Mitel Opens Previously Direct-Only Customer Accounts To VAR Opportunity


Mitel Monday confirmed a number of updates to its channel partner program, including that it will offer service support contracts through solution providers on accounts that were previously direct-only to Mitel.

It's part of an ongoing channel makeover for Mitel, which has spent much of the year recruiting new executives and reorganizing its sales team to be more channel-friendly following years of channel conflict with VARs and integrators.

Earlier this year, Mitel unveiled a strategy called 3+1 designed to focus its energies on unified communications opportunities, midmarket customers and the emerging voice virtualization trend, among other priorities.

Richard McBee, who became Mitel's CEO in January, told Mitel VARs at the company's mid-year Business Partner Conference that the company would "clean up its act" around channel conflict, which has been a widely reported-on issue in the Mitel channel for years.

"We haven't been as good a partner as we could have been," McBee said in a conversation with CRN in June.

Part of Mitel's channel overhaul is a new U.S. channel executive team. Over the past few months, Mitel has added former NEC executive Renato Mariani as vice president, field marketing for North America, former Avaya executive Stan Holcomb as vice president, Global Services Solutions, former Nortel executive Dave Hand as vice president of sales, Central Region, and former Polycom and VideoTran executive Leo Cortjens as vice president of sales, Eastern Region.

Among the new additions to its partner program is Mitel's Authorized Partner Service Program (APSP), which will subcontract Mitel partners to deliver local service and support for Mitel products with selected customers.

Many of those customers are legacy Mitel direct accounts that were not previously available in any form to channel partner business. That, coupled with a push by Mitel to drive new accounts almost entirely through partners, should be a booster to the company's channel reputation, Mariani and Holcomb contend.

"All of our go-to-market for new sales is going indirect," Holcomb said in an interview with CRN. "Some customers are long-term Mitel direct, but as we looked at that, we said we could also still work with our partners to help fulfill those contracts."

Much of Mitel's direct sales force has been converted to a direct touch force, the executives said, charged with driving new customer leads through Mitel channel partners.

Mitel also has a big push on to migrate its voice- and UC-centric solution providers toward selling the capabilities in its VMware-centric voice virtualization products. That push is gaining Mitel new interest from data center- and virtualization-focused partners that also play in the voice and telephony space or intend to, the executives said.

According to Holcomb, Mitel added more than 20 net-new partners in the most recent quarter based on interest in voice virtualization alone. About 40 Mitel partners have signed up for APSP so far.

"Voice is the only app that's not virtualized in their world," Holcomb said. "If it can run in VMware, they can manage it the same as the others."

Mitel's emphasis on virtualization expands its addressable market, Mariani said, and provides new opportunities for its roughly 1,600 global channel partners, about half of whom are in the U.S.

"How partners grow is a focus for us," said Mariani. "Some will move faster than others. Some will do well in the classic voice space and others will move toward the voice virtualization growth areas. They [all will] see opportunities come their way."