The segment of the market for communications including Unified Communication deployments, video conferencing deployments, and audio/video integration can be a tough terrain to navigate. There are countless options including hardware (customer premised) deployments, service-based deployments, deployments in the cloud, and those that are hosted offsite in a datacenter. The brands and options with all of the features and functionality and variance in price can be a lot to absorb. To get a true understanding of the overall technology eco-system it is important to get a good grasp of the best options in terms of not only cost and performance but maybe most importantly post-implementation support and ease of use and benefit of the end user. That is where a VAR can really show their, well, value!
In the world of communications and specifically that of video conference and custom audio video integration, there are what are known as “legacy” products and industry stalwarts such as Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize and many upstart companies such as Vidyo, Zoom, and BlueJeans. The goal of a VAR should not be to push a singular product but to best identify through multiple conversations and listening to the goals of the organization and end users. A VAR is able to offer and thoroughly explain the benefits and features of all of the products and services offered and breakdown the key points of cost verse performance.
A true VAR will be able to:
– Understand where and what the technology background of a customer/organization is
– What their workflow looks like on a day to day basis
– How the introduction of new products and services and their associated applications will integrate with that workflow
The vision and technology roadmap is very important to understand. The end goal should be to have a comprehensive eco-system of applications that all tightly integrate into a workflow that streamlines organizational communications and assists in increasing productivity. A well-defined return on investment breakdown is also important.
Many companies and providers have been moving towards a more service based model for several years now. Service-based typically means that the customer or organization does not have to front the often burdensome capital expenditures for technology solutions that often can be obsolete after a few years or even months. Rather, the VAR “owns” the equipment and provides access to the customer to be able to best leverage the assets. There are many benefits to this service-based approach of this is often times the equipment is housed in an offsite datacenter and managed by the VAR. This frees up valuable IT resources for the customer as the equipment will be maintained and updated by the VAR. Another benefit is because the equipment is maintained and updated by the VAR the customer does not have to worry about hardware that quickly becomes functionality obsolete with the rapid changes in technology along with the associated maintenance costs. Finally, a service-based approach offers tax benefits to the customer as a recurring service can be classified as an “operating expense” and not a “capital equipment acquisition.”
Finally, a good VAR should have post implementation support that is top-notch. This includes having access to a customer help desk that is staffed with highly trained engineers and technicians that all well versed in the technology that is in use. This includes a help desk that is open for expanded hours and readily available and timely feedback and communication for prompt issue resolution. Further, the support staff will be able to dispatch someone onsite for issue resolution if it cannot be resolved remotely that is either built into the support contract or offered at a preferred T&M (Time and Materials) rate. System uptime is critical and the support staff directly contributes to ensuring that everything is online and operating at its optimal level.
There are many things to consider when selecting a VAR. Price, performance, and post-implementation support are a few. Solutions that tightly integrate into and expand upon a customer or organization’s existing workflow are just as if not more important. A VAR should be respectful, listen, have timely feedback and communication, and be a true subject matter expert on the technologies being offered and how the whole technology eco-system fits together. The cheapest price may indeed be the main item of consideration for many organizations, but will the functionality, ease of use, ability to integrate with other systems, and post-sale support truly result in a positive user experience and ROI?