8x8 Channel Chief: ‘The Jig Is Up’ On UCaaS Competitors Relying On Tech Partnerships

The technology partnerships that competing vendors rely on to serve up complete UCaaS solutions end in divorce, said 8x8’s SVP and Channel Chief John DeLozier, who talks about how the company is growing and “keeping the hammer down” on UCaaS.

Best Of Suite Vs. Best Of Breed

UCaaS provider 8x8 has been on a roll. In Q3 2021, which ended on Dec. 31, the channel-first company saw its channel bookings grow 64 percent year-over-year. In fact, the 8x8 channel delivered its highest new bookings quarter on record across all regions globally.

8x8’s strategy has always been the one platform approach to UCaaS, contact center, video, and messaging, and that approach is paying off. The number of partners selling the 8x8 integrated communications platform grew by more than 38 percent year over year in the most recent fiscal quarter.

8x8 Senior Vice President and Channel Chief John DeLozier said that despite an uncertain 2020 that was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s unprecedented growth proves that customers are looking for a “best of suite” communications strategy that they can rely on, no matter where their employees or customers are located. A self-proclaimed “partner-obsessed” channel chief, DeLozier said that the channel has been instrumental in contributing to 8x8’s growth.

DeLozier caught up with CRN to discuss UCaaS bundling by partners, how the company stayed true to its strategy during times of crisis last year, and how 8x8 stacks up against the steep competition in the cloud UC space. Here’s what he had to share.

What has UCaaS sales growth been like recently for 8x8 and its partners?

Channel bookings grew 64 percent year-over-year and ironically, 64 percent of all new bookings is coming from the channel. When I started, that was about 32 percent, so you can see just in two and a half years all the growth that we’ve experienced, which has been phenomenal. Eight out of ten deals went through the channel last quarter, and if I could have found the other two, I would have tagged partners because I’m partner-obsessed.

I’m very excited about the growth and we’re going to keep the hammer down. What’s hot and what’s in our sweet spot is combo deals. That is what we are seeing over and over. The days of the straight UCaaS deals for us are still there, but we are seeing more relevant deals come through in the combo format. It’s a UC deals with contact center, or UC deal with video, or messaging. Our sweet spot has become that combo, which makes sense, because we have the platform to do it.

Are you seeing partners bundling up unique communications solutions for their end customers?

Yes, some of the partners have gotten on that bandwagon [because] it’s really what the market is saying and asking for. People want, I think, best of suite over best of breed. These disparate companies that have all these point solutions and are partnering here and there for the rest; I think customers and partners really truly are into one hand to shake and one platform of solutions, but also be able to measure them. That’s 8x8 -- not only do we offer UC and CC and messaging and video, we also offer the analytics to measure, whether it’s the receptionist’s phone, to a contact center agent in an omni-channel scenario, we can tell you what’s going on across the board.

We have that one platform, and we have an analytics package that comes with it that in my opinion, is second to none. We see customers wanting to take advantage of that, and partners are taking that data and making it their own. We can evaluate things like the tone of someone’s voice in a contact center call or how [long] someone took to answer the phone, and we see partners taking that data and using it to their advantage and even market it. They can say “as a partner, we can come in and help you be more efficient because we know your habits, and here’s how.” The partners that are signing up to make a commission; great, there’s a place for them. But the partners that are really thriving are the ones that are doing things like this.

Do you see the unprecedented growth that the UCaaS space has experienced this past year slowing down anytime soon?

[According to research firm Forrester] in the first three months of COVID-19, there was $15 billion a week on quick fix technologies. I could hardly believe that. These are one-and-done purchases, like contact center that needs to be up, or a messaging platform that needs to be up. I think businesses had to make moves very quickly. I think all those decisions that were made -- now, as we fast-forward a year -- we’re definitely seeing those even out and customers come back to partners and suppliers like us saying: “look, I made this decision because I had to. But what can a company like 8x8 provide me since you have one platform across these three channels to make my life easier?”

It’s definitely evening out, but not slowing down. Our business is through the roof.

Is the integrated UC, contact center, and video solution the way 8x8 differentiates itself in the crowded communications and collaboration market?

The platform is the Flux Capacitor for 8x8. It’s really the differentiator for us. A lot of the competition back in the day did partnerships. They partnered here for messaging, there for VOIP, or here for contact center to go to market. 8x8 took a different approach. They went back into the lab and engineered a cloud platform built for purpose that had all segments. Some of it we did through acquisition, a lot of it we totally invented. We have [more than] 200 patents today. So, fast forward today to 2021, the jig is up. Those partnerships end in divorce, unfortunately. The voice companies now have video and the video companies now have contact center, but 8x8 has never changed.

In the summer [of 2020] we had gone from 50,000 video users to 25 million. We were asked what we did differently and how we made that pivot. The answer was that we did nothing different. This is who we are. We were built for work from anywhere and so for us, it was a matter of scale.

What’s your message to partners?

The number one thing we want to accomplish in our fiscal 2022 [calendar year 2021] is to continue to make sure partners understand that one platform message. That is what we are shouting from the mountaintops. We are a combo company. That’s what we do, and that’s what we are the best at. If you want to go best of breed and have five different vendors to work with, you can do that, but for one best of suite platform, that’s us.

I also want to make sure there is a place for any partner, no matter how they go to market in the world, with 8x8. I want to make sure whether you’re a wholesaler in London or a master or sub agent in Florida, or a partner in San Francisco, you have an opportunity to do business with 8x8.