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ShoreTel says the time is right for it to start making serious progress in the IP networking and unified communications spaces, thanks to what one ShoreTel executive calls a "jump ball" in the former Nortel channel and a greater willingness by customers to look elsewhere for products than the incumbent UC players.
Those are two of the messages being heard at ShoreTel's Champions Conference in San Diego this week. It's the scrappy UC company's annual partner confab, and ShoreTel is hoping to motivate its partners to help spur some impressive year-on-year growth gains, even as ShoreTel's CEO, John W. Combs, prepares to leave the company.
"There is a small number of people who really, really love [ShoreTel]," said Kevin Gavin, vice president of marketing, in a CRN interview this week. "How can we leverage that and work with our partners to attack that sweet spot of the market. When we come to the table, we have a win rate of 65 to 70 percent. So the real trick is to break out of this unknown entity thing and get brought to the table more often."
ShoreTel is rallying its troops at a transitional time: CEO Combs announced last week in a letter to ShoreTel's channel partners that he'll be stepping down.
Combs, who has been at ShoreTel's helm since 2004, said in a statement: "As we continue to execute our strategy plan, now is the right time for ShoreTel to transition to a new CEO to drive the company to the next level. I am leaving ShoreTel at a great time in its lifecycle, we are gaining market share, growing our revenue both in the United States and internationally, expanding our distribution base of dedicated partners and achieving world-class customer satisfaction measure from our customers, resulting from our customer-focused resellers community and employee base."
Combs confirmed that he will stay on as CEO until his successor is named, and he's also planning to stay on the company's board. Gary Daichendt, who has served executive roles at Cisco and Nortel and has been on ShoreTel's board since 2007, will take over Combs' spot as board chairman.
As the company transitions, Gavin said the trick will be making sure ShoreTel partners have enough marketing muscle and plenty of refreshed technology.
Among new product releases announced at the Champions Conference this week is ShoreTel Contact Center 6, the upgrade to its call center software, which will be available as a free upgrade to customers that have an existing ShoreTel support contract.
Its new features include a real-time event feed system capable of group, queing and agent information and customizable through an open API, as well as a new addition called ShoreTel Contact Center Agent Dashboard, which is a cloud application that can provide customized contact center dashboards to agents and deployed on mobile devices.
ShoreTel is also adding Contact Center Interaction Viewer, which lets supervisors monitor contact center interactions in detail, and has increased the level of support for Contact Center 6 to up to 1,000 concurrent and 2,000 total agents.
Then there's a new version of ShoreTel's UC software, ShoreTel 11, available as a free upgrade to existing ShoreTel customers.
Announced Thursday at the conference, ShoreTel 11 includes ShoreTel Communicator (formerly known as ShoreTel Call Manager) clients for both BlackBerry and iPhone, with the new iPhone client available through Apple's App Store as a free download. ShoreTel has also boosted the release to allow for more instances to be installed at remote sites and expanded its QSIG support for migrating to ShoreTel UC environments.