For those of you who may not have heard: Mitel recently completed its acquisition of ShoreTel for $530 million.
Since this was first announced at the end of July, I’ve been asked repeatedly what I think about this deal. What does it mean for Barry Communications as a partner? And what does it mean for both existing and potentially future customers?
Although I knew there was a high likelihood that ShoreTel would be sold, it was still a shock to hear the news. And I must admit that my first reaction was not positive. Like most people, I can be uncomfortable with change, especially big change. Having the manufacturer of our premier product line and a core technology of our cloud strategy be purchased qualifies as a big change!
However, as I read about it and had some time to think, I quickly realized that this is a completely positive change.
Over the past 15+ years, ShoreTel was a disruptive player in the business communications market. Their original premise-based product brought enterprise-grade unified communications (UC) to the general marketplace. They delivered “Brilliantly Simple” products and software that were easy for all parties to understand and adopt. It was easy to understand, easy to implement, easy to use, and easy to maintain. And all of that made it (relatively) easy for us to sell.
As the cloud phenomenon began to emerge, ShoreTel virtualized their software, allowing us to migrate customers to cloud data centers. With the migration of ShoreTel to the “Connect” platform, they became the first in the industry to have a single application that could run in a premise, cloud or hybrid implementation. ShoreTel continued to grow, both in market share and financial results.
All their success, however, made them a target for acquisition. In an industry that is continuing to consolidate, it became inevitable that ultimately, they would be acquired. Two years ago, Mitel made an unfriendly bid to buy ShoreTel. At the time, the Board of Directors rejected the offer, but set up a committee to review their strategic alternatives. Ultimately, the decision was made to accept an offer from Mitel.
For those who have been in the industry for a long time, Mitel is a well-known and well-regarded entity. They have been a major global player in the telecommunications world since the 1970s. Barry Communications had significant experience with Mitel back in the 80s and 90s, and I personally worked with them into the 2000’s. Their products were always of the highest quality and reliability. They have always been a dominant force in the hospitality and education sectors, and among the top five in the general business marketplace.
From my standpoint, however, they fell behind as the UC market evolved. This is why we adopted ShoreTel, which was a pure UC product. ShoreTel was not burdened with having to maintain legacy phone systems and migrate old technology to new, which made them far more agile and gave them the ability to start with a “clean sheet of paper”. In side-by-side comparisons, ShoreTel was always a better fit for business customers — compared not only to Mitel, but to any of the competitors — which is how they achieved such significant market share starting from zero.
Clearly, Mitel (privately) understood this, which is why they made such a strong effort to purchase ShoreTel.
When I look at the alternative potential acquirers – data networking companies, carriers, other cloud companies or private equity – I see no other company that would immediately understand the true value of ShoreTel, have such a deep knowledge of the UC marketplace, and have the manufacturing capability and historical commitment to quality that Mitel brings to the table. Any other acquirer would have had a long learning curve, which would have made all of us extremely uncomfortable.
Instead, Mitel has made it clear that they have a plan and a place for ShoreTel in their product line and that it is highly synergistic. They have a history of acquisitions that have been very successful — for them, and more importantly for the customers of the companies that they have acquired. They have made significant efforts to reassure us that our investments and our customers’ investments are not only secure, but that the long-term return on these investments will be improved.
With this acquisition, Mitel is now the number two company globally in the UC business and they have set their targets on being number one!
At the end of the day, businesses are truly made up of people. I have always been impressed by Mitel’s people. I have now been through several presentations and have met directly with executives and local representatives from Mitel. I have not only been impressed by their depth of knowledge and professionalism, but as importantly, by their longevity with the company. This gives me a sense of stability; the people who are making promises today are most likely going to be the people who will be around to deliver on those promises tomorrow, next year, and in the years to come.
As I have told the customers who have reached out to me directly: this is all good. For those who were concerned that Mitel might “phase out” ShoreTel’s technology, my reply is: “Why would a company spend more than half of a billion dollars to destroy what they purchased?” And if they were not going to develop the Connect platform, why would they put their name on the platform within 24 hours of purchasing the company? It is now “Mitel Connect”.
Which leads to my only real problem with all of this. After 10 years of talking about ShoreTel, I now have to retrain myself and start saying Mitel! And that’s a problem I can handle.
Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you would like to discuss any of this.
Your ShoreTel system collects data about your communications usage. But without an easy and powerful tool for organizing, tracking and reporting all that data, it can be difficult to make informed business decisions and maximize your ShoreTel system’s potential. This is why we have begun installing BrightMetrics on the backend of all our clients’ ShoreTel systems.
BrightMetrics is the most powerful web-based reporting and analytics tool built specifically for Shoretel VoiP. It pulls and organizes your phone data in any format you need, and allows you to drill down to access as much detail as you want. It functions as a plug-in to the ShoreTel interface, and makes current and historical data easily accessible.
So, BrightMetrics’ analytics and reporting functionality is likely already running in the background on your system, helping us to track down and resolve problems on your system and deliver you even better customer service.
So, what exactly does this mean for you? Let’s look at four ways BrightMetrics can benefit ShoreTel customers…
1. Expand ShoreTel’s Limited Reporting Options
Standard ShoreTel reports allow you to choose times, users and groups but offer little else in terms of customization. If you want to know how long it takes to answer calls, how much time your staff spend on each call, how many calls go unanswered, and what the most common topics are on calls, you will need an analytics tool like BrightMetrics to access this data in a useful way. BrightMetrics’ reports can be scheduled to run daily, weekly or monthly and can be automatically sent to defined email addresses.
