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ShoreTel Answers Midsize Enterprise Demand For Deployment Choices

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ShoreTel Answers Midsize Enterprise Customer Demand for Deployment Choices

Note: This article originally appeared in the April 15, 2016 edition of The Channel Company blog. It will also be published in the April 20th newsletter that is distributed to 20,000+ CIO/IT decision makers who have attended or will attend Midsize Enterprise Summit (MES). This year's MES East show will take place May 1 - 3 in Indianapolis.

For vendors serving midmarket customers, reducing complexity (and not dictating the terms of how the IT staff must deploy apps and assets) can support success. One company that has seen its share of wins in the midsize enterprise is ShoreTel, which emphasizes “brilliantly simple” solutions, explains the company’s Chief Marketing Officer Mark Roberts. This is crucial.

In fact, recent market studies demonstrate the shift toward hosted/cloud UC in general, but also highlight a growing preference for “hybrid cloud-premises” implementations. In short, despite all the hype around cloud migrations, customers still like some data and solutions kept behind their own four walls, and under their direct control. Nineteen-year old ShoreTel offers cloud, premises-based, and hybrid business telephony and unified communications (UC) solutions, and does a lot of business with the midmarket enterprise segment.

“As we look at the midsized enterprise, this concept of flexibility and choice isn’t optional,” Roberts says. “It amounts to almost table stakes — you don’t back the customer into a corner.” One client might want to move operations to the public cloud; another wants to deploy an internal cloud, using virtualization. Still yet another customer also has in-house solutions already deployed, and wants to keep that in place.

All that is fine by ShoreTel, because that is what the market demands. “And another customer may want to mix and match all three types of deployments. That’s flexibility — and to us, this has always been our intuitive approach.” 

In part, customers are attracted to the operating cost model of cloud — and how apps can be turned on or off and updated quickly or scaled for a company’s seasonal needs. Some recent IDG Enterprise research bolsters this position. A survey demonstrated that the number of small and enterprise business and enterprises that will implement a hybrid unified communication and collaboration model is rising: 

  • Today, 30 percent of enterprise customers polled (and 27 percent of SMBs) already use a hybrid UC/collaboration model.
  • And in the next two years, 54 percent of enterprises (and 42 percent of SMBs) will roll out such a hybrid model.

Another changing reality is who does the IT solutions’ buying. More and more the line of business managers (and sometimes even the employees) are selecting their hardware and apps without consulting IT professionals. There is the famous statistic from Gartner about how by 2017, a chief marketing officer will actually be spending more on technology than the chief information officer.

Roberts notes: “That’s a terrifying state: As a CMO myself, I like to buy nice shiny things — things that make great charts. But I don’t have a clue how all these things are integrated — I find that out after the conversation.” The reality is, this is making life more difficult for CIOs (especially in the midmarket enterprise) who do have to figure ways to attach these solutions to the corporate backbone, with security.

And as for overall security, while it’s essential to have it in place, the frenzy around hacking and ransomware probably peaked a year ago. Vendors such as ShoreTel have been steadily filling in any gaps and adding certifications for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry (PCI), and other requirements.

On the other hand, mobility, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend in particular, is really “what’s going to keep CIOs awake at night.” But that’s part of the choice trend — end users demand to leverage their own iOS and Android-based devices. As a vendor, being able to support both platforms is just table stakes for midsized enterprise customers.“From our perspective, despite all the research and development resources vendors spend, they just don’t understand the workforce itself is key, and essential as part of the day to day workflows,” says Roberts.

With that in mind, at the moment, the age demographics are unlike any other, and the midmarket demands variation to support the various segments. “For the first time, when you look, you have four different generations in the workforce.” This includes baby boomers and a few of those even older, generation X, and Millennials. “They are all slightly different in preferences.” The younger generation, certainly, is more comfortable with technology overall and leans to BYOD in particular.

They like hitting a button and automatically joining a meeting and not having to manually tap through the processes and screens. In fact, overall, what matters is ensuring the best user experience for everyone — rather than offering a particular piece of hardware. It’s no longer BYOD, it’s bring your own experience (BYOE). It’s now increasingly necessary to think integration and simplicity and business intelligence. When Roberts is asked about the future of UC, It’s no longer voice, what counts now is data.  For instance, take selling. The sales transaction needs a reliable communications platform — it also needs a way to cull the most relevant data from the entire process to see what actually generates closed deals.

Across the board, as with data, the trends all tend to support a few major outcomes: Doing business with greater end-user flexibility and technology customizations (think GUIs and role tailored solutions); smarter (Big Data is not quite here, but everyone is looking to have metrics and analysis); subordinating the individual hardware and software tools to the end user experience and productivity; and the ability to pick and choose deployment models. And nothing enables that (and the other outcomes) better than cloud.

But, as Roberts, points out: “The cloud has a very nice role to play, yes, but the reality is that it will take the hybrid model to best solve the great variety of customers’ problems moving forward.” And it comes down to choice.

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