Unify's Star Collaboration Tool Circuit Now Available To The Channel

Unify's network of more than 3,500 global channel partners now have access to sell the unified communications (UC) provider's flagship collaboration and communication application, Circuit.

The collaboration tool combines voice, video and messaging tools with screen sharing and real-time joint-document editing in a single browser-based interface. With the help of partners, Circuit will now be available in 30 additional countries.

Since Circuit -- formally known as Project Ansible -- was introduced in 2013, there's been huge demand from the channel for access to the collaboration tool, said Jon Pritchard, executive vice president of worldwide channels at Unify.

[Related: Here's Who Made Gartner's 2015 Unified Communications Magic Quadrant]

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Partners see the value in Circuit as a stand-alone collaboration and UC solution that many customers could easily adopt. Partners also see Circuit as an improvement to Unify's portfolio, and a value-add for their installed base of Unify customers, Pritchard said.

"I think the real game-changer for us is we now have the opportunity to layer this onto any customer, regardless of what their communications infrastructure is today," said Edward Austin, president and CEO of Professional Services Inc. (PSI), a Rockledge, Pa.-based voice and data solution provider and Unify partner.

"Partners are seeing the future road map where it will be integrated into our OpenScape voice product set, so they're pretty excited about it," Pritchard said.

The channel also will be able to wrap their own value-added services around Circuit. "We've designed Circuit to be pretty open -- we have a software developer's toolkit that allows partners to do integrations into other platforms and services so they can integrate Circuit right into an end customer's environment," he said.

PSI has a large customer base of several hundred Unify customers, all of which could be potential Circuit users, Austin said.

"It's been a hot topic ... companies that have anywhere workers that need to collaborate are becoming more and more [commonplace]," he said.

Unify will allow partners to sell Circuit in two ways -- through a referral model and an extended agent model, Pritchard said. The agent model will have partners identify Circuit sales opportunities and bring the customer to Unify, who will sell Circuit to the end customer on behalf of the partner, or in conjunction with the partner if they want to retain ownership of the customer. Partners will be paid on a one-time commission fee based on the contract value through this model.

Most partners will likely be interested in the extended agent model, because most don't believe they have the infrastructure in place to handle UC billing on their own, Pritchard said. This model is managed through the distribution channel. Partners can identify the distributor partner they want to work with, and Unify will pay them a recurring sales commission through the length of the contract.

"It's really a flexible model that allows partners to increase the number of users for a customer and get paid on [those changes] over time," he said.

PSI will be selling Circuit in a slightly different model than how it's used to selling Unify's UC tools, which has been mostly through a reseller model. With Circuit, PSI will continue to own their end customers, but will bring the Circuit customer to Unify, Austin said.

As PSI has evolved its own business from just transactional hardware sales to offering cloud-based products and managed services, the solution provider is hoping that Unify will allow partners to sell Circuit as a service directly to their end customers, Austin said.

"We are looking forward to selling Circuit on a recurring revenue model," he said.

PSI is currently in the process of rolling out an internal Circuit trial for its own employees to better understand the application's potential use cases and how to approach the market, he said.

"We are going to utilize Circuit for ourselves, and we see a variety of ways we can take advantage of [Circuit]. I already see it's going to have great applications for our field and remote services technicians, and even working with remote customers to collaborate," he said.