Friday, June 28, 2013

If I was a channel, would I partner with Mitel?

There's a pretty direct question, huh?

Am just back from Mitel's 2013 Business Partner Conference, and yesterday I posted my initial thoughts and takeaways. You'll have to read that to get my take, but there's a longer sequel that's running now on the UCStrategies portal, where I contribute a monthly thought leadership piece.

As the title of this - and that - post implies, I'm putting myself in the shoes of channel partners, a community that accounted for the vast majority of attendees at the BPC. I think it's an important question for them, and from Mitel's perspective, maybe even more so important for the partners who were not there and perhaps represent the future for Mitel. After all, the channel drives the business, and it's becoming a real challenge to find the right partners who are both willing and able to sell UC, especially as the cloud obliterates legacy business models.

That's what I'm exploring in this writeup, and is based on my BPC impressions on what Mitel has done to turn things around. They're definitely on the right track, but there's still plenty of risk out there and more needs to be done before they can realize the vision their management team mapped out for us this week. I invite you to read my post, and as always, your comments are welcome!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mitel Business Partner Conference - First Thoughts

Seems like I just got here, and I'm going home in about 3 hours. This year's Business Partner Conference has flown by, and that's an indication of a well run event. Well, it's also because Mitel has done a great job with the program and the news has generally been good - surprisingly good.

I'm just going to share some quick takeaways here, and in the next day or so, I'll have a longer piece about BPC 2013 on UCStrategies.

Outside In - that's the theme this year, and it's all about being more customer-centric. It's an about-face from convention where the business is done from the inside out. In other words, you do things based on what works for you, which is fine when you have a lot of market power, but very few companies truly have that any more. So, Mitel has definitely glommed on to the idea of being customer-centric, and it sure looks like there's a cultural shift happening with them.

You can see it in how they're doing business now, what they're talking about, how they're engaging with channels and some moves they've made on the management front. Most notable for this last point is the addition of Martyn Etherington as their CMO. He's a solid marketeer and really knows what needs to be done. Some pretty exciting initiatives underway on that front, and if they execute well, you should expect to see Mitel register much more often in converstations about UC, cloud, contact center, mobility, video, etc.

Underlying all of these good vibes is a solid performance on the financial front, and we heard about this from CFO, Steve Spooner. Compared to a year ago, it sounded like Mitel was on the right track then, but it wasn't so clear how well things were going to go. Well, now we know, and the numbers bear this out. Top line still has a way to go, but they're profitable, margins are solid, they have money in the bank, a healthy line of credit, and they's been discplined paying down the debt they took on to acquire Inter Tel.

The numbers tell a good story both in absolute and relative terms. These days, anyone looks good compared to Avaya's financials, and alongside them, they selectively showed how things stack up against ShoreTel and Aastra. These companies are comparable in size to Mitel, but their numbers are weaker, so these are logical targets. If we're looking across the broader landscape, it's hard to ignore Cisco, MSFT, NEC, Siemens and even Interactive Intelligence, so if  you want to take this comparative analysis down a notch, sure, this crowd would mute the story a bit. However, it's Mitel's show, and their job is to put the company in the best light possible to partners, upon whom their success largely depends.

Overall, there's no doubt that the vendors in general are struggling to keep up with the various technology changes that are disrupting things for everybody. Some are doing better than others, but it's certainly fair to say that Mitel is holding its own pretty well. For me, that's the biggest takeway from BPC, and the better they can get living the outside-in mantra, the more successful they'll become. This is definitely a challenging market space and there are no guarantees for anyone. Technology alone isn't going to be enough, and when you look at things like culture, leadership and go-to-market strategy, I like what Mitel has in place now. If they've fallen off the radar for you, they warrant a second look. You don't have to be the biggest to be the best - these days it's more important to be agile and in touch with what drives value for your customers, and that's what I'm seeing here.

Banging the drums - change is coming at Mitel. Nice Blue Man Group-styled opening routine to set the stage. How about catching the moment here by getting "rhythm" in my photo!  :-)
CEO Rich McBee
CMO Martyn Etherington

Friday, June 21, 2013

Next Stop - Mitel BPC 2013, Ft. Lauderdale

Have had to stay local for a while, but am good to travel now, and I've got two trips to Florida over the next couple of weeks. Business-wise, my next stop is Fort Lauderadale for Mitel's Business Partner Conference, which runs next Tuesday - Thursday. Won't be blogging again until I'm there, so now's the time to do it.

I go to my share of vendor events, and this is a good one. Like clockwork, the 2013 BPC is exactly a year after the last one, which I attended and am looking forward to seeing how their positioning is holding up since then. I'll be blogging/tweeting as time allows - you can follow me at @arnoldjon, and the BPC hashtag is #mitelbpc.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Last Call - Tomorrow's Zpryme Webinar - State of the U.S. Smart Grid Market

Just doing one last shout-out for this. Registration activity has been really strong, but there's still room to join us. If you want to know where the U.S. really is at now with smart grid, this will be time well spent.

Joining me will be Duke Energy, Austin Energy, Proximetry and Industrial Defender. This is a pretty strong lineup and the content will be first rate. In short, the webinar runs from 1:00 - 2:30 ET tomorrow, and for the rest of the story along with registration details, here's the link.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Zpryme U.S. Smart Grid Webinar Update - Bigger, Better... and New Date!

Sorry to keep doing this, folks, but in this case, bigger is better. I'm not the ringleader here, but interest has been so strong in this topic, that Zpryme has moved it from a paid event to being free.

Now we've added another sponsor, which means a longer event, but also a richer one for you to learn new things from. To accommodate all this, the date has now been moved out a week.

