September 10, 2020
CHANNEL PARTNERS VIRTUAL — UCaaS service providers Granite Telecommunications, Fuze, CenturyLink and CallTower all are touting what makes them the better choice for partners and customers.
Granite Telecommunications says its strong financial position allows it to better assist customers. Fuze owns its own stack and says it is highest rated among UC analysts.
CallTower says it can convert Microsoft Teams into a full UC stack including voice, collaboration and video. And CenturyLink makes UC&C achievable for businesses and enterprises of all sizes and buying needs by combining its adaptive networking capabilities with a portfolio of technologies on a secure global network.
Granite, Fuze, CallTower and CenturyLink faced off during Wednesday’s UCaaS Thunderdome at this week’s Channel Partners Virtual. Bryan Reynolds, TBI’s director of sales operations, served as ringmaster.
The panelists were:
Forrest Knueppel, Fuze’s national partner director of master agents.
Mark Palmer, Granite’s senior director of client development.
William Rubio, CallTower’s chief revenue officer.
Jessica Saracco, CenturyLink‘s account director for UC and C-WIN.
Fuze’s Forrest Knueppel
Granite’s voice platform is based on Metaswitch, and Microsoft acquired Metaswitch earlier this year. So as far as Teams integration, “we’re looking really great,” Palmer said. Integrations have to be done and Granite’s in-house people can custom build the applications, he said.
There are many examples of how Fuze puts together unique solutions for customers, Knueppel said.
We recently compiled a list of 20 top UCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners.
Granite’s Mark Palmer
“I have a very large waste management company that comes to mind,” he said. “We put together an actual technical solution that was unique for their needs. And because we own our IP stack, we weren’t beholden to a third party to figure that out. Teams … is a platform that people are digging into, and we’ve figured out a way to coexist with them so that we’re actually still providing through our IP stack the benefits of what happens behind the scenes. They get a very good, voice quality solution behind some of the challenges that have happened with that platform. So we can play nice in the same sandbox or we can battle it out in the same sandbox.”
Owning Your Own IP
The UCaaS service providers also discussed the significance of owning your IP versus using someone else’s. Saracco said it comes down to the solution that partners pitch to the client.
“It’s absolutely going to depend,” she said. “We can do Webex calling right over the top or we can pair it with our network solutions … to be able to give a broader portfolio of all of our solutions for a client. I have to say it’s really going to depend on what the client’s looking for and how we approach that.”
CallTower’s William Rubio
Rubio said Microsoft and Cisco own about 73% of the UC licenses.
“From a partner standpoint, when somebody already has Office 365 or they’re using Cisco, it’s just a lot easier for them to take that next step and move into a cloud [and] move into the collaboration stack than it would be if they’re bringing in a third party,” he said.
Reynolds also asked the UCaaS service providers about selling to …
… smaller organizations. Palmer said Granite has a long history of meeting SMBs’ needs.
“We’ve made a business of replicating that small business, whether it’s one pizza place or 50 pizza places,” he said. “It’s the same thing for us, just multiplied.”
Fuze, however, doesn’t play in that SMB market, Knueppel said. Its target market usually starts at about 250-employee companies and above.
“We very intentionally have taken ourselves out of the SMB market because it’s an incredibly crowded space and a very difficult space to be able to differentiate from a lot of other solutions,” he said. “There are a lot of good solutions out there. It’s no longer a challenge of who’s got this feature and who’s got that feature. Realistically, whoever’s got that today, the other group will have it inside of the next six months. So the adoption process of actually doing the larger deployments, of getting into the integrations over a significant number of applications and so on … that’s where we play.”
The nice thing about a Metaswitch, Cisco or Microsoft solution is that it scales pretty easily. Rubio said.
CenturyLink’s Jessica Saracco
“Everything is really being scaled down for the SMB user from the standpoint of really being economical and feature-rich,” he said. “So customers ask us all the time, and partners ask us, what’s really your sweet spot? And for us it’s really not about a number, it’s really about what your requirements are and what the solution is you’re looking for.”
The companies also talked about the ease of their implementation for customers and agents. Saracco said CenturyLink takes a “surgical approach” when developing its plan.
“We’ve always worked with end clients, so selling to an IT director is very different from training an entire group of enterprise clients on how to use new services,” she said. “So we take into consideration their goals, their spend and the entire environment. And then we tailor the approach based on the specific solution that we’re going to sell and the client’s requirements with our dedicated implementation and customer care teams.”
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