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Why Nortel partners need to rethink their business models

Nortel's David Downing discusses why he sees tremendous value in integration and consultative channel opportunities

Grapevine, Tex. — At Nortel Networks‘ (TSX: NT) Global Connect 2008 conference this week, the vendor emphasized to attendees that it’s not just a company for big business.

The networking vendor took the time to highlight some of its small to medium sized business (SMB) solutions, including its Software Communication System (SCS) 500 and its Business Communications Manager (BCM) portfolio, with promise of a new BCM product to also be released this fall.

Nortel’s SCS 500 is a unified communications (UC) Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based solution targeting SMBs that range from 30 to 500-plus users. It integrates with Microsoft Outlook and IBM Lotus Same Time/Notes applications and offers businesses collaborative abilities which include video and video conferencing, unified messaging, automatic call distribution and more.

Also designed for its SMB customers is Nortel’s BCM family of products, which include BCM 200, BCM 400 and BCM 50. These products, Nortel says, are ideal for SMBs and branch offices that require a converged voice and data solution.

CDN was able to sit down with David Downing, general manager of enterprise and SMB communications systems at Nortel, to discuss these solutions and their impact on Canada and the channel, as well as where he sees the most value lying for channel partners.

CDN: What’s the opportunity now for channel partners and the SMB market?

David Downing: The launch of our SCS 500 is top on the list. By partnering with IBM and Dell, it’s a non-traditional for channel for us. Today, the big opportunity is in the install base. Dell wants to broaden where it works with the SMB so they’re selling our BCM product and with SCS 500; we think they’ll have a real breakthrough there.

CDN: Speaking of Dell, what are your thoughts on them and the channel?

D.D.: We think there’s a good space for Dell with the enterprise space and the desktop. You have to give them credit because they’re looking at how to continue their growth by expanding their channel model.

CDN: What is Nortel doing to support its channel partners?

D.D.: In North America we have our Developer Program. While it certainly caters to the mid-market, there’s still an incredible emphasis in the SMB space for those developers because we hook them up with our go-to-market channels. We’re trying to differentiate from just hardware to more of a point solution to really give an end-to-end solution. We think the value really lies in trying to differentiate your hardware by focusing on software and integration too. This is a place in the ecosystem where partners can add real value. We’re also conscious of the cost of training for partners so we’re developing a lot of distance training and customizing the training programs We have Webcasts, Webinars and of course our Telepresence (video conferencing) capabilities, in addition to live classroom sessions.

CDN: What are some of your top solutions that are doing well with the Canadian channel?

D.D.: We want to continue our focus on the BCM portfolio because it’s a family that scales. BCM 450 is our next product that comes out in October. It will be a hybrid solution that allows SMBs to also add IP telephony to their systems. Unlike our BCM 400, which scales up to 200 users, the 450 will scale up to 300. SCS 500 is also a solution that we believe will have a lot of uptake particularly in Canada. It’s simple to install, configure and maintain and it’s a pure native SIP solution that has very rich UC capabilities right out of the box. It’s easy for users to just click and call and have a rich video phone experience. Because of all the integration aspects, you can really create lots of new work platforms and work environments that haven’t been available until now.

CDN: What other products or areas do you see opportunities for the channel in, and why?

D.D.: We’re encouraging channel partners to rethink their business models so they’re able to sell and service that particular piece of equipment. Our intent is to make UC reachable to SMBs. Partners really need to see themselves as first tier integrators and be consultative with their customers in order to open up new opportunities and make more money.