Future networks

Future networks

Slicing and dicing the market

With the move to IP-based networks reaching a tipping point as customers continue to replace legacy phone systems, integrators are exploring new opportunities around unified communications. Customer conversations are now centred on applications that can be layered on top of the network to give organisations competitive advantage. That brings a whole new set of challenges.

"As a traditional infrastructure provider we are now dealing in the applications space and there's so much to know," Efficient Data's Andrew Lowy said. "We are always on the edge; testing them and deploying them. That's changed the landscape a lot."

A focus on applications naturally leads to vertical specialisations. Members of our panel were keeping their cards close to their chests when it came to discussing their vertical strategies but Somerville Group's Craig Somerville said many were employing them.

"I remember when we picked one years ago. We were hearing that vertical marketing was the way to go and it actually works. You get focused and you become good at it," he said. "There are applications in the market today that leverage unified communications in certain verticals and that is the Holy Grail for many of us in the integration space. Taking those applications out of the office with mobility means we can deliver them anywhere."

Although agreeing that vertical specialisation was already being employed by vendors and telcos, LAN Systems' Ralph Marshall questioned whether the Australian market was big enough or sufficiently mature at channel level to support that model.

"As the market evolves, and more of the old iron is replaced, there will be a need for the channel to become more focused," he said. "But we all like to do things we have done them before because it is lower risk and lower cost."

Telarus' Jules Rumsey agreed with Marshall's assessment of local market maturity and pointed to residential fixed-line phones, broadband and cable TV as examples of a more established model. Telstra had a segmented marketing model that had sliced up very specific segments around particular types of people, he said, and targeted each group across every product line it had. Once the local IT market matures to the point where things become commoditised, he predicted integrators would also be forced to drill down like that in order to secure ongoing growth from existing customers.

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