BroadSoft Eats Its Own: The Death of the Channel?
BroadSoft just announce the commercial release of their Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) product. They are now one more in a long line of hardware vendors that have turned on their channel by going into the very service business that their products enable. In short, BroadSoft is now in competition with the very customers that have purchased BroadSoft products in the past.
This Has Happened Before
This is not the first time this has happened. Nearly a decade ago, Digium acquired SwitchVox in a similar move. For those not familiar with that transaction, Digium is “the benevolent caretaker” of the Asterisk project. Asterisk delivers an Open Source IP-PBX. Digium provides Asterisk Training and Certification, as well as all the “surround stuff” (PSTN Interface Cards, IP-Phones, Gateways, etc.) that someone who wants to deploy Asterisk would need. They have built a large and loyal channel of people who sell, deploy, and service IP-PBX’s built from the Asterisk project. SwitchVox is a commercially deployed IP-PBX built from Asterisk. It significantly extends Asterisk by adding integrations such as UC Functions, a Graphic User Interface, and screen pops and integration with a number of popular CRM products. So with the acquisition of SwitchVox, Digium became the owner of a product that was directly competitive with the channel partners they supported.
Sangoma (a competitor of Digium) made a similar move a little over two years ago, when they purchased PBXact (a competitor of SwitchVox). So just like Digium, they became competitive with the resellers that are part of their channel.
Who Does It Help, Who Does It Hurt
It hard to know if and who the implementation of this strategy benefits and hurts. Ten years later, Digium and SwitchVox are still going strong. Sangoma’s stock price has more than doubled since their acquisition of PBXact . But who really knows how many of their partners were driven out of business by these moves.
So now BroadSoft embarks down the path of Eating Is Own Channel. Peter Radizenski at Rad-Info recently quoted an BSFT client, “BSFT will force every customer to be on their cloud platform at some point.” He also added a comment to a recent LinkedIn thread on the subject, “it would be better for all if BSFT wasn’t competing with its own customers and selling direct to users at $15 per seat. That smells of desperation.”
Fighting the Trend
If you are a White-Label Provider of a service, you need to make sure you provide something more than simply basic service. You must be ready to deal with the day when someone else, or even your once trusted partner, decides to try and take your business by simply undercutting you on price. To combat this, you should develop specialized knowledge of how your customer does business within their vertical. You can also enhance the basic service with specialized API integration or provide additional services from other partners. Simply developing a solid and trusted business relationship with your customer can protect your revenue stream. With these tactics, you can help to ensure your success, even in the face of ongoing downward price pressure.