Last week, Polycom held its annual channel partner event, TEAM Polycom, in Nashville. The theme of the event was “Changing the Game,” which in Polycom’s case is actually a triple entendre. Polycom is hoping the event is a springboard to put it in a position to punch back and regain some of the share it lost to arch-rival Cisco, give its channel partners the ability to accelerate sales, and enable customers to use its technology as a core component of their digital strategies by creating new ways of collaborating and working (disclosure: Polycom and Cisco are both clients of ZK Research).
Polycom certainly needs to change the game to accomplish all three goals. The company has great technology – market-leading in many cases – and spent the better part of 2015 rolling out a number of new products, including the Star Trek-like Centro product that I profiled last year. However, despite its technical prowess, Polycom has struggled to keep any kind of sales momentum going over the past few years. Much of the reason for this is that Polycom technology, while state of the art, can be complicated to deploy. Also, the premises-based nature creates a high upfront price point, limiting the appeal to large companies.
Polycom’s channel partners have their own game to change. UC resellers across the board, including Polycom’s, have been trying to shift to a services-led engagement model and become a strategic advisor to their customers, instead of just a reseller of hardware. This will create longer-lasting relationships with a more consistent flow of revenue from the customer.
For end customers, the collaboration game also needs changing, particularly for video. UC has been long on hype and promise for years, but adoption has remained light. Deploying UC solutions can be complicated, time-consuming, and requires the purchase of a number of products from a single vendor and the integration skills to put it all together. Also, sizing the infrastructure winds up being a trade off of the lesser of two evils. Either buy for peak and have low utilization 95% of the time, or size the purchase for average utilization and experience poor performance at peak times.
To help change the game, Polycom announced Clariti, a new way of packaging and pricing its RealPresence collaboration technology. Clariti shifts RealPresence to an infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model. The product includes all of the collaboration infrastructure of RealPresence, including audio and video bridging, call control, client software, security, and scheduling. The solution also includes RealConnect for Microsoft Skype for Business Interoperability (formerly Lync) and RealAccess, Polycom’s analytic tool.
The pivot to an IaaS model allows customers to pay for Clariti using cloud-like pricing. Now customers can have the benefits of RealPresence immediately without having to write a huge check upfront. Clariti is priced per user, per month, making it easy to pay for and even easier to budget for in subsequent years.
One of the more interesting features of Clariti is something called cloudburst. If the infrastructure is reaching maximum utilization, users are redirected seamlessly to a Polycom cloud. This can be useful for seasonable businesses, like a university wanting to do video-based recruiting involving a high volume of video calls over a short period of time.
For customers that wish to procure the technology as CapEx and pay for everything upfront, that option is there, but I believe most customers will find the subscription pricing more appealing.
Channel partners should be excited about Clariti as they can get customers to trial the service with just a handful of users to start. This is critical for competitive situations, or those that are dominated by a strong incumbent, like Cisco. Instead of having to convince the customer to bet the farm on RealPresence, Clariti allows the customer to try it out, work with the partner to determine the value, and then expand the deployment from there. Also, the cloud pricing model gives resellers the ability to sell directly to a line of business if the sales motion is being stalled with the IT department.
The business world is becoming rapidly digitized and organizations need the proper tools to enable workers to collaborate with one another regardless of location or device. RealPresence Clariti gives customers these capabilities without having to break the bank on initial deployment.