So, instead of the webinar being tomorrow - as per yesterday's post - it's now next Thursday, June 20. Same start time of 1pm ET, but it runs longer now til 2:30.

Again - if you want to get a quick update on the state of the U.S. smart grid market, please join us - myself, Duke Energy, Austin Energy, Proximetry and our latest sponsor Industrial Defender. Full details and registration info is here, and I think it's safe to say our plans are set now!

UC in 2013 - Time to Change the Channel?

That's the title of my current column running in TMC's Internet Telephony magazine. The digital version of  the June issue is out now, and this month's Rethinking Communications column continues the theme from the previous issue where I started looking at the current state of Unified Communications.

I write extensively on UC, and this time around the focus is the channel and asking some fundamental questions about the value they bring for IT decision-makers. If UC was like hardware, the business relationship would be mostly transactional, with not much value-add needed. Today's UC, though is very much a solution that keeps evolving and in the right hands can have a transformative impact on the business. That's what I'm advocating UC buyers to be thinking about, and if they don't see this in their partners, it might be time to change the channel.

Here's the link - I hope you read it and your commments are welcome.

Before signing off, since we're on the TMC channel, it's never too early for an ITExpo shout-out. The 2013 West edition is coming to Las Vegas for the first time, and I'll be plenty busy there. Show runs from August 26-29, and in due time I'll be blogging lots more about it. Going?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Update on Zpryme Webinar on U.S. Smart Grid Market - Free Now!

Quick update for the Zpryme webinar I posted about the other day.

There's been a change in plans, and now it is free for all, not just Premium subscribers. Demand has been ramping up, and so has sponsor interest, and we think this change will be for the better all around. While there's no charge to register, the tradeoff is you don't get the supporting data unless you're a Premium subscriber. Seems fair to me.

So, if you want to learn first-hand about the current state of the U.S. smart grid market, please join us on June 13 - this Thursday at 1pm ET.

I'll be presenting some high level trends, which will set the table for two of the leading smart grid implementers - Duke Energy and Austin Energy, as well as Proximetry, one of of the leading vendors, especially for wireless networks in this space.

Here's the updated registration page along with more detail about the webinar and our sponsors. See you then!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Zpryme Webinar - State of the U.S. Smart Grid Market, June 13

Am wearing my smart grid hat here, and will be doing another webinar with Zpryme on June 13. The topic is large - current state of smart grid in the U.S., and joining me will be some people who really know - Duke Energy, Austin Energy and Proximetry.

This is a pretty high profile set of speakers, and as such this is a paid event unless you're a subscriber to our Premium service. If so, you know who you are, and otherwise, the registration fee is $275. I'll be both moderating and presenting, and hope you can join us. You get get all the details here, and I'll post/tweet again as we get closer to the date.

Cisco Connect 2013, Toronto - IOT and Beyond

Last Thursday, I attended Cisco Canada's annual Connect event here in Toronto. I've been to a few of these, and by Canadian standards it's a pretty large showcase for Cisco and their partners. They have the customer base to support an event on this scale, and Cisco provided a solid day of content and networking to make it worthwhile for everyone.

Analysts and media were a tiny contingent, but we did have our own tailored sessions with their executive team as well as hearing about some interesting customer initiatives. No complaints there, and we were well looked after. As we heard, Cisco Canada is doing some good things to invest in our knowledge economy based on the belief that gains in productivity will drive innovation and ultimately improve our standard of living. Examples cited included funding for some Research Chairs, innovation centers and an LP investment fund.  Kudos for showing good corporate citizenship here, and I hope it gets the desired results.

Overall, the main message for me was their focus on yet another new acronym - IOT. You've heard the term, but maybe not this shortform - the Internet of Things. Just when you thought mobile broadband has over-saturated us with connectivity, Cisco Canada's President, Nitin Kawale tells us that 99% of the world is still not connected. What's wrong with this picture? Well, he's talking about "things", not people. Now this makes sense, and it's really about M2M, and a little bit about P2M.

There's more to consider here, but this certainly is a good way to position vendors like Cisco for the next wave of growth. People are already pretty well connected, at least in the enterprise world, but there are many more machines than people, so there's lots of upside here. Of course, it's more than just connectivity, and Nitin noted that value comes from connecting things and people to processes, which sounds much closer to home for those of us in the UC space.

To amplify this, we also heard from Carlos Dominguez, a Cisco "techknowist". Make of that what you will, but he's a great speaker - very engaging and he touched on the challenges facing IT decision makers, especially around three things - the Internet, mobility and social media. Nothing new there, but his richer message was about how many sectors of the economy are now being "rebooted" around these things. He cited familiar examples like healthcare, government, education, and even cities. This is the stuff I get excited about, and was nodding along regularly.

Carlos brought this to life by citing some cool innovations that embody the IOT concept. Most are based on sensors that create new streams of data from everyday things like sneakers, street lights, home thermostats and even garbage. These things are bringing an explosion of Internet traffic and data that needs to be managed, and if you're thinking about Big Data now, you're right. Of course, this all drives networks, which Cisco happens to be in the middle of, so if you're wondering where the company is planning to get growth from, look no further.

Corporate self-interest aside, Carlos gave everyone a lot to think about, and if you get a chance to see him speak you won't be disappointed. You can put up the white flag and feel overwhelmed by all this new data that will soon be upon us, but there is also an exciting opportunity ahead for those prepared to invest in the right tools to get a handle on this and turn that mess of data into actionable insight.

Mobile demo unit for Cisco's healthcare vertical solutions

Carlos Dominguez