SMEs Need Stability

SMEs Need Stability

Roger James

It is easy to forget just how many pies Panasonic has its fingers in right up until the point you walk in to their Bracknell HQ and see the world’s largest production plasma TV – some 108 inches – beaming at you from across reception. You sit down and there are all the other product group brochures and catalogues to sift through while you wait – from domestic appliances to seriously sexy in-car entertainment systems. You forget the dream along with the mental wish list of personal stuff you would like as the call comes through to pop along the corridor to talk phones. Oh well, my lounge is too small anyway.

“The market is crowded,” says James, now a five-year veteran of Panasonic,

adding, “Particularly so in our core sub-100-user market where we are seeing a lot of manufacturers normally associated with larger systems coming into our space. Cisco for example is trying to look for sales here but you have to remember they are used to selling their products to larger companies with internal IT teams to manage the implementation of VoIP. With the SME they will find no trace of such a resource. SME’s want stable applications and the more I talk to channel partners the more I believe that the problem with VoIP is time – that is the time required to install, manage and maintain VoIP solutions.” James has equally forthright views on hosted IP telephony applications, “We are witnessing a lot of marketing activity in the channel right now and the application is clearly one to watch for the future as I can see why the proposition of no Capex is attractive to many users. However, I see the lack of user control in not having a premises-based solution being a big factor for many users. The impact on business of telephony is huge after all it is still the primary interface with their customers for the vast majority of organisations.”

It has almost become one of life’s constants that Panasonic has a 20 per cent market share in the UK up to 100-extension market. Why is that?

James says that it is down to a number of factors which start at the beginning of the supply process with the Panasonic design teams.

“They recognise that we have two customers; the user and the reseller. Before Panasonic releases any new kit we carry out extensive testing before we get to field trials. This provides high confidence levels when the product is released to our channel partners. We would rather be late to market with a product than deliver trouble to the channel. We rely heavily on the views of our channel partners. They know when a product is good and they keep telling me our products are great.”

So what does a typical Panasonic phone system reseller look like these days? “Our reseller profile has changed in recent years. For a start they are typically bigger in terms of their spend with us and much more technically sophisticated. For example, our top 30 resellers could each easily roll out an IPbased customer solution. Our resellers have matured and customers today are seeking a higher level of advice from and confidence in their supplier.

“We have also seen a marked upturn in applications such as CTI where not only are we selling to more customers but the size of the actual CTI implementation is much larger. In order to capitalise on this we are launching a new range of CTI applications this year. Phone Assistant Express will be supplied free of charge with our KX-TDA 30/100/200 and 600 systems and a ‘Pro’ version will be available as an option along with a Professional Operators Console.

“Other new products and releases for 2006 include 2.02 software for KX-TDA. Available now, 2.02 provides GSM extensions as being part of the PBX where you can transfer calls. The GSM can be part of a hunt group and ring at the same time as your regular desk phone. This release also supports a centralised operator application.

“Additionally we are introducing a new DECT handset, a new IP keyphone, and an enhanced entry level digital keyphone with headset working. In July we are launching the new CTI suite of applications whilst we have a pure IP PBX, the KX-TDE scheduled for release in March 2007. This will be available as 100 and 200 models and the product will have SIP trunk connectivity and also have SIP handsets. Whilst we will continue to make the TDA a TDE card will be an IP upgrade version as we see a big market for hybrid systems and mixed architectures on the same system.”


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