Originally published in the Channel Partners Peer-to-Peer Blog (December 4, 2014)
By now you have certainly heard about the SaaS tsunami known as Office 365. With this new delivery model, Microsoft is enjoying its fastest selling software platform in history. Great news for Microsoft, right? Sure, but even better news for telecom and IT channel partners.
Lync Online, which is a component of many O365 licenses, is a powerful communications platform, offering presence, instant messaging, voice over IP (VoIP) calling, desktop sharing, and audio and video conferencing … all from a single interface. Lync makes it possible to handle just about all of your communications through a single desktop client, with one exception — PSTN voice, the service that countless telecom providers, resellers, and agents have built their businesses around since the dawn of the telecom era, circa 1878. Sounds like an opportunity to me.
There are actually two opportunities to consider. The first results from the addition of a hybrid, or “Lync-enabled,” audio conferencing bridge, which allows meeting participants to join a Lync meeting by simply dialing a toll or toll-free number and pass code. Why is this important to us in the channel?
Well, for the customer there may be a savings of 50 percent or more over their current conferencing bill. All participants that have access to a computer or even a mobile device with the Lync app are able to participate in the meeting without incurring a per-minute charge. Those participants that opt to dial the phone number and pass code will incur a metered charge. For the channel partner, this metered charge is a commissionable item. For MSPs or VARs typically earning between 5-12 percent residual commissions on the sale of Office 365 licenses, conferencing commissions in the neighborhood of 50 percent are pretty enticing. With the hybrid bridge, everybody wins.
The second opportunity to interface with O365 involves adding enterprise voice (dial tone) to the license. By replacing the Lync Online component with a voice-enabled Lync package, O365 becomes a comprehensive communications solution. The customer is now able to leverage their purchase of O365 to obtain a phone system that is fully integrated into everything they use on their desktop, including Exchange for email and calendaring, and even Microsoft SharePoint for shared document management. In addition, call center components can be incorporated for high-volume telephone operations. The value to the customer is the ability to replace a legacy phone system that they have outgrown or is reaching the end of its life with a completely hosted telephone system. As we all know, there is no shortage of hosted VoIP providers in the market. The difference with this solution is that it fully integrates with Lync and O365 for a seamless communications experience for the customer.
This unified communications (UC) platform behaves just like the telephone systems that today’s businesses have come to rely upon for day-to-day operations, including receptionist switchboard features, call routing to hunt groups, and full IVR capabilities. Voice-enabled Lync can be configured to mirror the functionality of a legacy phone system, even to the point of feeding an office-wide intercom system to announce calls on hold.
O365 represents a rising tide in our industry. The great news for those of us who have chosen to make a career assisting customers with their communications needs, is that Microsoft’s “win” becomes a massive platform for us to deliver various telecom services, from simple PSTN conferencing, to full-blown hosted unified communications. Sounds like a win for us as well.
Greg Plum recently launched PlumUC to provide the telecom and IT channels access to a wide range of unified communication, conferencing & collaborations solutions. He has been involved in channel development since 2001 and has enjoyed building channel sales operations from scratch. Plum’s passion for the channel, as well as his desire to form long-term relationships with his partners, gained him the honor of being named a Channel Partners Channel Executive of the Year Finalist in 2009, 2010, and 2011.