Simplicity and ease of use – they are two of the most critical elements of successful communications solutions. The fact is that most competing solutions offer similar feature sets and capabilities, but where they often differ is in deployment time, management complexity, and maintenance requirements. With the number of tasks both IT managers and end users are faced with on a daily basis, it seems intuitive that the simplest solutions – which does not mean sacrificing on feature sets – are likely to be the most popular.
That same ideal is how ShoreTel (News - Alert) has built its recent success – Brilliant Simplicity is its tagline – and also how it has developed its recently revamped partner program, its Innovation Network. Naturally, the goal is to partner with those solution vendors that are gaining traction with ShoreTel’s existing target markets, as well as future expansion markets.
“How do our partners get to be successful?” asks Steve Weinstock, senior manager of ShoreTel’s Innovation Network. “They have to have good solutions and people have to adopt them; having solutions that are just easy to use is a big part of that.”
The Innovation Network consists of three levels:
Foundation – A basic developer program, in which partners engage with ShoreTel to set up initial connections between the two solutions, and gain access to ShoreTel’s APIs and SDKs.
Alliance – Adds interoperability testing and validation, along with documentation of results and published application notes, which can then be used to address prospects, resellers and installers, and support teams. The Alliance level also includes access to ShoreTel’s marketing channels, including tradeshows and an annual partner conference.
Strategic – Adds collaboration with ShoreTel’s business development team, defining specific go-to-market strategies to drive sales. This partnership level is defined by organic growth and mutual understanding of prior successes and goals, not merely going through testing and validation phases.
Among the core principles behind the Innovation Network is to allow ShoreTel to focus on its core competencies – its Unified Communications solutions – while enabling its customers to integrate all the additional features and capabilities they might need, without having to worry about interoperability issues or challenging integration scenarios.
Among the most widely requested add-ons to ShoreTel’s UC solution is a Fax over IP capability, which is not only still a requirement in many key vertical markets, but has become an increasingly important component of overall UC solutions because of its inherently simple nature, allowing users to receive, deliver, and store faxed documents from their email applications.
“It’s a true functional requirement from our customer base,” says Weinstock. “We are very glad that companies like FaxCore (News - Alert) – one of 68 ShoreTel Alliance Partners – do what they do, because they focus on what they are best at and allow us to focus on what we are best at. It’s a very synergistic relationship.”
He adds that it’s really a question of proving that simple math isn’t always accurate, and that by combining multiple, easy-to-use, complementary solutions, one plus one is, in fact, greater than two. When you combine ShoreTel’s solution with another intuitive solution, which increases employee efficiency, it reinforces the focus both ShoreTel and FaxCore, along with their customers, have on lowering TCO.
ShoreTel has made significant inroads in the IP PBX (News - Alert) and UC markets by developing a robust product that is easy to deploy and use, and offering it at an aggressive price point. FaxCore fits the same mold in the Fax over IP market.
“We build a lot of things into our product as standard features that a lot of other companies charge extra for,” explains Max Shroeder, FaxCore senior vice president. “We also come to market with a robust product at a very aggressive price.”
When FaxCore entered the Alliance program, the installation, testing, verification, and documentation process took less than three full days, which, according to Weinstock, is an order of magnitude less than most program members. And while ShoreTel doesn’t favor one partner over another, the intuitive nature of the FaxCore product that resulted in such a short initiation process, if you will, speaks volumes to a market that often shies away from products that are difficult to deploy and integrate into existing solutions. In fact, Schroeder says many customers have specifically chosen FaxCore as their Fax over IP solution because of its easy integration with ShoreTel.
The relationship between ShoreTel and FaxCore embodies the underlying focus of the Innovation Network. In fact, ShoreTel chose the name for the program because it believes it ideal of Brilliant (News - Alert) Simplicity is, itself, an innovative approach – and one, if you read Rich Tehrani’s recent blog post, is being emulated by others in the market now. With its Innovation Network, ShoreTel seeks to enable further innovation in its partners, allowing them to take solutions that inherently have significant market value, and create even more powerful and complete offerings for their collective customers.
“What we have, what FaxCore has, and what a number of other partners in our program have, are solutions that are intuitive,” says Weinstock. “If things aren’t intuitive, they are inherently more complex and people won’t use them.”
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell