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After a year of significant changes at ShoreTel -- not least the company's big-bet acquisition of hosted VoIP player M5 Networks this past spring -- ShoreTel partners are applauding the scrappy UC company's ambition. But they caution ShoreTel that the real work is still to come: maintaining growth while aligning channel strategies to help partners attack both on-premise and hosted opportunities.
ShoreTel partners interviewed by CRN this week said that what they hope to hear from ShoreTel during its annual Champions partner conference, kicking off Tuesday in Orlando, is that it has the systems and strategies in place to preserve the momentum it's built over the past two years, which have been the most ambitious in the company's 16-year history.
"I think they have a good understanding of what it's going to take to bring products like that more aggressively to market," said Rick Hirsh, CEO of Transcend United Technologies, a Wayne, Pa.-based solution provider and one of ShoreTel's largest non-telco partners. "Our business is good, not great, but that's because the UC space is good, not great. ShoreTel can at least say they're up in volume and that they're keeping their eye on the ball."
"We're very bullish about the future of ShoreTel," said Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, an Ocala, Fla.-based solution provider whose ShoreTel sales have increased 50 percent over the last calendar year. "Mobility has been a great add-on, and we're having success with contact center. There isn't much yet with [cloud services platform] ShoreTel Sky but we've gotten trained and had a couple of at-bats with it. It's clear there's a lot going on with product."
ShoreTel's big moves were both acquisitions: first Agito in 2010, to create ShoreTel Mobility, and then M5 this year.
Both have positioned the company well to seize opportunities in mobile UC and cloud-based communications and compete with bigger UC players like Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft and Siemens Enterprise Communications, all of which are aggressively pushing cloud and mobility strategies through UC partners.