ShoreTel Connect is Here
In addition to ringing the opening bell at Nasdaq last week, ShoreTel officially launched the availability of ShoreTel Connect ONSITE, Connect CLOUD, as well as the new ShoreTel Connect user interface and a new streamlined contact center offering.
As you may recall, back in May ShoreTel provided details on its new common platform, ShoreTel Connect, offering premises, hosted, and hybrid capabilities for business communications.
The three versions of the new solution are:
- ShoreTel Connect ONSITE: the next release of ShoreTel’s premises-based offering. ShoreTel added 50 new features including Linux DVS, new voice switches, security and remote access, two-step upgrades, and the new Connect Client.
- ShoreTel Connect Cloud: a new hosted platform that includes the complete ShoreTel desktop collaboration suite, mobility (voice, video, content sharing), secure voice from desk phones to the cloud, contact center, and ShoreTel PBX features.
- ShoreTel Connect HYBRID: offering new applications (Fax and Scribe initially), and enabling premises- and cloud-based solutions and locations to be combined while providing extension dialing, caller ID, point-to-point video, and automated directory integration across the solutions. Connect HYBRID will be available in the December quarter.
ShoreTel also released its new user interface, the ShoreTel Connect Client. The new client interface has a clean, streamlined look, and will be the same for all Connect customers, regardless of their deployment choice.
Last, but certainly not least, is the new Connect Contact Center, a new solution that consolidates ShoreTel’s previous separate premises-based and hosted offering into one single offering. Connect Contact Center, which supports up to 1,000 users, includes multi-channel routing with web chat and email routing, as well as outbound dialing, a broad set of reports, and a new web-based agent interface. Integrations with workforce optimization and CRM systems include ACT!, AMS 360, Desk.com, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Salesforce, and Zendesk.
Agent Interaction Center
This is all very significant news for ShoreTel, and shows the progress that the company has made in the past couple of years. Having a common platform for users, regardless of deployment model, benefits customers, channel partners, and ShoreTel itself. Customers can be guaranteed a smooth migration when moving between premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments, while channel partners can more easily sell a ShoreTel solution to their customers regardless of how the customer wants to deploy it. ShoreTel will be able to focus its R&D efforts and spending on a single platform rather than multiple. For the time being, ShoreTel will continue to support its customers on the ShoreTel Sky platform, but all future development will focus on the ShoreTel Connect platform.
As Pej Roshan, VP of Product Management told a group of analysts last week, ShoreTel Connect enables ShoreTel to be more innovative, and as they are supporting a single platform and one set of applications, they can deliver a particular feature and deliver it for all three deployment options. ShoreTel can develop capabilities more quickly as they only have to create one version, which means channel partners get new capabilities faster and can compete more effectively.
While I’m excited about this new common platform and believe that it makes ShoreTel more competitive, I’m dubious about the claim that ShoreTel and others have made about delivering the first hybrid solution. Mitel, for one, has had a hybrid solution for some time with its MiCloud offering, which utilizes the same user interface and the same management interface as the MiVoice Enterprise solution. The company can provide the same user experience and look and feel across premises-based, cloud, and hybrid deployments. Other vendors have hybrid offerings as well, although perhaps not as streamlined as ShoreTel’s service will be when it’s delivered.
This doesn’t diminish ShoreTel’s achievement, and the company has done a great job of introducing a new platform that should be beneficial to both its customers and channel partners. ShoreTel has long been known for its focus on customers, as evidenced by its high Net Promoter Scores (NPS), and has spent considerable time changing the way the new product is quoted and supported. CMO Mark Roberts told me that ShoreTel is keenly focused on the user experience, stating, “Everything is focused around the customer experience. What’s important is how you can touch a customer or how the customer can touch the company.” He explained, “We defined what was needed and we have the building blocks in place and can start distancing ourselves from the competition.” For example, ShoreTel revamped its CRM system and billing system in order to be even more responsive and provide better service to customers and partners.
ShoreTel spent a long time working on ShoreTel Connect, and now it’s up to the company’s channel partners to help customers understand the value that this new offering can provide, and which deployment option makes the most sense for their needs.
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