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Top Three Takeaways from MitelNext

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on Unified Communications & Collaboration


Top Three Takeaways from MitelNext

By: -
8 Jun 2017

At the tail end of May, Mitel held a partner conference in San Antonio, titled Giving a Voice to Digital Transformation. A group of Mitel’s strategic partners, consultants, and analysts joined the party, spending a few days with an executive team eager to share updates, strategy, and vision.

While Mitel gave us double barrels of great intel at this conference, I’ll summarize my top 3 takeaways here:

Focus – “Mitel is a company with one purpose, and one vision: to provide seamless communications that transforms businesses.” Mitel’s executive team made sure to remind us, multiple times, that they are a company focused specifically on UC&C. Real-time-communication is all they do – not email, not networking gear, not gaming consoles ...

What I Think: When I hear “laser focused” from a vendor, it’s usually followed by the terms “fleet footed”, “agile”, and maybe “best in breed”. But for a UC vendor like Mitel, with a large on-prem installed base, a growing portfolio of acquired 3rd party technologies (Aastra, Toshiba), and a range of legacy UC applications, development resources are often mired in operational consolidation tasks – not forward-looking innovation. While Mitel is talking about agile development, I think the real advantage here is their relationship with channel partners and customers. Their channel, specifically, will play a key role in providing insight and expertise. Success will require a shift in channel engagement and a focus on those strategic partners with the chops to add value here. But in all cases, it’s much harder for the big ecosystem players to get as close to a vertical industry or specific customer segment than a company like Mitel. 

Of course, intense focus and customer insight are well and good, but not worth much if you aren’t able to deliver new, innovative, and tailor-made experiences. Enter CloudLink:

CloudLink – described as a combination of API services and a cloud-based workflow platform. CloudLink’s APIs connect to Mitel’s range of on-prem, private hosted, and public hosted UC solutions – effectively presenting the outside world with a common set of controls for Mitel’s voice, collaboration, and contact center services. Mitel’s vision is to deliver a series of new purpose-built apps leveraging CloudLink, compatible with every UC solution that Mitel integrates on the back-end. The service is built on Amazon AWS, tick-marking redundancy, geographic footprint, and scalability boxes.

What I Think: First, the service is not yet generally available, which means a fair amount of what we received was vision-speak. When we probed at things like pricing, or compatibility with 3rd party PBXs, or plans for a development community, answers were soft or guarded. However, CloudLink is baked enough that Mitel has developed its first app, “Bluebird” – an SMB-oriented UC app that was developed through close interaction with target customers. This is a sneak-peak at Mitel’s new focused development approach – agile development, real-time requirements, and analytics-based updates, etc.

CloudLink’s a very compelling concept for Mitel, in my opinion. It stands to unify their multi-vendor platform infrastructure, creates a build-once-deploy-many environment, encourages channel and third-party solution development, and frees them from their legacy applications in one fell swoop. Decoupling the app experience from the call control infrastructure is the right move here. It even opens the door to integration with the IoT …

IoT – and who doesn’t want to say IoT over and over? Not Mitel’s executive team, nor anyone tweeting from the conference (68 #MitelNext tweets with IoT since the keynote and counting)! CloudLink doesn’t just connect UC Apps to Infrastructure – the intent is to accept signals from a universe of services and connected devices. Mitel provided a number of IoT-related demos and use-cases – defibrillators that message and call first responders when their box was opened, Alexa voice commands for sending mass notifications, and airports that would engage the right service crews as planes were landing – all using Mitel UC to support the communications workflow.

What I Think: my colleague Andy Nilsen wrote a piece on the crossover between IoT and UC&C worlds that is worth a read – so I won’t go too far into the weeds here. Suffice to say, my inner-nerd is enjoying this industry trend immensely. Mitel’s opportunity to “do IoT” differently comes back to their customer relationships. The technology to put these pieces together isn’t unique or proprietary. However, the platform isn’t even half of the equation – you really need domain expertise to gain maximum value in the Enterprise IoT conversation. And you need to commit resources and execute.  Mitel has an opportunity to combine the UC&C side of the equation with customer- and vertical-specific insight, leveraging their channel partners and direct customer relationships.

There you have it – top 3 takeaways. As Mitel continues to play the role of industry consolidator, we’ve been wondering how they would refresh their user experience across an expanding set of platforms. It appears CloudLink is our answer. The vision is solid, talk track compelling, and we honestly enjoy seeing Alexa send blast notifications to a school district – both inner and outer nerds are looking forward to what’s next!