Sherweb’s Unified Communications solution gives end-clients the ability to call, chat, meet and collaborate within one of the world’s leading productivity suites. Combining Microsoft Teams (included with most Microsoft Office plans) and calling technology, Sherweb partners can provide customers with a truly all-in-one communication and collaboration platform.
Sherweb’s head of Presales Michael Slater recently discussed the company’s unique UCaaS offering—including its connection to Microsoft’s own new Business Voice solution—with Cam Smith, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft Canada. They also talked about Sherweb and Microsoft’s relationship, and how it’s beneficial for partners of both organizations. For an in-depth look at the Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) market and the roles that both Sherweb and Microsoft play in it, read their conversation below!*
*Please be advised that this interview has been edited for clarity and readability.
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Unified communications and Microsoft Teams
Michael: “Microsoft has built what I think is going to be the Skype killer, which is a good thing because Skype is dead—you guys are going to kill it anyway.
“[…] So because I think Teams is going to be the most powerful, the most well-used productivity tool in the next two or three years, we want to be able to back that up in the voice part. Because one of the hardest parts, I find, when it comes to voice is really just getting everything set up and working the way you’re used to.”
Cam: “Right. I mean the old world of working with voice and working with collaboration and communication tools is probably multiple different tools and multiple different folks that you’re getting those tools from.
“And one of the great things about unified communications voice collaboration with Teams is the ability to simplify but scale. And that’s what I think Teams does really, really well and what Microsoft has really focused on, is empowering end-customers and business users across the Canadian landscape to be able to do those things; work together seamlessly, have meetings seamlessly, make phone calls seamlessly and have an infrastructure behind that as well.
“Now we’re seeing a sort of evolution and creation of collaboration tools in the way everything’s brought together in a single platform which we like to call “Teams”, that creates this rich tapestry and environment where people are able to deliver success to their customers, and also able to inter-communicate with themselves and their colleagues as a business.”
Michael: “What I really like about the Teams atmosphere, especially with this integration with the Microsoft ecosystem, is that it simplifies that process. So not only does it become easy to set up and use—all of our clients currently using our unified communications solution are enjoying greater stability versus any other product we’ve ever sold—but it’s also the scalability which is important.
“And because Microsoft and Sherweb don’t believe in forcing people into three or four year-long contracts—the most we’ll probably do is annual—we give people that scalability and flexibility you don’t get from any other phone provider right now.”
Cam: “Yeah, scalability is a really interesting one because, in the past, you might have spent a lot of money on the infrastructure behind communication and unified communications. And now, if you scale down your business, you scale down your users. If you scale up your business, you scale up your users. That flexibility allows you to think of cost savings, but immediate results in being able to add more and do more as your business grows within the Canadian landscape. It’s pretty cool!”
Michael: “Very cool. And that’s where I think the main [draw] is going to be. Especially in a world where telecom is so old, so outdated and so complicated, the first players in that can make that process scalable, make it easy to rinse and repeat and easy for the user to understand, are the guys that are going to win. And that’s where I think this partnership has the most value because together, we can provide all three.”
Cam: “We’re hyper-focused. I hate using the tagline, but it’s so true: empowering every person in an organization on the planet to do more. And I think these are the ways in which we can help do that.”
Sherweb’s position in the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) space
Michael: “The way that I view the market in Canada is you basically have three tiers of providers. So you have what I consider to be tier one. These are the really big guys, think the big three carriers, the guy that everybody has a service from right now that’s watching this video—think about it that way.
“These guys are really big companies [with] really big reach but they tend to be super enterprise-focused. They’re hyper-focused on the bigger accounts, they’re hyper-focused on the business model that requires long-term contracts, and they’re really trying to focus on the bigger fish. There’s a lot of channel conflict in these places, too, and what they really are trying to do is drive the biggest possible margin, [and] the biggest possible profit with the least amount of clients possible.
“On the flip side of that, you also have tier three providers. So I know, [if you’re] new the telecom world, maybe you haven’t heard of these kind of providers, but there’s a lot of telecom that people host in their basement. These are the guys that just say, ‘Oh I have a phone company—me and my brother.’ You get a lot of those guys competing in the space too, we see them all the time.
“What’s great about Sherweb is we’re in the middle of that. Because we’re not a gigantic telco. We’re not a hundred thousand employees with their name sponsoring CBC or Sportsnet, but we’re well-known in the space. If you speak IT in Canada, you know who Sherweb is. We’re that middle category.
“Also, our pricing reflects that. We’re going to offer you a lot more for your money, and provide you a level of service of white-glove installation that you just can’t get anywhere else. We’re kind of that marriage of the hybrid of two where you bring the IT component and the telecom component, and merge it into a harmony that tier one and tier three simply can’t do.”
Calling with Teams: Microsoft Business Voice
Cam: “The launch of Teams a while back and seeing it grow within businesses across the world has been really, really exciting. And now with the Voice SKU that’s here in Canada (that’s specific for SMB customers), we’re seeing the ability to create this unified communication system. Especially for our smaller customers out there, that traditionally might have had various different types of platforms and products in order to be able to chat, have meetings, communicate with customers and do calling.
“This brings all of those things together with the Voice SKU and with Teams as a platform. You have one space where you’re able to do all of these things and create teams and channels together, work with people within your organization and also deliver enterprise-grade communication to your customers. Regardless of which industry you’re in, you have the ability to scale within the country and scale internationally if you want to, as it relates to the way in which you as a business communicate.
“So we’re super-excited to see others really excited about Teams and Voice in Canada. And we can’t wait to see how big it gets and how much it grows.”
Michael: “That’s a great point you just touched on which is the growth. […] Right now, Teams is the incumbent for collaboration. You guys are now the model that everyone holds up to, right?”
Cam: “Yeah. There’s a lot of different types of communication platforms out there and some of them will do chat and some of them will do meetings and some of them will do callings. But what we like to think is that Teams unifies all of these things together, brings it all into one single space. And that really allows a customer to have a single “pane of glass,” we like call it, for all of these needs coming together in one single place. We couldn’t be more excited about that.”
Microsoft’s partner network & strong relationship with Sherweb
Michael: “Why do you guys pick the indirect model? I’m sure everybody and their brother would go direct if they had an option. But why did you guys make a conscientious choice to go partner first?”
Cam: “I think one of the most important things that Microsoft cares about is their partner ecosystem and how those partners offer scale, reliability, flexibility and simplicity to their end-customers out there. And that’s something that Sherweb is doing with their cloud solution provider model.
“So one of the things that we base our business around is the way in which our partners, the ecosystem and the end customer all benefit from creating a set of different products out there that really empower everybody, through when the product was developed all the way to the end customer and the way that they’re enjoying it.
“From Sherweb’s perspective, how have you guys seen your business transform partnering with Microsoft?”
Michael: “What’s really helped us succeed with Microsoft is that we were already in sync with the philosophy of Software as a Service, and providing continual value from your initial investment that doesn’t just stop once the box is purchased and the system is set up.
“The idea of constant improvements, constant innovation, giving the best-in-class support you can physically get in the industry has always been Sherweb’s philosophy.
“[At the] end of the day, we partner with the best solution providers not because we rely on them to be the support piece—we rely on them to be the sole innovator. We pick the guys that have the best software because we can provide the best backup to that.
“We’re here to make sure our partners have the best access to support with the best technical knowledge for the best implementation, to the best practices, and that’s a big part what we focus on. And that’s why, I think, the synergy between Microsoft and Sherweb really shows.
“So we are supported by the best vendor and you guys are supported by the best distributor and it creates a really good marriage.”
Cam: “That’s super cool. I think, you know, Sherweb and Microsoft are seeing a transformation occurring within the Canadian business landscape out there, right? When we talk about Software as a Service, Unified Communications as a Service, there’s a lot of ways in which our customers are transforming to be able to compete on a national and international scale in some ways.
“And I think there are some solutions that Sherweb provides, you know, in conjunction with Microsoft’s products and platforms that allow customers to be able to do that.”