Deep focus on Customer Lifecycle Management highlights Mitel strategy under new channel chief

Other priorities include more emphasis on partner business plans, and making it clear to partners how switching to the RingCentral partnership for their UCaaS puts both Mitel and their partners in a stronger position than before.

Daren Finney, Senior VP of Global Channel Sales, Mitel

Seven months ago, Mitel named Daren Finney as their Senior VP of Global Channel Sales. He came on board with an understanding that transformation is fundamental to Mitel’s future, and that specific initiatives were necessary to execute on that. Driving the company’s Customer Lifecycle Management strategy is central to this, as is facilitating more robust partner business plans.

“Mitel is an almost 50-year old organization, a legacy Unified Communications company with an indirect strategy,” Finney told ChannelBuzz. “I couldn’t have found a more channel-friendly organization to work with. My goal coming in was determining how we can best provide a constant vision, strategy and structure to support partners. It was happening differently across theatres, and we wanted a more consistent approach.”

This will involve fundamental transformation of how Mitel’s channel operates, Finney stated.

“Transformation is fundamental to where we as an organization are going,” he said. “It involves making sure we have consistent programs, and that we are relevant and strategic with our partners. We are making sure that our more advanced partners have developed business plans and Quarterly Business Reviews are being sponsored at an executive level.

“The other part is how we are starting to execute with our partners in Customer Lifecycle Management [CLM],” Finney indicated. “Mitel hasn’t been as focused on that. How do we support partners in conversations with customers? That’s more important than ever with our RingCentral UCaaS partnership. We can deliver best in class UC, and now best-in-class UCaaS with RingCentral. We spent a lot of time at our recent Partner Next Conference in London helping them understand how we would support them in Customer Lifecycle Management.

Finney said that Mitel has not been unique in not emphasizing CLM, and that it is a problem throughout their sector.

“I’ve spent quite a lot of time talking with partners, customers and analysts, and the consensus is that not many vendors do CLM well today,” he said. “We produce data packs for our partners, providing them with customer analytical data that they need, based on how long the customer has been dormant. These are the conversations you need to have with your customers. Maybe they have contact centre or cloud requirements. They can use that intelligence and data when they talk to the customer, and get supported with campaigns and content.”

Finney said that this really builds out the customer journey.

“With CLM, you need to understand the customer’s business, to help drive more business agility and top line revenue, and to ensure that it complements other technologies so the partner doesn’t have a siloed conversation.”

While transformation has become central to Mitel’s approach, the philosophy itself has not changed.

“It has stayed the same,” he said. “I have introduced more discipline in terms of how we engage, particularly more robust business plans. It’s about how we will drive outcomes. We had them in some spots and not in all. We now have more of a regular cadence, and more execution. We can’t just stand a plan up and expect it to be successful.”

Finney indicated that the Mitel partner program has also been reoriented around CLM.

“The certification benefits largely are points based. What we are doing through their year though is making sure its important around all-CLM. Our program becomes more relevant and aligned to our strategy around CLM, and has become more relevant and strategic.”

Despite all the changes, Finney said Mitel’s channel is pretty much the same, involving many partners who have been with them for years.

“The channel hasn’t really changed that much,” he said. “Many of our traditional partners have been with us for many decades. Nothing has changed in the ecosystem. We have made changes around our tier strategy, making sure we work more closely with our distis to make sure they deliver more value. We support that long tail of distribution, which is just as important in North America as elsewhere.”

They use Jenne, Scansource and TD SYNNEX in the U.S., and TD SYNNEX in Canada.

“We have hundreds of partners in our Silver and Authorized categories that we don’t get a lot of touch from,” Finney said. “It’s just TD SYNNEX.”

Going forward, service providers will be a higher priority.

“COVID has been a great lesson to us all,” Finney indicated. “Many partners had to change their entire business. Partners become service providers with hosted solutions. I want to double down on providing our service providers more, to see more value through two-tier distribution in an aggregation model – through subscription and UCaaS hosted solutions. I want to build up monthly recurring revenues, with partners working with our distis here as cloud aggregators will be critical.

“We took special care over this last week at the London partner conference to make sure partners understood our Going Forward model,” Finney concluded. Our RingCentral deal and move from our own UCaaS offering created a lot of questions. We explained to them that we really wanted to really focus on our legacy as a UC provider. We now have best in class UCaaS through RingCentral. We wanted to make sure we laid out to our partner community that now they can offer the best UC and the best UCaaS.”