AI, Mobility Critical To Cloud UC Value Story: Intermedia Exec

‘As much as you have these reasons, like hybrid work and mobility, I’m a firm believer that one of the biggest reasons to drive people to the cloud is going to be AI in the future because that is the only place you can get it,’ Intermedia COO Jonathan McCormick tells CRN.


Intermedia COO Jonathan McCormick

Cloud isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a way to serve up IT in a way that can help businesses achieve outcomes during periods of economic uncertainty. That’s why telling the story of cloud is now more important than ever for solution providers, according to business communications provider Intermedia.

“When things get tougher, like interest rates climbing higher, or capital not being as free or people taking longer make decisions, you have to really do a better job articulating why cloud is really better than running something on premises … It’s about how you tell the story in a way a business owner will understand [that] it’s more about experiences and outcomes, and not just: ‘Cloud is better,’” said Intermedia COO Jonathan McCormick.

The Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) provider has spent the last few months developing education for its partners around the value of cloud and establishing the business case for cloud-based communications.

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“We want to get away from the buzzwords,” he said. “[Partners] really have to sit down with a business owner and educate her or him on why it’s time to upgrade their communications for their business to the cloud and what it really does for them.”

[Related: Intermedia’s Reseller Cloud Offering ‘On Steroids’ As UC Competitors ‘Push’ Partners Its Way]

For starters, premise-based communications infrastructure costs businesses more than they think. That’s because a premise-based asset like a PBX, similar to a vehicle, is always depreciating and becoming less valuable over time. Cloud-based offerings, however, improve over time, McCormick said.

“Even if it costs you a little bit more, there’s so much more value,” he said. “You’re investing in something that constantly gets better versus spending capital on something to just depreciate that you still have to maintain.”

And as UCaaS offerings improve, businesses can gain access to cutting-edge technologies, such as generative AI, McCormick added.

“What’s going to happen with AI in the next two years is going to be more than what happened in the last 20 years and all of that will happen in the cloud,” he said. “As much as you have these reasons, like hybrid work and mobility, I’m a firm believer that one of the biggest reasons to drive people to the cloud is going to be AI in the future because that is the only place you can get it.”

Despite still being a newer technology, AI is quickly becoming table stakes that communication systems will need to help users perform more efficiently, improve customer experience and drive better business insights, McCormick said.

“If you don’t have it, you just won’t be able to keep up,” he said.

Premise-based UC also makes it difficult for employees to be productive outside of the office or while mobile, McCormick said.

These are among the main reasons that Intermedia is including in its “why cloud?” education for partners.

Solution provider Maryland Telephone, an Intermedia partner, got into the cloud PBX business in 2012. Today, nearly half of its customers are in the cloud, with about 98 percent of its new projects being cloud-based, according to Michael Cook, president and owner of Baltimore-based Maryland Phone.

“We’re courting our legacy, premise-based customers towards the cloud every chance we get,” he said. “When it doesn’t make sense, we don’t, but most of the time, you find a way for it to make sense, so the customer really does get value.”

Businesses right now are very conscious about their spend. Sometimes cloud offerings bring savings, making it an easy sell, while sometimes it’s closer to a break-even, which opens the doors for partners like Maryland Telephone to talk about the added benefits, like AI, flexibility and the ability to add new features, such as SMS, Cook said.

“You can get so much more for the same, or just a fraction more than what you might have already been spending — those are the things we look for when we are faced with maybe something being a little more [costly],” he said.

Intermedia’s education for partners arms them with clear points on how client businesses with operate differently with cloud UC. It includes tutorials for partners on how to deliver the pitch to customers, as well as marketing and email campaigns “in a box,” McCormick said.

“This is something that we’re going back through and re-educating our whole channel on,” he said.

Many partners have been trying — and sometimes, failing, to sell cloud as a return on investment, McCormick said.

“The reality is, sometimes you save money going to the cloud, but the difference is so small. For a 50-person business, it might only be $10 more per user or about $6,000 a year. There’s way more than $6,000 a year of value for business in upgrading to the cloud and that’s the story we’re trying to try to sell better.”