Channel Resistance is Futile

by Dave Michels

Yes, once again I reveal that everything I learned in life (that’s important) came from Star Trek. It’s a great line because resistance to change is natural, but there’s that nagging feeling that sometimes resistance is futile. When is it time to stop resisting (and say not opt out at the airport screening)? When does resistance become futile? This is a complicated question.

When an industry gets created, there’s lots of winners. These winners have motivation to protect their industry. When it comes time to change, these protectors work to make the transition difficult. This is what’s now normal because the constant of change is no longer satisfied with minor nuances, but revolutions.

  • Uber seized the power of GPS and smartphones and turned the taxi industry upside down. The Taxi lobby is pushing state and city regulators hard to block Uber, because that kind of innovation can’t be good for passengers.
  • A very clever device known as a flush-less urinal requires no water – this makes a lot of sense, particularly in drought inflicted areas. Plumbers unions have pushed regulators hard to require that flush-less urinals be installed with plumbing capability in case the newfangled technology doesn’t work.
  • Tesla wants to sell cars directly to its end customers, but the dealers  have pressed regulators hard to protect the intermediaries. How can direct sales be good?
  • When refrigeration threatened (and effectively killed) the natural ice networks of the early 20th century, ice importers appealed to the public that God’s ice was better.

These stories are everywhere. Technology enables a more efficient society. Overall it is a good thing, but bad for selected groups, and Enterprise communications are not immune.

Telecom/UC dealers have a PR problem. It isn’t anything personal, it’s part of the break-fix mindset – same for plumbers and mechanics. Generally speaking, if I don’t have to call a plumber I am happier. There’s not a lot of satisfaction in writing break-fix checks. Cloud providers are ostensibly in the same category, except that they provide a bit of a competitive advantage and empowerment – so those checks are easier.

We find ourselves in a big shift. Not only do cloud services reduce/eliminate the local equipment, but they simplify- thus reduce the need for professional assistance. Point and click a few times at the website of a UCaaS provider, and you have a working solution complete with trunking, endpoints (optional), extension dialing, UC features, video, and more. It’s the way the Internet works – ask bookstore owners, travel agents, and newspaper moguls.

These transitions are not immediate – often because there are conversion gaps. We all knew how to shop in a bookstore. Switching to Amazon required rethinking. It was awkward at first, especially the delayed gratification. But soon, the local bookstore seemed alien – no reviews? I’m limited to what’s in front of me? I have to wrap it myself? Sales tax?

This week I am at the UCSummit, this is the UCStrategies conference aimed at the trusted advisers of communications (consultants and dealers). I find both of these groups generally opposed to cloud. Not only are the upfront commissions gone, but the overall commissions are smaller, and there’s less add-on revenue. It is indeed something they should be fearful of as the cloud will reduce the need for trusted advisers – particularly the ones that don’t adapt.

There’s still lots of ways to profit from the cloud, and premises equipment still offers a reasonable ride (downhill). Unlike many transitions, this one is not urgent – not if but when. Lots of transitions are time fixed. One night in Sweden during the 60s, the whole country switched from left-hand drive to right-hand drive. Those that pretended this wasn’t true had problems driving after that night.

This delay in timing works because there’s plenty of end customers that are also suspicious of the cloud. There will be less IT people in the future than there are today. It’s like a symbiotic relationship of dinosaurs and primitive plants.

Channels fill inefficiencies of the market. Travel agents were the most efficient way to book tickets and print them before the Internet. Grocery stores offer all the ingredients people seek – far more efficiently than going to every vendor directly. UC dealers could stock equipment, sell it, install it, and service it less expensively than a manufacturer. So when technology eliminates inefficiencies, you better rethink.

The good news is the cloud is very confusing for many. Particularly around workflow processes, mobile integration, and how to position UCaaS with technologies such as SDN and DaaS. Experts wanted, no boxes necessary.

When I hear that the cloud is not secure or reliable, I think of those plumbers insisting flush-less urinals are the end of sanitary washrooms.