Cloud voice and video services vendor Skype is looking to up its game in the business world by introducing the Skype Channel Partner Program to help serve businesses that want to use Skype for their collaboration and communication needs.
And for solution providers looking to become serious players in video conferencing, Skype may very well be a key vendor partner. A survey released earlier this year showed that 79 percent of businesses used consumer-grade video conferencing including Skype, AOL and Google, rather than expensive systems from Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize, citing cost concerns.

Skype’s new channel partner program does not follow the traditional reseller model, however. Skype says customers will still buy Skype products directly from Skype as assisted by channel partners.

Channel partners will sell their own services that help businesses use Skype for collaboration and communications including consulting, configuration, maintenance, and support services. Channel partners will also sell third party add-on products for the Skype systems.

Skype said that channel partners will help businesses buy and use Skype products such as the Skype Business Client on their desktop and mobile phones via business accounts, or they might help them connect their existing private branch exchange (PBX) or Unified Communications (UC) systems to Skype using Skype Connect. They may also sell third-party hardware and software for use with Skype.  

The channel partner program will provide qualified VARs and SIs with training, sales and marketing collateral as well as customer tracking and reporting tools, plus support and account management from Skype. Skype will certify the partners it trains to provide services, the company said.

Skype said that it recognizes that most businesses buy their IT and telecom services through VARs and systems integrators, so the new program is designed to create a qualified network of channel partners in the United States that can help businesses that want to use Skype to improve productivity and optimize their communications costs.

“We believe that small, medium and large businesses are looking for cost-effective, integrated real-time communications and collaboration solutions,” said David Gurle, vice president and general manager of Skype for Business, in a statement. “Our certified Skype phannel partners will advise and guide them on how to strategically adopt Skype for business solutions and get the most out of using them within their organizations.

“These ‘trusted advisors’ are selected by Skype based on relationships with business customers, the experience and know-how to provide complementary services, such as consulting, installation, training and local support, as well as hardware and software integration and industry-specific expertise. Ultimately, this Channel Partner Program will help us scale service and support for our business customers.”

Skype says it has already signed up 20 VARs and system integrators  for the Skype Channel Partner Program. One of them is Precedent Technologies of Atlanta, GA, which partners with small businesses, especially new startups, to deliver end-to-end technology solutions, including both hardware and services.

“Skype is a well-known brand and I’ve used it personally for years,” said Patrick Carley, CEO of Precedent Technologies, in a statement. “I believe Skype’s business solutions appeal to our diverse client base – be it smaller companies that are just getting started and need to watch their infrastructure costs closely or larger companies who may be interested in using Skype to supplement their international communications.”

Skype will also work with manufacturers of the IP-enabled PBX and UC systems that have already been certified as interoperable with Skype Connect.