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How post-merger Poly is driving partners into unified communications’ next wave

How post-merger Poly is driving partners into unified communications’ next wave

A/NZ managing director Andy Hurt talks unifying hardware headsets and collaboration software for a post-pandemic channel.

Andy Hurt (Poly)

Andy Hurt (Poly)

Credit: Supplied

Three years on from its US$2 billion merger, the unified communications vendor now known as Poly still has some work to do getting partners across its entire business. 

According to Australia and New Zealand managing director Andy Hurt, the combined entity is still working towards giving partners "full visibility" of Poly's full spectrum of offerings and its value proposition. 

That initially came from a radical overhaul of its partner program in 2020, which included parts of the partner programs from Poly's former companies: Polycom and Plantronics. 

"As far as our partner program is concerned, we want to ensure that we are communicating effectively and making sure that our partners have full visibility of the value propositions and portfolio that comes with the new Poly which is obviously a broader set of products," explained Hurt to ARN.  

"So we had to work pretty quickly in remodelling our partner program to incentivise the partners accordingly because obviously selling a headset is different to selling a video conferencing system." 

A key area of that, said Hurt, was educating partners and end-users about the new value proposition of the combined Poly portfolio, which itself necessitated the need for more conversations with partners. 

Although the benefits of having a broader portfolio to sell are self-evident, Hurt was aware that consistent messaging was required both with customers and partners, particularly among Poly's distributors Dicker Data and Exclusive Networks. 

"There's so many large market opportunities that are presented to partners bringing a wider set of products to sell that we wanted to make sure it was a clean and concise solution portfolio," he added. 

Despite the portfolio expansion, Hurt believes Poly's product suite actually became simpler as a result of the merger, with partner training on each new solution proving a relatively easy affair. 

Certifications are now limited to just Poly's high-end video products, which Hurt said "require a little bit more integration", for which partners need to complete a series of online courses. 

A post-pandemic roadmap 

In terms of the unified communications landscape post-pandemic, the need for mobility and work-from-home solutions are not the only key market drivers today. 

"It needs to be as simple as a one-click entry into a video conference," Hurt explained. "If you go back two years, there was a string of characters that you had to enter manually. Now it's one click. The onus is on us, the technology providers, to ensure that we are driving simple connection and collaboration." 

In addition, in an era of virtual events and global conferences, the quality of video delivery needs to be stronger than ever, Hurt added. That not only applies to video and audio quality, but also to ensuring inclusion for all participants.  

"Now the quality of experience means that whether you're physically in the room or logically in a room, you are equally as a participant in the meeting," he explained. "The hinge point of that is that the technology has to be simple and quick to install and it has to be easy to use." 

Simplicity is also key to partner interaction with Poly, as seen in the vendor's investment in deal registration dashboards and management platform. 

Poly first began tweaking the program early in 2020 to reduce barriers to entry for new partners and on-boarding them quicker through simplified training platforms. 

"We are now starting to ingest a lot more resellers into the into the program due to the increased simplicity," Hurt said. 

"Now, more resellers will be able to come into the Poly family to sell to their customer base, whether it be in the SME [small- to medium-sized enterprises], or the mid-market, or, for that matter, verticals that we haven't been touching. They can come in as a registered partner, take advantage of the partner program and see their performance based on the dashboards that we provide. 

A bigger cycle 

However, while the pandemic has created an unprecedented new demand for unified communications, it has also created challenges for Hurt in terms of planning and supply chain management. 

Forward planning now factors in three years, while its components purchase cycle sits at between 12 and 18 months. 

"We're becoming a lot more stringent and a lot more specific in our forecasting," Hurt said. "Being able to forecast more accurately is a discipline which we're putting back into our business." 

However, given current supply chain disruptions and the current global chip shortage, Hurt said the discipline of planning also needed to be extended for partners.  

"This is working out for their benefit and our benefit and so we can actually drive a much better ecosystem of being able to supply and deliver what they need rather than just put on shelves everything we can," he explained. 

According to Hurt, Poly is trying to move away from having to "second guess" what customers are wanting. This was something particularly felt during the initial phases of 2020's COVID-19 lockdowns when Poly saw "massive spikes" in demand and even "panic buying", which adversely affected forecasting. 

"But the good thing is what we've got now is a set of products now that really are moving well across the business," he said. "But this year has definitely evened itself out so we can actually forecast more accurately." 

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