2. Better Troubleshooting
Track your systems’ capacity and get a notification when you’re running out of resources. Map call flow so you can understand how calls are routed through ShoreTel and identify ongoing issues. Make changes without interrupting your call routing practices. BrightMetrics uses your ShoreTel data to help you quickly and accurately identify problems like these, and more. The tool provides data on jitter, latency, and what times the servers are reporting to help you prevent or reduce down-time, improve customer service, and quickly resolve problems.
3. Improve Staff Productivity
To help your staff become more productive, you need to understand the current productivity level and identify opportunities for improvement. This will likely involve analytics on call volume, staffing levels, call duration, and number of call transfers. This kind of information can help keep labor costs down by preventing overstaffing, while ensuring your staff have the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively assist customers.
4. Increase Customer Satisfaction
Do you know what your customers experience when they call your company? Data analytics can provide insight into how long your customers wait on hold, how many times they are transferred, and how long they speak with a staff person to resolve their need. Improvements in these critical interactions can make a significant difference in customer satisfaction.
For our customers who use BrightMetrics, I have seen them gain valuable insight into their productivity and better understand how to make improvements that align with their business goals.
Find out how Bright Metrics could work for you. Register for our webinar: 5 Metrics Every Contact Center Manager Should Know
If your business can benefit from BrightMetric’s analytics and reporting tools, please contact us to discuss fees and how this tool can support your business decision-making process.
It may seem like everything related to communications is moving to the cloud. So of course, your business should be in the cloud too, right? Maybe not.
While cloud voice services offer a lot in the way of exciting functionality, and it can be appealing not to have to own or manage your company’s communications systems, the cloud isn’t necessarily the right solution for everyone.
In fact, in my personal experience, about half of the people who purchase a cloud solution aren’t really the best fit for it. Let me explain why.
Cloud voice services were built to provide highly functional, interactive suites of services. These unified communications solutions deliver instant messaging, web conferencing, video messaging, and other advanced communications capabilities all within a single application. This functionality can be fantastic for companies that use and need it – those with multiple locations, many remote workers, and high call volumes.
However, if your company is a more static business model, all of that functionality may actually slow you down. For businesses that have used the same phone system for the past 15 years and are now looking into new options because your old system is no longer serviceable, the cloud is likely not the right solution.
Cloud voice services were not built to function like traditional phone systems. That is one thing they do not do as well.
Your Business May Be Better Off with a Traditional Phone System If…
Are you trying to decide whether your company can benefit from a cloud-based communications system? Consider the following factors. You may be better off with a traditional phone system if you:
- Have no (or few) mobile/remote workers
- Have minimal phone usage
- Still use pagers or fax machines
- Do not have a customer service department
- Use key system appearances to answer calls (put a call on ‘line 1’ and use an intercom to tell someone that their call is holding on line 1)
- Could be considered a traditional, low-tech business
If you answered yes to more than one of the above points, your business will likely benefit more from a new phone system rather than cloud voice services.
Cost Comparison: Traditional Phone System vs. Cloud Voice Services
What about the cost differences? The cloud systems look comparatively inexpensive when you look at the monthly fee versus an investment in purchasing an entirely new phone system. So, let me break down the cost considerations:
- Call Volume: Most hosted cloud solutions include unlimited calling. That is ideal for companies with high call volume, like call centers and customer service departments. But for a company with minimal phone usage, you’re paying for those unlimited calls. And consider a company that had 50 phones with their old system, but only five lines on all of them. In the past, they only paid for the five lines. But with a new cloud service, they would be paying for 50 cloud users – one for each phone — each with unlimited calling. It is likely less expensive to have monthly service costs rather than burying those costs in an unlimited solution.
- Up-Front Investment: The minimal up-front cost and low monthly fees of cloud products can be appealing. However, it’s worth considering how long you expect to use the solution. For companies that used their last phone system for 10-12-15 years (or more!), the long-term cost benefit lies with purchasing a system outright. However, if you don’t want to invest the upfront capital, or don’t want the responsibility for managing a phone system, you have the option to lease (or lease-to-own) a phone system as well.
- Service Responsibility: Unfortunately, many cloud providers have immature customer service organizations. So, while you may spend less up front on a product that you don’t have to own or manage, you’ll likely spend a significant amount of time and effort managing your vendor’s customer service team. The person in your business who is charged with managing the vendor relationship will require time to track down the appropriate customer service contact, struggle with how to resolve issues that arise, and deal with potential down-time.
At first glance, cloud voice services appear to be the simple choice. But it needs to be the right choice for your business. If you want help deciding what communications solution – and which provider – would be the best fit for your business, we’d like to help. Barry is committed to an agnostic view of the market: we know all the players and their products, and help our customers identify what will work best for their needs. We understand small and medium sized businesses, and have solutions that include simple, basic telephony as well as cloud-based communications, and everything in between. Then we can help you implement and manage your new systems – all for the same (or lower) cost than you would have paid on your own.
Learn more about cloud-based communications with: “Clouds, VoIP, and Unified Communications”.