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How does the Channel make money out of Microsoft Teams?

A candid Q&A with Michael Lloyd, CEO of Nuvola  on how  to make the worlds fastest growing UCaaS platform your ally rather than a rival.

The rise of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), with Microsoft Teams as its posterchild, highlights a lasting post-pandemic trend.  For channel partners, Teams’ growth is  somewhat a double-edged sword.  It integrates  office productivity tools and communication, making in-house telephony essentially ‘free’. However, Teams lacks key features like a dedicated DDI, Hunt Groups, IVR for professional-grade voice services.  Consequently, despite 300+ million users, it is estimated that less than 10% use Teams as a primary communication platform.

In this Sponsored Channel Q&A, we talk  with Michael Lloyd (pictured), CEO of Nuvola about the challenges MSPs face with Teams and Zoom,  how  they are enhancing Teams using existing PBX assets, and Nuvola’s new multi-vendor services practice to help the channel capitalise on Teams’ untapped potential.

Please outline the current state of the market when it comes to the adoption of Teams, Zoom etc?

Over the past five years, the market has witnessed an unprecedented acceleration in cloud adoption across all sectors, dramatically reshaping the UCaaS landscape. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCaaS was already gaining traction, but it has since become the new standard, with Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) following closely behind.

Microsoft Teams has emerged as a key driver of this shift, outpacing former leaders like Ring and 8x8. Zoom and Webex, meanwhile, appear to be striving to keep pace. However, the telecoms community, accustomed to traditional enterprise voice solutions with comprehensive features and benefits, has observed that Teams and Zoom have entered the market with somewhat limited functionality. This has led to users questioning their decision and hesitating before fully committing to Teams.

It’s important to note that not all environments are suited to a purely cloud-based approach. A hybrid solution is still necessary for customers seeking a controlled and manageable migration. Therefore, new market entrants must be capable of accommodating these requirements and collaborating with other vendors to deliver solutions such as contact centres, call recording, analytics, and hybrid systems.

The potential for Teams in the market is immense, with hundreds of millions of daily users. However, Teams is currently not being utilised as a true UCaaS platform, but rather as part of the Office 365 suite. This presents a significant opportunity for the channel to sell services that can transform Teams into a genuine enterprise platform.

Why is Microsoft struggling to commercialise Teams into a true “business grade “UCaaS platform?

It appears that Microsoft (MS) has inadvertently entered the Unified Communications market, yet they are still unable to provide a comprehensive solution without incorporating vendors from their ecosystem. This implies that if Microsoft intends to monetise Teams, they must realise that merely selling their licenses will not secure opportunities where customers require a business-grade platform.

Traditional Microsoft partners who sell 365 (including Teams) do not fully grasp the opportunity, and voice communication is beyond their comfort zone. Consequently, they avoid discussing UCaaS, and Microsoft does not seem to motivate these partners to enhance their skills or provide incentives. The issue arises from Microsoft’s focus on areas that yield the highest returns. They possess the desktop market and continuously introduce new features such as Copilot, but they do not perceive UCaaS as offering similar returns, possibly due to increased competition.

In terms of traditional voice communication, on-premises PABX has always been reliable and consistently available. However, the perception is that Windows lacks stability. The perception of risk is still prevalent among customers who run their communications through it. While dropped calls in mobile communication are often resolved by a simple redial, without any questions asked, it’s unlikely that corporate entities would tolerate such disruptions.

What are the inhibitors stopping channel partners from capitalising on this opportunity?

 The channel partners with the most access to  Teams’ environment are typically those who sell the Microsoft portfolio. However, these partners often lack a comprehensive understanding of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS), and Customer Experience (CX). This gap in knowledge prevents them from identifying and capitalising on potential opportunities within these domains.

Customers generally prefer a single supplier who can provide a complete solution, encapsulated in a single monthly bill. Currently, this is not feasible unless Microsoft embraces traditional voice resellers or encourages their established channel partners to engage in discussions around UCaaS.

Telecommunication partners play a crucial role in this context. They serve as the binding force that can transform Microsoft Teams into a reputable UCaaS provider. By leveraging their expertise and understanding of the market, these partners can help bridge the gap between Microsoft’s offerings and the evolving needs of customers in the realm of unified communications. This collaboration could potentially lead to a more integrated and seamless communication solution that aligns with customer expectations and business requirements.

What are you doing to help?

As a leading Technology and Services Distributor, we have meticulously curated a comprehensive solution portfolio. This portfolio is designed to empower resellers who are keen on venturing into the Microsoft Teams Integration market. These resellers could be traditional Managed Service Providers (MSPs) or Telecommunication resellers/System Integrators (SIs).

Our solutions encompass a wide range of practices that includes Calling Plans, Connectivity (ISDN Transition), Contact Centre, Call Recording, Devices & Meeting Rooms, Analytics and Security.

At Nuvola, we offer an end-to-end service, starting from pre-sales consultation to ongoing support, delivered by our dedicated Professional Services Team. This approach enables our partners to onboard swiftly onto Teams. Even if a partner possesses some or all the necessary skills, they can purchase the product with the assurance that support is readily available should they require it.

We strongly encourage our partners to strive towards self-sufficiency. To this end, we are committed to assisting them on this journey, providing the necessary guidance and support to help them become independent, confident, and successful in their Microsoft Teams endeavours. Our ultimate goal is to foster a mutually beneficial partnership where both parties can grow and thrive in the dynamic Microsoft Teams market.

What does working with your new practice mean for a channel partner on a project and day-to-day basis?

Our new Microsoft Teams practice means that partners can deliver a collaborative and comprehensive approach for their end-users, both on a project basis and in daily operations. We bring together vendors that synergise well, extending our support to reseller partners and vendor partners through our professional services team.

Our partners rely on us for the implementation of various projects, including contact centres, unified communications, and voice solution implementations. Our support process begins with a discovery call involving the reseller partner and their end-user client, ensuring the delivery of an apt solution.

If project management is required, we have a proven track record, including the successful rollout of a large-scale UCaaS for 700 hotels across the UK in 2023. We also handle connectivity aspects, ranging from Network Services to Operator Connect, thereby enabling Microsoft Teams.

We excel in integrating Microsoft Teams into various vendor platforms at both technical and commercial levels. As the Teams landscape expands into the unified communications and contact centre markets, we have strategically positioned our team and resources to lead these developments. In fact, we have recently published a whitepaper on Teams integration, demonstrating our commitment to staying at the forefront of this evolving field.