It's still somewhat rare for solution provider businesses to make the leap to selling in-house-developed products through channels of their own, but that's exactly what Fidelus Technologies accomplished: a set of unified communications (UC) software products sold primarily through fellow channel partners that now represent the company's second-most profitable business.
Fidelus is a N.Y.-based Cisco Gold partner with specialties in unified communications and collaboration (UCC), video and mobility products. It began life as a professional services solution provider in 2002, added hardware and software VAR capabilities, and is now certified as Master Unified Communications, Master Managed Services and Advanced TelePresence with Cisco.
A few years ago, Fidelus' sales and engineering teams identified opportunities to sell and integrate UCC software solutions on top of the work they were already doing. In 2007, the company formally began building custom applications for use in Cisco-centric UC environments, and a handful of them turned out to be so successful with customers that Fidelus decided to make them commercially available products, not just custom development projects.
"I have to say this has become pretty lucrative," said Matt Kalmenson, Fidelus’ vice president of sales and marketing. "Fidelus' experience in delivering and implementing UCC technologies gave us first hand insight into how we could enhance our customers experience through software."
"Within a year, our software channel has become our fastest growing business line," he said. "We are now bringing this UCC software differentiator to the Cisco channel as a whole."
Initially, Fidelus only had one person focused on the custom app development, with another of its IT employees assisting on a part-time basis. The initial success, however, convinced the company to invest in the segment, and soon after, Fidelus hired Vladimir Hrabrov, a software industry veteran of nearly three decades with a resume including stints at Origin Digital, Hewlett-Packard and Novadim, as its vice president, software engineering.
Demand for the specialized nature of the products -- glove-fit applications that fill specific needs in the Cisco UC ecosystem -- was strong; Hrabrov has hired eight developers in the past year. Fidelus also has Registered Developer status with Cisco itself.
While it had been selling the applications directly to end users, Fidelus soon realized that it could expand its range of opportunities by offering its software through other channel partners. Fellow Cisco and UC VARs initially were skeptical of buying software from a channel competitor, Kalmenson said, so they began including noncompete agreements with its resellers stating Fidelus won't sell other products or services to those VARs' customers.
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