eXemplify’s Robert Hayes sat down with Birch Communications’ Susan Graham to talk UCaaS, the cloud, SD-WAN, and the changing world of enterprise IT.
Your name: Susan Graham
Your title: National Partner Development Manager
Your company: Birch Communications
Years at company: 2
Company founded in: 1996
Company headquarters: Atlanta, GA
Launched channel program: 2000
Number of Channel-dedicated staff: 20
Birch Communications has paved the way for many a technology company, and is a leader in the Channel for a few reasons. We got to discuss what Birch has been working on over the last year, and the future of communications technology with Susan Graham, National Partner Development Manager for Birch. Check out our interview below to find out where Birch is headed.
Robert: What are some prominent successes Birch has had over the last year?
Susan: One of our biggest successes at Birch has been our POTS and Backup DSL services for SMBs. It’s what we’re most known for in the channel, and for good reason. We recently won multiple enterprise (multi-location) POTS aggregation opportunities.
In one opportunity, by aggregating the customer’s POTS and offering aggressive rates, the customer realized over $300,000. They also streamlined their internal processes for network management, invoice management, support, and escalations. The Birch customer portal helps them keep their inventory up to date and empowers their staff to manage locations proactively.
Robert: Are there any emerging technologies you see affecting your business in the years to come? (i.e. SD-WAN, internet of things, etc.)
Susan: Unified Communication and Collaboration as a Service (UCCaaS) is a technology we see affecting our business in 2017. Birch went to market in 2016 with a relaunched UCCaaS offering, with emphasis on the “collaboration” part. TotalCloud® PBX stands out from other offerings when you consider:
- Our ability to deliver access through dedicated circuits, fiber, or in a BYO environment
- It can be packaged with Birch POTS and Backup DSL for a total SMB solution
- Our Birch Platinum Experience for a white-glove implementation experience
- Our vast experience and success with SMB customers
Combined, TotalCloud PBX makes a compelling case for partners that are looking to sell UCCaaS as a solution for SMBs rather than as a commodity.
The other key emerging technology in the enterprise market continues to be SD-WAN. Despite the noise in the channel over this solution, it is still in the early stages of the adoption cycle, and it is mostly in play for medium-to-large enterprises. Birch excels in the SMB market, so we will continue to refine our existing product set to deliver the most value while we pursue our roadmap to provide next-generation services like SD-WAN in 2017. As adoption of SD-WAN increases and expands to the SMB marketplace, Birch will have a mature, proven offering.
Robert: How do you see cloud continuing to change the world of telecom and IT, and how does Birch approach these changes?
Susan: From a pure technology standpoint, the cloud has obviously changed everything. The ramifications of the fast adoption of cloud have been vast, but worthy of note is the way it drove IT and telecom crashing into each other. If you go way back, it used to be that there were different decision makers for IT and telecom. Often, they didn’t even communicate with each other. Now, there is no difference. It’s all under the CIO and their IT organization, and essentially all applications, connectivity, and infrastructure.
As these two worlds have come together, partners have been looking to capitalize on the opportunities and mitigate the threats that come from new cloud-enabled technology and the different competitive landscape. You have traditional connectivity partners entering the IT space, and traditional MSPs entering the telecom space. It’s a lot to navigate, but Birch is staying focused on helping partners deliver the right services to a very specific addressable market; SMB customers.
Our message to partners is that as confusing and chaotic as the market is for the channel, it’s even worse for customers. Customers need a trusted advisor more than ever, and the SMB market in particular as they may not have the IT resources to make sound strategic and tactical decisions. That’s why Birch is focused on delivering white-glove service to every customer.
Robert: Any trends in telecom you think will take over the next few years?
Susan: It seems obvious that the trend of businesses having increasing numbers of remote workers and mobile users will continue, which is why we’ve doubled down on UCCaaS. Optimization of network performance will also continue, as the number of business applications continues to grow. Finding ways to increase performance and reduce costs without making significant changes to the network architecture will continue, which is why SD-WAN is projected to see such rapid adoption and explosive growth. With all of the changes upcoming in the next few years, many things will remain constant. Partners should make incremental changes toward changing their business model to support the newer technologies but remain vigilant against leaving money on the table when it comes to the basics like POTS and backup circuits.
Robert: What makes Birch stand out from its competition?
- Extensive knowledge and experience of the SMB market
- Birch’s Platinum Experience when it comes to project management, deployment, and training for projects including large POTS or Backup DSL deployments, and TotalCloud PBX
- Over 400,000 lit buildings with over 31,000 route miles of fiber
- Aggressive pricing for POTS services with all fees included in the quoted price and fixed rate guarantee. All POTS customers billing $5K and above get a dedicated account manager for project management and support after deployment.
- Consolidated billing for multiple products that include POTS, Fiber, DSL, Hosted Voice and PRI’s
Robert: What can we expect to see from Birch in 2017? Any developments you can speak to?
Susan: In 2017, Birch will continue to enhance our TotalCloud PBX service, relaunch our data center products, and introduce IaaS and SD-WAN services. Our commitment to delivering the best experience to customers and partners will only strengthen.
Robert: What’s new with Birch’s Channel Partner program?
Susan: We recently launched Masterstream to Master Agents and partners to empower them to quote Fiber, POTS and TotalCloud PBX themselves. Our Spotlight Webinar series and other thought leadership content that we are starting to put out into the channel sphere will help educate and enable partners that wish to get away from the transactional, commoditized selling frame of mind that many of our competitors have shifted towards, such as POTS, UCCaaS, and IaaS. We’re in the business of solving business challenges and improving business outcomes for our customers, and we think partners are too.
Robert: The Vegas Channel Show is coming up. Do you have anything special planned for partners?
Susan: Birch will be hosting a Cocktail party at Border Grill on April 12th 5:30-7:30. Tequila for everyone!
Meet with Birch in our private suite to learn more about how we can help you grow your business with our services!
Robert: If you could give Channel Partners one piece of advice to be successful, what would it be?
Susan: Be careful not to lose focus and let portfolio creep dilute your efforts. Find a vendor like Birch that can consolidate multiple services and technologies into one relationship.
Don’t forget to talk to Morgan Granfield (NCM) early and often on every deal that you are working on where the customer is looking for Voice, Data, or Internet services!