IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Vox Channeli: Spark Has Yet to Catch Fire in the Channel

Our most recent reader survey suggests that Cisco has work to do convincing SMB partners that its Spark collaboration suite is a superior alternative to Microsoft’s Skype for Business.

By Rich Freeman

How excited was Ingram Micro to tell the world it was the first distributor selected by Cisco to offer the Spark collaboration suite in a cloud marketplace? So excited it all but scooped itself, breaking the news 2 whole days before the 8th annual Ingram Micro Cloud Summit got underway in Phoenix yesterday.

And, hey, they can be forgiven for being so enthusiastic. Cisco has been on something of a roll in the collaboration space recently, racking up three straight quarters of market share growth and “holding its own” in the rapidly expanding cloud-based collaboration sector that Spark resides in, according to Synergy Research Group.

Still, we were curious to know just how excited our readers would be about Ingram’s big Spark reveal, given that a) over 52 percent of ChannelPro readers sell Microsoft Office 365, according to our 2017 State of the Channel survey, b) most Office 365 plans include Microsoft’s Skype for Business and SharePoint collaboration solutions at no extra charge, and c) “no extra charge” is a tough price to beat.

Fortunately for us, we have the perfect vehicle for scratching that kind of itch—our weekly reader survey. We started out with a question designed to assess how many of you sell Spark and/or Skype for Business right now:

Vox Channeli: Spark Has Yet to Catch Fire in the Channel
Not a shocking result, perhaps, in light of Microsoft’s big head start. Spark, after all, is just over 2 years old at this point. Just the same, it doesn’t look like Spark has a bunch of traction—yet, at least—among the respondents to our survey. Is that because they prefer Skype for Business?

Vox Channeli: Spark Has Yet to Catch Fire in the Channel
Quite possibly. Half the readers we polled didn’t feel qualified to pick a favorite, but 85 percent of those who did voice an opinion said Skype for Business offers better functionality.

Let’s say they’re wrong, though. If Cisco Spark had capabilities that Skype for Business couldn’t match, would it make a difference with our readers, given that a big hunk of them are Office 365 resellers and Skype for Business comes with that product gratis? To the data we go:

Vox Channeli: Spark Has Yet to Catch Fire in the Channel
An overwhelming percentage of our readers, it seems, think talking customers into paying extra for a hosted collaboration solution wouldn’t be easy if there’s a cheaper alternative available, even should said alternative be merely adequate by comparison.

Sounds like Cisco, and perhaps Ingram Micro as well, have some marketing work ahead of them. Spark may well be a big opportunity for the SMB channel, but partners are going to need to know more about that product and both why and how to sell it before that opportunity becomes reality.

About the Author

Rich Freeman is ChannelPro's Senior News Editor