8×8 signs on Ingram Micro as key part of channel expansion strategy

The Ingram Micro deal is part of a significant initiative 8x8 has been making this year to up its investment in the channel.

Chris Peters, 8×8’s Global Channel Chief

Cloud-focused 8×8, which sells a portfolio of enterprise-grade voice, contact centre and collaboration solutions, has announced a North American agreement with Ingram Micro which will see its 8×8 Virtual Office and 8×8 Virtual Contact Center solutions available to Ingram Micro partners in the U.S. and Canada.

The Ingram deal is part of 8×8’s increased focus on the channel, something that they stressed in their earnings call this week.

“We emphasized our significant investment in the channel, and that our internal sales force is now working with the channel across the board,” said Chris Peters, 8×8’s Global Channel Chief. “We have been seeing significant momentum in the channel, both in our traditional telco channel, and in distribution as well. We are seeing a lot of concern from both Avaya and ShoreTel partners. Our strategy is to pursue those folks and structure our business model towards them in a way that makes sense. Our core message to the channel is that 8×8 provides the highest quality voice over any network, not just perfect networks, but also lossy ones like Wi-Fi. We also enable companies to run disparate chat environments and enable them to communicate across those environments”

8×8 has been in business for decades – since 1987 – and moved towards its current business model in 2002 when it became a VoIP service provider. At that time, they sold direct.

“We started our channel program around 2012, and at that time it was focused on telcos and master agents,” Peters said. “For distribution, we had a long-term relationship with Intelisys, which was acquired by ScanSource last year. Earlier this year, we began a U.S. relationship with Jenne, which we see as strategic because of their base of resellers that have been selling ShoreTel and Avaya platforms. Jenne and now Ingram are our first traditional IT distribution relationships.

While the Ingram Micro deal is North America-only, the expectation is that it will not stop there.

“We only announced for the U.S. and Canada, but we have had additional conversations with them to see where we can go beyond that,” Peters noted. “Ingram has a very strong presence internationally.”

Peters indicated that they already are well-established in Canada.

“We sell there through both Bell Canada and SaskTel, and have for many years,” he said. “Softchoice is a significant partner and we are seeing significant opportunities with them. We just closed a big win with them with WGBH, the PBS flagship station in Boston. We also do a lot of business with Insight and CDW in Canada.”

The expanded distribution relationships are designed to expose 8×8 to more quality cloud-focused solution providers.

“Our programs with the distributors are focused on those partners who are cloud capable,” Peters said. “That applies even in telecom. There are thousands of telecom partners, but how many are cloud capable? Those are the ones we want to work with. We want to significantly increase our channel base –but are still being very selective. We want partners who are committed to selling cloud.”

Given that 8×8 is a pure cloud player, Peters’ advocacy of it hardly comes as a surprise. He was, however, quite emphatic on the point.

“Resellers who wont embrace and lead with a pure cloud solution and lead with it lose out on opportunities,” he said. “I don’t understand any reason to go hybrid unless a vendor doesn’t have a good pure cloud solution. With cloud, we can deploy all over the world, over any location, any number of networks, and partners reap the benefits of working with a single vendor, with everything fully integrated and the cost benefits associated with that.”

Peters also stressed that they want partners who are willing to lead with them.

“I’m not inclined to be an also-ran,” he said. “We work most closely with partners who lead with 8×8. We want partners who are committed to selling 8×8. They need to make a time commitment to us, to get trained up and enabled. In return, there’s a quid pro quo from us, where we will invest time and resources in them.”

8×8 is adding new partners from the candidates identified by Ingram Micro and Jenne.

“We aren’t signing up everybody,” he said. “We want to engage with the resellers they bring to us, and we are putting more feet on the street to create a local relationship with those partners. The channel presents the greatest opportunity for us today, and we are investing in that.”