ShoreTel Says it’s as Simple as 1-2-3
While the highlight of the ShoreTel Champion Partners Event in Orlando was seeing the Goo Goo Dolls from right in front of the stage, there were also lots of interesting discussions about ShoreTel’s new common platform, ShoreTel Connect. ShoreTel used its worldwide channel partner conference to introduce ShoreTel Connect and other new product offerings and enhancements.
Kicking off the conference, CEO Don Joos stated that ShoreTel’s vision is to be the communications platform for small and medium businesses by connecting people simply and however they choose. He noted, “I said the communication platform – I didn’t say PBX.”
It’s about integrating to the workflows of organizations, which can be integrated to key applications to help workers make better decisions. This is in line with the way UCStrategies views UC solutions and the value of UC. Joos defined SMB as under 5,000 seats, noting, “That’s our sweet spot and focus. We understand what matters to that segment. We go larger than that, but that’s our sweet spot.”
He mentioned an important data point, noting that CIOs used to look for ROI in a 3-5 year period, but are now looking for ROI in 18-24 months, mainly because they know that the technology will change so much in next two years. CIOs don’t want to tie up capital for 3-5 years when technology is shifting so quickly. It’s important for companies like ShoreTel to be able to provide the ROI companies are looking for, while offering a solution that meets the needs of various types of companies.
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls
Joos explained that he’s positioning the company for growth in the hosted market while continuing to be strong and competitive in the premises market, and are “going after total addressable market, not just a piece of it.” A good portion of the market have premises-based solutions that haven’t been depreciated yet that they don’t want to throw out, and may want to either use specific applications on a hosted (subscription) basis or link different offices together through the cloud, requiring a hybrid solution.
To meet these needs, ShoreTel is introducing a new platform that will be available in August. ShoreTel Connect is a comprehensive UC platform with three options for deployment: on-premises, in the cloud, and a hybrid of cloud and premises. Throughout the two and a half days, we heard the refrain “One platform, two ways to deploy, and three ways to deliver.” 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.
Along with the new platform is a new client interface that will be the same across deployment models. ShoreTel Connect is a completely redesigned client experience, offering IM/presence, chat, voice, video, web and video conferencing, with a “mobile first” design.
ShoreTel has been selling two different offerings since its acquisition of cloud provider, M5, which diluted ShoreTel’s resources. With the new single platform, ShoreTel is now aligned as one company, with one focused vision. Rather than having two websites, two sales approaches, and two platforms to develop and support, now everyone can focus on the vision of providing the communication platform for SMBs.
In addition, ShoreTel had been supporting two different contact center offerings, one for the cloud and one for the premises, and introduced the new ShoreTel Connect Contact Center, which is available for cloud, premises, and hybrid. Connect Contact Center uses the same code underneath that is “cloudified.” Connect Contact Center introduces a new user experience that is entirely web based, with all of the contact center functions residing in the new web-based user interface.
As it was a channel partner conference, the focus was on educating and enabling ShoreTel’s channel partners. On the premises side, the sales process and approach for ShoreTel Connect ONSITE will remain the same, but selling Connect CLOUD and Connect HYBRID will require new sales approaches and strategies. ShoreTel Connect cloud service is available in North America, and will be introduced in other regions, starting with the UK. As ShoreTel goes international, it will have to deal with different regulatory environments. The retail model used in the U.S., where the partner resells the service and ShoreTel pays them a commission, won’t work in many other regions, and a different approach will be required.
As with all new technology introductions, the key will be in the execution. In theory, ShoreTel is doing the right thing by offering a single, common platform for cloud and premises, as well as hybrid. ShoreTel will have to work closely with its channel partners to help them learn how to sell these solutions. Most of their channel partners have only sold premises-based solutions and will need help as they move to the cloud. They need new tools, new ways of selling, and new financial models for their businesses and sales people as they move to a recurring revenue model rather than an upfront payment model. It will take time for these partners to adapt to the new model. ShoreTel is delivering training to partners and reducing the cost of training, while simplifying its channel program and implementing a new model to compensate partners. There are many challenges to channel partners as they move to the cloud, but there are many opportunities as well. As organizations look to the cloud for their communications solutions, channel partners have no choice but to embrace the cloud. ShoreTel is trying to make this transition as painless as possible, by offering premises, cloud, and hybrid solutions for customers, enabling channel partners to offer the solution that best meets their customers’ needs. Other UC vendors also provide these various solutions, and ShoreTel certainly isn’t the first to do so. However, by utilizing a single platform that can be deployed in various ways, ShoreTel makes it easier for its partners to support the platform, and for customers to migrate from one to the other when needed.
When asked throughout the conference how ShoreTel is differentiating itself from competitors that also offer premises, cloud, and hybrid solutions, various ShoreTel executives noted, “It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it.” Let’s see how well ShoreTel can execute on the new platform, and how successful ShoreTel Connect will be for the company and its channel partners.