not good at is developing software applications to enhance user business processes. What we see from the PBX maker is less than complete solutions formed in their own image and according to ideas often removed from user need or expectation. Remember, I did say in general.

Speaking to many vendors, as I do, I get feedback that indicates some degree of agreement; here are a few examples. Campbell Williams, Head of Strategic Marketing EMEA for Mitel Networks whose opinions on the matter were reported in this magazine not so long ago. He believes that the single vendor solution is a myth. “A myth that would only become reality if Microsoft were to buy a PBX company, a LAN/WAN hardware vendor, a mobile phone/portable device vendor, a PC/server vendor, and a telco service provider. Until that happens, there will always be multiple vendors in a fully converged environment.”

For resellers, the good margins come in what you can sell on top of the PBX solution and according to Duncan Miller, Marketing Manager at Inter-Tel Europe, the old vision of the large PBX application has been shattered. “No longer are we talking one console with a multitude of pot phones – with the exception of the director’s. Today’s large PBX opportunity is more likely to demand a wide variety of applications on top, such as to create a call centre environment for customer services (formal or informal), provide flexible working hours and the associated call routing plans, give home workers access to tools such as voicemail, provide tools such as automated attendants and give companies the opportunity to take advantage of cordless communications in every day operations. That’s even before you investigate links to the premises of suppliers and partners, both across the country and the world.”

Our distributors also have views on the issue of resellers looking at multi-vendor solutions as well;

Craig Walden, LG Marketing Manager at Crane Telecommunications says the answer to single/multi vendor issue depends to a large degree on the customer. “There is an argument for both approaches. Reseller and end users need to consider not just cost and ease of integration but how effectively the system is going to manage the key business processes.  An end-to-end single vendor solution might be the most efficient choice in a green-field environment. But where the customer already has an existing infrastructure or has made an investment in a specific application like multimedia, it might be preferable to choose a best-of-breed implementation.

Jim Robertson, Sales Director at MTV Telecom, believes that a value added distributor can enhance both the customer and the reseller experience through support of multi-vendor solutions. “It is unlikely that a single vendor will support a wide range of solutions on their core PBX platform. Whilst third party products may sit comfortable on a PBX vendors ‘approved list’, in practice the vendors own alternative products are pushed heavily. To go exclusively down this route could be to the detriment of the user.”

From Oak Telecom’s perspective we clearly have an interest in the channel exploring third party solutions. We are not alone in believing that they offer increased functionality for the user; instead of a blind alley they are an open road to opportunity for the reseller.
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