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Poly Partners: ‘Unifying’ Platforms, Device as a Service The Next Frontier For UC Opportunities

“We’ve been on a journey with our customers trying to deliver on this promise that you can connect to whatever ecosystem you want,” one Poly partner tells CRN. “It’s been accelerated as of COVID-19 and we think Poly is the leader … They clearly have more experience and maturity in trying to solve that problem than other vendors.”

Poly, the combined Plantronics and Polycom unified communications giant, wants its partners to help customers tie their communications platforms together and make collaboration seamless, regardless of the end users’ location, said Nick Tidd, vice president of the Global Partner Organization.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the gas pedal on video adoption as it’s becoming the default form of communication for many businesses. As such, employees need the right video hardware to enable these popular, cloud-based video solutions, like Microsoft Teams and Zoom Video Communications, Tidd said.

Poly has seen “significant” demand for headsets and USB cameras in the last six months. And as some employees return to the office, demand for handsets and room-based video hardware is starting to return, Tidd said. About 78 percent of companies surveyed in a recent study by Poly said they will be ”relying heavily” on video technologies compared to pre-pandemic days, he said.

AVI Systems, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based UC integrator and longtime Poly partner believes that the vendor is perfectly positioned to capture the transition in the UC market that‘s happening as businesses move away from a single vendor strategy to a deeply-integrated, multi-platform, unified workflow approach, said Brad Sousa, CTO of AVI Systems.

“We’ve been on a journey with our customers trying to deliver on this promise that you can connect to whatever ecosystem you want -- cloud or on-premise -- and that’s been really successful for us,” Sousa said. “It’s been accelerated as of COVID-19 and we think Poly is the leader in that use case or application. They clearly have more experience and maturity in trying to solve that problem than other vendors.”

[Related: Poly Names Former TiVo CEO Dave Shull As Permanent Head]

Managed services around UC are the biggest ask from businesses right now, Sousa said.

“We’re very passionate about providing a series of managed services that go along with the UC solution. We think that managed services -- which are annuity services -- impact the user’s experience and adoption rate of the technology, which is what we’re really looking for,” he said.

Poly, with its history in the equipment space thanks to its Plantronics roots, has extensive partnerships with Microsoft and Zoom Video Communications to bring the certified hardware -- such as headsets, handsets, and audio speakers -- to Teams and Zoom‘s Room and Phone services. Poly is a part of Zoom’s hardware as a service program the video specialist launched in July.

“It’s about enabling these platforms and giving [the partners] recurring revenue streams and an opex model in the [hardware as a service] model,” Poly’s Tidd said. “The fact that we are agnostic to the provider gives flexibility as enterprises switch from platform to platform.”

There’s still work to be done in figuring out the device-as-a-service opportunity with other vendors Poly works with, Tidd added.

“Bundling products and taking advantage of our alliance relationships are our priorities for partners and those are the same marching orders we‘ve given our sales team so we align with the channel,” Tidd said.

The opportunity around device as a service today is huge, said Ryan Herbst, vice president and chief device strategist for UnifiedCommunications.com, a Houston-based UC solution provider and Poly partner. “It was somewhat of a discussion point and a niche focus before, but these days, it‘s huge because there’s a new appreciation for these types of UC devices.”

Before COVID-19, the device-as-a-service model was brought up in less than 5 percent of customer conversations. Now, it’s a part of about 50 percent of UnifiedCommunications.com’s discussions with customers, Herbst said.

Not only are employees and their companies prioritizing communications equipment like headsets, headphones, and USB cameras, as they improve their work from home setups and brace for a longer-term remote or hybrid working scenario, but businesses are also embracing the as a service model for devices because it can help them preserve cash, Herbst said.

“With the unpredictable nature of the environment right now, hardware, or device as a service has emerged as a much more mainstream conversation with customers,” he said.

UnifiedCommunications.com is a Microsoft Gold partner and got its start in the 1980’s as a Plantronics distributor partner and later as a Polycom partner. Today, the firm partners with Poly to give its clients a fully-baked communications solution, complete with equipment and software, Herbst said.

Poly has emerged as one of the main players in the UC space with innovative programs for partners aimed at helping businesses and users move into an opex model for collaboration hardware, he said.

“It’s always made sense -- people are consuming collaboration services, like Teams, on a cost per user, per month basis, and now, they can buy personal devices and devices for larger rooms the same way.”

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