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The UCaaS opportunity for managed print services providers By Louella Fernandes

UCaaS is emerging as a key opportunity for MPS channel partners to capture new opportunities amidst a print market that is in decline. One UCaaS vendor that is expanding its presence in the MPS market is Intermedia. With US MPS channel partners such as Kyocera and Pacific Office Automation already having built a UCaaS practice based on the Intermedia platform, the company is now extending its reach in EMEA.

The current acceleration in cloud adoption to support hybrid work is leading many companies to reassess their platforms for communications technologies such as voice, chat, and video calling. Unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) is emerging as a key market that managed print services (MPS) providers can target to offset print volume decline and capture new and recurring revenue opportunities. In the UK, BT Openreach, which is responsible for building and maintaining the UK telecom networks, has announced that PSTN and ISDN networks will be switched off by the end of 2025. This move is already in progress with new telephone line installations and replacements. It will lead to more businesses considering a move to UCaaS, which MPS providers will be able to take advantage of.

What is UCaaS?

UCaaS is made up of the productivity and collaboration tools that are used regularly by workers, including telephony, video collaboration, file sharing, chat, and instant messaging, streamlined on a single platform; it is easy to add to business as an online, cloud-based service. According to Intermedia, there are 431 million business telephony users worldwide, but only 17 million have moved to a UCaaS platform. This market growth is being driven by a rise in cloud adoption, along with the need to upgrade legacy communication systems to more easily and cost-effectively add new capabilities that support today’s hybrid and distributed workplace.

MPS providers should consider building a UCaaS practice in order to capture new recurring revenue opportunities and deepen customer relationships. In the US, Intermedia is already seeing success with partners such as Kyocera, LDI Connect, Loffler and Pacific Office Automation, which have successfully created new UCaaS revenue streams.

The MPS channel is diverse, and while MPS providers can build competitive advantage by adding UCaaS to their portfolios, success will rely on the level of expertise and resources required. To avoid technical hurdles when building a UCaaS practice, MPS providers should carefully evaluate partners in the space. The market is crowded, and requires consideration across a range of criteria – including channel programmes, integration, training and support, and a range of suitable partnership models (such as private label, co-branding, and agent models).

Things to consider when choosing a UCaaS platform

  1. Channel programme. A channel programme should include options that allow the MPS provider to own the customer relationship. Evaluate partnership models (such as private label and own brand) to align with your in-house resources and skills. Ensure the vendor requires no financial commitment or upfront cost.
  2. Ease of integration. The software should ideally unify business communications across cloud phone services, video conferencing, team chat, and file management. It should also integrate with other business applications, including customer relationship management and productivity apps. Also look for a vendor that can offer contact centre functionality integrated with the same UC client.
  3. Ease of add, delete and changes (ADCs). The end customer should be able to add new users, delete them in a manner that meets company policies and make changes as needed. All of this should be carried out through a white-labelled portal and monitored. It should also be accessible to the MPS provider via the UCaaS partner portal to simplify ongoing support.
  4. Security and reliability.Select a provider that can demonstrate a high level of data and infrastructure security and a commitment to helping end users meet compliance regulations. Also consider uptime and service level agreements (SLAs), which should be 99.999% to enable maintenance of business-critical communications.
  5. Scalability and intellectual property. UC features are constantly evolving, so evaluate vendors that have a strong commitment to R&D and platform innovation and own their product roadmap. Choose a vendor that can provide global scale.
  6. Training and support. From onboarding and cloud migration to technical support, select a UCaaS vendor that offers 24/7 support free of charge and backed by a certified body.
  7. Billing. Avoid being forced into a long-term contract with the vendor and ensure that the vendor can manage all measurement related to billing. The vendor should also be able to pass this through to your company so it can then be fed into your invoicing system for a single invoice that will be sent to the customer – with a percentage margin. This also means you will retain customer ownership, which makes your business more valuable.

What does Intermedia offer?

Intermedia provides a bespoke MPS package that includes marketing resources, training, support, and sales resources for a seamless    UCaaS offering for the MPS. Intermedia offers a range of partner models that allow  partners to own as much of the customer relationship as they want. There is no upfront cost because certification and training are online and free, and margins are healthy with competitive commercials that include a free device (phone or headset) to offer to customers. Commercial terms with the customer are the MPS company’s to determine, which allows partners full control of customer ownership. The platform offers quoting, provisioning, number porting and monitoring of service quality, all through a single partner portal. The company offers a ready-made service platform the MPS provider can scale up or down based on the customer’s needs, with month-to-month payments rather than long-term contracts.

Conclusion

Unified communications has been a maturing market for some time. However, with the advent of cloud-based computing, which allows broader, faster internet connectivity and universal access from offices, homes, hotels, airports, and more, unified communications can now be moved into the mainstream. Cost-effective devices, such as VoIP handsets and clients for PCs, mobile phones and tablets, many of which integrate video and file management, are making UCaaS an attractive offer to end-user customers. This is particularly the case as  ‘plain old telephone services’ (POTS), such as ISDN, PSTN and fax, are removed from the offers available to customers. MSP providers must embrace the opportunity while they can – being a first (or early) mover will maximise opportunities to monetise UCaaS as an addition to an existing portfolio.

Learn more by watching Quocirca’s podcast with Intermedia