CRN Exclusive: Unify 'Re-Engineered' Itself To Become A Channel-Oriented Company; Doubles Channel Size In 1 Year

Eighteen months ago, only 20 percent of overall sales went through the channel at unified communications vendor Unify. But now that the company has successfully restructured internally to focus on driving a more channel-centric strategy, indirect sales represent more than 50 percent of Unify's revenue, according to Michelle Jones, vice president of Unify's global channel marketing.

Over the past year, Unify's partner base has more than doubled, to over 2,000 partners in more than 50 countries, and has onboarded 13 new distributors. The company also recently promoted Jon Pritchard, its former executive vice president of channels, to the position of CEO in an effort to boost channel sales, the company said.

"We have totally re-engineered our business around the channel -- from building out a real channel-centric team, across systems, processes, services and sales team," said Jones in an interview with CRN. "We're going to transform our business and we are going to grow through the channels from a sales and execution perspective."

[Related: Sources: Arista CEO Makes Channel Cuts, Channel Chief Steps Aside]

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Unify, an Atos SE company formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications, plans to keep the indirect sales momentum going forward with the launch of a revamped partner program, unveiled Tuesday at its annual Unify Partner Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

The goal of the revamped program is to allow solution providers to be onboarded quickly and start selling Unify Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions as soon as possible. The enhanced program cut down the time and requirements it takes for partners to begin to sell in order to achieve faster time to revenue, with 80 percent of the partners that Unify onboarded in the past year already actively selling products and services.

"We took away all those technical certifications and requirements, because we recognized that partners have the skills and capabilities from some of the competition, so we need to not undermine the investment they already made," said Jones. "We made it easier for them to quickly revamp up from a unified perspective. We reduced that requirement by 50 percent in the technical certifications -- it gives partners a saving on time and cost."

New specializations, certifications and training have been added to the program. Unify also made OpenScape enterprise software solutions portfolio available through distribution to allow partners to access the solutions quicker and at a lower cost, according to Jones.

Munich-based Unify also introduced new tools and offerings for partners to increase revenue including a new configure, price, quote (CPQ) SaaS tool for the design, pricing, proposal and ordering process aimed at accelerating the sales cycle. Other new offerings include a new OpenScape Business software bundle to support a full-solution selling approach.

Susan Wilson, a business development manager at Greenville, N.C.-based ScanSource, one of Unify's new distributors, said the quick go-to-market strategy is catching on within the channel.

"They're not charging business partners for a fast start or easy ramp or any kind of training for both the sales and implementation training," said Wilson. "That saves partners a lot of money. ... The startup costs are minimal, which is very attractive to resellers when they're looking to bring on more product."

Wilson said Unify also has its channel account and direct sales teams working "very closely" with channel partners to close deals.

"A new Unifiy channel partner might not have the expertise that their direct salesperson has who's been selling it for 10 years," said Wilson. "So they go into their united to close the sale."

Unify competes in the unified communication and collaboration market with the likes of Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Polycom, Mitel and ALE. With about 54 percent of its business now coming through the channel, up from 20 percent in 2014, Unify is focusing on onboarding even more channel partners -- specifically managed service providers (MSPs) -- from places around the globe, including the U.K., Russia and the Middle East as well as the U.S.

Jones said one of the reasons channel partners are seeking Unify is because of its launch last year of a two-year project called Circuit -- a hosted collaboration platform designed to bring together a range of collaboration applications including voice, video, screen sharing, messaging and file sharing into one platform managed though a single pane of glass.

"Circuit has been very interesting for a lot of partners, because it gives them a very low-risk, low entry point into delivering Software-as-a-Service in a consumption-based model," said Jones.

The software and services communications vendor recently made the list for CRN's 2016 Partner Program Guide: 5-Star Software Vendors. Jones said the company's revamped channel vision is taking hold in the market.

"We've made a lot of investment and change inside the organization," said Jones. "Our two-year plan was to drive over 45 percent [of revenue] through the channel. We've already achieved about 54 percent, which is fantastic. … That number will continue to grow."