With its acquisition of M5, ShoreTel’s new cloud division faces some integration and positioning opportunities. Currently, ShoreTel (700 partners) and M5 (100 partners) only share a small number of partners that offers both hosted and on-premise resold VoIP offers.
M5 considers its go-to-market offer completely channel friendly; 70 percent of its offers, for which they receive a referral fee, are partner identified offers. These partners are never or almost never involved in the long-term support for customer service or renewal. M5, ShoreTel’s cloud division, handles quality of service, billing and customer support. M5 differentiates through its management of call quality (it owns the soft switches and PBX), data and the hops, providing live support and a view of customers. M5 uses phone and calls as strategic assets; however, the company does face the same problems other providers have when moving to cloud offers.
The size of the legacy systems has changed because of demands for VoIP hosted offers; seats that were 20 to 50 now have increased from 50 to 500. Service providers are strategically positioned to meet enterprises’ SLAs for connectivity, and the expectation may be for more applications built on the relationship with the providers. However, the ability for providers to add managed offers to their connectivity offers is also hampered by traditional carriers’ sales teams generally not understanding the cloud or VoIP needs of their customers. While M5 is both a “provider,” hosting offers, it also is a manufacturer, and today, does not have a progressive service provider white label program. To be successful in hosted offers, providers need to develop new models to target and understand customers, their VoIP needs or PBX replacement requirements and how to proactively sell or manage the customers directly or offer white label SaaS offering from a company such as M5.
There are some best practices in cloud or SaaS offers in the market from which M5 can take a cue. Support.com offers a fully integrated OSS and BSS offer, which looks like a fully integrated provider offer but does not require changing the infrastructure or direct customer support from SPs’ sales teams. Support.com offers a SaaS based support team that looks and feels like the “provider’s” customer service but is in reality a sold, billed, hosted and offered by Support.com staff.
This model allows companies that have hosted offers to take advantage of trends:
- Enterprises moving to cloud offers
- Enterprises demanding SLAs for new applications like the ones provided by their telecom or carrier
- Consolidation of providers will cause enterprises to demand more cloud offers from their providers
- Ability for providers to offer cloud offers and knowledge about their customers’ business processes and requirements are limited
M5 can improve its strategic reach to new clients by taking a page from white label offers and market to and support noncustomers with its own quality of service and sales program to spur growth and add value for customers already getting connectivity from traditional Telcos. M5, according to Keith Nealon, “is directly involved with cloud customers to ensure quality of service, support and escalation of real-time issues during a call.”