ShoreTel influence strong in new Mitel channel program and shift to two-tier distribution

Specific details on the new Mitel channel program elements, and the distributors involved, will not be announced until April, but the strategic outline of both elements of the go-to-market strategy was made clear.

Mike Conlon, Mitel’s VP of North American Channel Sales

Unified communications vendor Mitel has made a pair of important channel announcements, both of which are the result of last fall’s acquisition of competitor ShoreTel. Mitel has announced that a new integrated partner program will launch at the beginning of April, the start of Mitel’s next fiscal quarter. Also – and probably more significantly – they have announced that they are making changes to their use of distribution. Mitel previously used single-tier distribution, dealing directly with partners. ShoreTel had used two-tier distribution effectively, and Mitel is now moving to that strategy.

The new channel program, like the new distribution strategy, reflects a significant ShoreTel influence, as Mitel has been more than willing to adopt the channel policies of their erstwhile competitor. The changes have also been the result of a long period of deliberation and incubation.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Mike Conlon, Mitel’s VP of North American Channel Sales. “We acquired ShoreTel back in September of 2017. We have been very vocal with the partner community that we would have a consolidated partner program, and would also give 30 days notice of changes. We indicated that we would take the strengths of both programs and converge them into what is needed in the UCC marketplace today.”

Conlon said that Mitel purposefully left the two programs in siloes initially.

“From a fiscal perspective, we were in Q2 of their fiscal year and going into Q4 of ours – our biggest quarter,” he said “We decided to wait, since we drive business in two very separate ways.”

In January, they moved ahead with the technology roadmap, and began to put the full go-to-market strategy together.

“January was when we began to consolidate the full go-to-market strategy,” Conlon said. “We deemed multiple platforms as strategic.”

Four of these are on-prem: MiVoice Office250, an entry-level for small business, MiVoice Business and MiVoice Enteprise from Mitel. The exShoreTel addition to this group is their old ConnectOnsite platform, now rebranded as MiVoice Connect.

The two strategic cloud platforms are MiCloud Connect, which was formerly the ShoreTel Connect Cloud, and MiCloud Flex.

“MiCloud Connect is a multi-tenanted type of solution, which is something that Mitel did not have before,” Conlon said. “MiCloud Flex is for the more complex organizations and larger enterprises, and is a multi-instance solution. This gives the customers options, and we try to steer them based on what their needs are.”

The new Mitel channel will have approximately 4000 partners in it, of whom about 1600 are in North America. It represents about a 50-50 split between legacy ShoreTel and legacy Mitel.

The new channel program’s organizational structure reflects a strong ShoreTel influence.

“Heritage Mitel was very much a dollar program,” Conlon said. “X amount of dollars got you into Silver, X amount into Gold and X amount into Platinum. When we did our due diligence on ShoreTel, we found that they had gotten the best of both worlds. They knew that some partners just were on-prem, that some were just cloud, and that some both, and they integrated these together effectively with a point-based system. We liked that, and that’s in the new program. We also dropped the program from four levels to three – Authorized, Gold and Platinum.”

Conlon thinks that legacy ShoreTel partners will like these new features.

“Partners really enjoyed that ShoreTel program, and a lot of its strengths are here in this new partner program,” he said. Conlon said it has all the benefits partners expect from such a program, and that the details will be unveiled at formal launch in April.

Conlon also thinks partners will like the shift to two-tier distribution

“Mitel traditionally was built as a one-tier company, dealing direct with partners,” Conlon said. “That distribution model was not as successful as the two-tier model used by other companies, like ShoreTel, who used distribution services. So as part of this launch making a shift to that system of distribution, so we can bring to our partners all of the advantages and services that a traditional value-added distributor brings to the table.”

So who are the chosen distributors? Mitel has chosen not to make that public until the formal launch in April.  Conlon confirmed however, that the distribution channel would be smaller than the one ShoreTel used, and that partners might expect to see something close to the system of a single larger distributor and a single boutique one used by multiple vendors.

ScanSource has had a long relationship with ShoreTel, and won their Distributor of the Year award three times.