Mitel CEO explains new channel direction

Even though Mitel Networks’ Exclusive Business Partner (EBP) channel program isn’t yet available in Canada, the Ottawa-based vendor is defending its strategy of partner exclusivity.

When released (May 1) solution providers in Canada will have to agree to sell 100 per cent Mitel products to new customers to gain entry in the EBP program.

Don Smith, CEO of Mitel, said the exclusive part of the program is all about perspective and partner evolution when it comes to the hot market of unified communications (UC).

According to Smith, for a solution provider to become a trusted advisor in UC they will need to have a broad approach and should partner with a trusted vendor that can cover all these solution areas.

Smith bases his views on market research in the communications applications segment. He cites that the total spend in this segment which includes contact centre, unified messaging and other personal productivity applications will be 36 per cent. Smith added that by 2011 this market will grow to 45 per cent.

“Partners have evolved from the old world to the digital world and they understand data, voice and now applications. To do all that correctly and well they must set themselves apart to provide what the customer needs, while running a business that has expertise,” he said.

At Mitel’s recently concluded Business Partner Forum in Orlando, the company grew its base of exclusive U.S. solution providers from 23 to 118 after introducing the new channel program, Smith said.

More than 50 of those partners decided to drop competing product lines, he added.

Mitel still has a few hundred partners who do not wish to be exclusive and Smith wants them to understand that they can improve their operation through the EBP program.

Currently the combined Mitel and Inter-Tel U.S. channel is about 800 partners.

Smith does not believe Mitel could have achieved the same partner exclusivity by offering higher margin incentives.

“Exclusivity will bring business benefits. I can come along and give you three hot prospects or I can do an area analysis and create a picture of the market for you. We tend to give the gift that keeps on giving. Ten other partners will have those same three leads. Ours will have market intelligence. I teach you to fish instead of giving you fish,” Smith said.

The EBP program was initially developed by Inter-Tel, which merged with Mitel last year to create a $750 million player in the UC market.

“When you bring two organizations together what the channel will think is there is some uncertainty. Where am I going to be with this offering come the next six months, 12 months or 24 months and if you are cynical you want to be showed something. If I tell you things on a PowerPoint why should you believe it?”

During the partner conference, Mitel showcased its product roadmap live with both products that are available now and other working models that will be released in the future.

One avenue Smith will not venture down is partnering with distributors. Smith said Mitel can alleviate a lot of the complexity with UC by having less steps in the chain.

“Distributors have to be careful because they do not generate new channel opportunities or simplify stuff,” Smith said.

For example, Mitel did a Microsoft integration live business gateway, which helped customers federate with each other. Federating is when three organizations who work on common projects can operate seamlessly together even if one of those three firms does not have a full UC implementation.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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