The Silver Lining Behind Rising Fuel PricesBy Michael Vizard | Posted 2008-06-25 Email Print
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Where there's mystery, there's profit for VARs willing to leap into unified communications.
Convincing customers to part with dollars to fund new IT projects is never easy, but every now and again there is a confluence of real world events that makes it a whole lot easier.
Right now, two technologies that are coming as close as possible to selling themselves are unified communications and online file transfer services. And the rising interest in both technologies stems from the same issue: the rising cost of fuel.
Anybody who has bought an airline ticket lately can tell you that the cost of business travel is spiraling out of control. This means that companies more than ever are interested in alternative modes of conducting business that don't involve expensive seats on airplanes.
Of course, the biggest problem associated with selling unified communications technology is that most customers don't really understand how to use it, never mind implement it. A recent survey from Forester Research found that 55 percent of the 2,187 companies queried were confused about the value of unified communications.
Of course, where there is mystery there is profit for solution providers, assuming they are willing to make the investment necessary to become skilled providers of unified communications solutions. The good news is that vendor options in this space are plentiful, which means that solution providers in this space can expect to leverage the competitive environment to get the maximum amount of support possible from the vendor partners. In effect, that should help offset the cost of developing expertise in a space that should provide opportunities for high-margin services for years to come as unified communications evolves into the next great IT-driven productivity enhancement tool for business of all sizes.
On a more tactical level, customers are also noticing that the cost of shipping documents via services such as FedEx and UPS is also going up thanks to costs associated with putting fuel in the planes that these companies rely on to deliver their services. One thing more customers should now be increasingly willing to consider as an alternative are file transfer services that can be used to deliver digital versions of the paper documents that people routinely ship via FedEx and UPS.
While reselling services from companies such as VeriSign, Tumbleweed Communications and Accellion or merely making customers aware of free services such as YouSendIt.com may not do much for a solution provider's bottom line, it will go a long way toward enhancing the trusted relationship between the solution provider and the end customer by helping them save money on shipping costs.
Furthermore, a paid service provides the ability to integrate that capability alongside Microsoft Exchange and LDAP directories, which in turn creates a critical audit trail for the business. That also has benefits to the business in terms of reduced storage costs. So when you add up the whole opportunity, it creates a lucrative consulting opportunity for a solution provider.
No matter how a solution provider goes about helping a customer save money in these trying economic times, the secret to success with any of these initiatives is to gently nudge customers toward altering a routine business process to save big dollars. In the meantime, solution providers would be well-advised to think about how to make greater use of these technologies to save money by altering their own business processes.