Resistance is Futile

by Dave Michels

Yes, once again I reveal that everything I learned in life (that’s important) came from Star Trek.

“Resistance is Futile” is a great line because resistance to change is natural, but more times than not efforts to avoid certain changes are indeed futile. The Trek line was used by the Borg that assimilate humans, and despite attempts of resistance nothing worked or even slowed the aliens down.

When is it time to stop resisting? When does it become futile? These are complicated questions.

When an industry gets created, there’s lots of winners. These winners have motivation to protect the industry. When it comes time to change, the incumbents do everything they can to protect their position. This cycle is normal, and seemly more continuous than it used to be. Constant change requires more than minor adjustments, but revolution.

  • Uber seized the power of GPS and smartphones and turned the taxi industry upside down. The Taxi lobby continues to push state and city regulators hard to block Uber. Uber is taking advantage of technically enabled loopholes in a very mature industry.
  • A very clever device known as a water-less urinal makes a lot of sense, particularly in drought inflicted areas. The plumbers unions pushed regulators hard to require that water-less urinals be installed with a water bib to it, just in case it’s needed in the future.
  • Tesla wants to sell cars directly to its end user customers. Dealer interest groups have pressed regulators hard to protect their intermediary roles. How can direct sales be good?

These stories are everywhere. Technology is enabling a more efficient society – it’s generally a good thing, but bad for various groups – which sometimes happen to be organized incumbents.

Enterprise communications are not immune. Nearly every rule of the established industry is now obsolete. Starting with need, the telephone is no longer critical to business, nor is telephone service restricted to local providers. Phone systems are no longer built on proprietary, esoteric hardware that requires local experts and parts. Prospects are more likely to search for a solution on the web than in local Yellow Pages.

I feel bad for channel partners.  They have, as a group, worked hard and don’t deserve to be out of work. It’s not their fault. It is now possible to research, evaluate, acquire, implement, and support an enterprise-class communications solution without a local channel partner – rare a decade ago, unheard of 20 years ago. Not all prospects are aware of this or want to accept the responsibility. Just as travel agents still exist, there’s still plenty of demand for channel sales, but the demand is and will continue to shrink.

However, the channel will never go away – there will always be inefficiencies and gaps. Currently, the emerging gap is interop, integration, customization and various other terms for making a solution work with other products and services.

The problem is that this skill set is different than the skills required by traditional dealers.