Sydney Airport has been busy this year as we continue to welcome colleagues from San Jose and beyond.  In the past four weeks, we’ve been delighted to host Nick Tidd, Vice President, Global Partner Organization.  He was with us at the end of August addressing the Asia Pacific analyst community at our PACE event in Sydney and he’s back this week speaking at TelstraVantage in Melbourne.

As one of our major industry fixtures, ‘Vantage’ will be a great forum for Nick to catch up with our partners, customers and prospects to share his thoughts on the role of collaboration within the modern workplace and what he sees as the big opportunities.

As Nick was in ‘our neck of the woods’, I thought it would be a good excuse to chat with him and find out what he believes are some of the big issues that are keeping our channel partners up at night and how we can help solve them.

The traditional mindset among many channel partners has been that of “selling hardware” but within Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) we’re seeing a market shift towards a more “consultative approach”.  Would you agree?

Absolutely. The workplace itself is changing dramatically.  Our collaboration spaces are no longer confined to a traditional four walled office environment. It’s much more dynamic than that.  Today we’re collaborating with more location liberation than ever before, a local coffee shop might be the new huddle space for some, while others may prefer to collaborate from their client offices. Then add to this, the increase in remote and anywhere working, which is also changing the way people want to be able to interface back into the office environment.

The endpoint is also becoming more pervasive, it’s no longer a fixed point in a room.  Today we can really be location agnostic, largely due to the variety of devices people are using and the variety of usage situations from ‘on demand offices’ to classrooms and even hospitals.  People are also wanting to use their personal devices from home or elsewhere and integrate these into the workplace in a collaborative and beneficial way.  Then, add to this the generational mix – we now have up to five generations in a single office with Millennials leading the way, so seamless connectivity becomes even more prevalent.

The way in which we design collaboration architecture is also changing to meet this complexity of user demand.

I think there is a tremendous opportunity for the “consultative approach” of selling – and it starts with assessment of environment in its entirety. While it is an overused phrase in business, you really do need to start by literally thinking outside of the box!

Take Air BnB for example: they are the largest hotel chain in the world that actually doesn’t own any hotels.  They didn’t change the principal of where you stay; they changed the principles of how you acquire your reservation and choose where you stay.

Another example: who is the largest taxi company that doesn’t actually own any taxis? Think about Uber, it’s still the dynamic of renting transportation; but it’s the way in which you acquire it that’s completely different.

So, when you think about designing the next generation of workplaces, you have to take into consideration all of the components. That needs a different approach to collaboration architecture, a different approach to design and so on.  It’s no longer ‘how much does that widget cost and let me give you a quote’. Consultation has become key.

How do you initiate the consultative approach? Is it about refining the ‘art of the question’?

Foremost, understand your audience and understand who their influencers are.

Next, ask yourself, ‘what does the workflow look like?’

When we say changing the rules of the modern workplace, a lot of that has to do with workflow.  You start with how you are trying to enable me, as a user and how are you trying to enable the business – and work backwards.

Traditionally, you would build out the infrastructure to support the endpoint – with the endpoint being the last piece of it.  Today, it’s the complete opposite.  According to Polycom’s research the dynamics are changing with 75 per cent of Australian workers now literally working anywhere.  With this change in mind, you need to design from the outside in, not the inside out to find the opportunity for those workers.

I was reading a Gartner piece recently that said everyone is differentiating and the act of providing differentiation is now becoming so mainstream that’s no longer perceived as a value-add, so we are reverting back to price.  Do you agree with this?

The traditional capital expense model is changing.  You used to buy it and depreciate it.  We are now seeing a more ‘service-based model’ for the infrastructure, platform and licensing. Savvy partners are wrapping more and more services around the solution to create stickiness.

As an example: there are a lot of people using conference rooms. A Partner may say ‘hey, I’m going to monitor consumption…  I’m going to monitor how many people are in the room…  how many are active speakers…  how many remote participants are being bought in.’ The result might be that they don’t necessarily need a boardroom that sits empty for five hours a day and as such recommend smaller meeting rooms.  They might also suggest the customer procure a third party such as DEXUS serviced meeting and boardrooms as a service model.

So, when Gartner says price becomes more relevant, I think price becomes relevant in relation to performance and the service level it brings.

Does this feed into what you are discussing at Telstra Vantage around rooms of the future and evolving your rooms as you need to change?

Absolutely. Think about a standard space that we know and love – the self-contained room had a phone in the middle, a projector screen at one end, a camera on the wall and cables on the table.  Now, the amount of devices that are coming into the room, or into a cloud space, or even a Starbucks means that the way you design, implement and deliver a network needs to accommodate the technology, as well as the user.

Users want simple click and join.  They don’t want to go looking for a meeting room ID, or a truncated number, or the smart board switch to upload documents for team discussion. They want it within their workflow.

What’s your advice to the reseller whose customer says “I need a hybrid solution”. What does the reseller need to be thinking about in terms of being able to deliver the best solution, regardless of Vendor?

It comes back to the workflow again and understanding the experience the customer is trying to achieve and that’s that consultative services approach I referred to earlier.

When I have a partner who comes to me to discuss a customer, the first thing we talk about is what type of services they want to wrap around it.  It should be an assessment of workflow, capability, and design.

Remote monitoring is also becoming significant.  Next generation for us is analytics and what we do with analytics.

We are so strong right now in terms of helping our customers transition to Microsoft Skype for Business, but what comes after that?  Where’s the next opportunity for channel partners?

The cloud space has shaped the new workspace and workflow.  If we look to the next generation of technology – it’s modular, it’s adaptive, it’s solutions based and it’s cloud based.

Thanks to cloud we no longer just talk about that sub 50 space, the one-to-three user space is back on the table; and how you bring them into the network with mobile devices, with USB devices etc.

Previously, you would have never have dreamed of trying to do a video conference on a USB small camera, or into a small space.  The cost was prohibitive, the technology wasn’t there and the user experience was horrible.  Now all that has changed with digital sharing tools like Polycom Pano.   Start doing animation, start doing 3-D, start doing 4-D! You can just see the learning curve as the technology is changing dramatically.

I look forward to the time when I don’t even have to remember a password anymore!  The average enterprise has over 600 applications and imagine if we only needed single sign-on capabilities… one day, it will operate on facial recognition, like some of the latest smartphones.

What’s your message to the ANZ Channel Community in terms of what they need to be thinking about in terms of capitalising on their opportunities for growth and building their relationship further with Polycom?

If I was a partner and I was looking at ‘next gen’, I would be looking for revenue streams that have a high component of professional services built in.

I also very much want to see us as trusted advisors to our partners – not just suppliers.  Come to us and say ‘hey, I’m looking for best in class technology and capability to wrap around collaboration.’

I want them to first think of us because we’ve enabled them, we’ve trained them, we’ve given them content.  We design great literature for end users, but we can do better at helping our partners consult, promote and sell it and we are working on that.