ShoreTel Connect Links Cloud, On-Premises UC, Contact Centers

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ShoreTel on Tuesday launched its Connect hybrid communications platform that can run from the cloud, on site or a combination of both.

In a briefing with Channel Partners, Mark Roberts, the company’s CMO, explained that key selling points are a clean, unified interface and the ability to let employees collaborate with partners and customers outside the company. Roberts showed off an intuitive browser-based user interface. Users can begin a conversation in IM and, if needed, easily jump to a call or Web meeting with desktop share and video. The client app supports a full complement of UC features, including instant messaging, presence, chat, voice, video, and audio and Web conferencing, with an emphasis on mobility. The system has hooks into Exchange.

Roberts says the hybrid Connect product is unique in the industry and the culmination of years of work with a singular focus on a seamless and simple end user interface.

“It shouldn’t matter whether it’s fully cloud or completely on premises, or a hybrid,” he said. “It should be the same user experience.”

Drew Lydecker, president of AVANT Communications, is bullish on the offering, and the company’s channel program. AVANT is ShoreTel’s largest partner.  

“ShoreTel has taken the best of their bulletproof gear, combined it with an innovative hosted platform, and made a product that is stronger and more stable than any on the market,” said Lydecker. “Their channel team is focused on enabling partners to create end-user value with their solutions, and my advice to any partner in the channel not selling ShoreTel, without exception, is to get on board now.”

The big threat to Connect, and competing enterprise UC suites, is consumerization. I asked Lydecker how he makes the case to customers, especially those with many Millennial workers who have no desire to learn a new communications system, that they should pay $40 or more per seat rather than using consumer-class offerings.

“The ShoreTel Connect platform is a hybrid IT solution that is engineered to deliver the best in survivability and [disaster recovery], as well as security,” he said. “There is also significant value in having enterprise-wide standardization when it comes to management. It’s like security — if you absolutely can’t get afford to get hacked, you pay to have the best coverage. I appreciate the critical role that Millennial culture plays in the future of the workforce today ­— in fact, AVANT is heavily built on a talented Millennial workforce. But that doesn’t mean IT organizations can afford to make infrastructure decisions that aren’t practicable for their use cases.”

From a channel perspective, the common cloud/on-premises platform should be attractive to customers and ease deployment, scaling and management.

ShoreTel is also moving to consolidate and streamline two formerly separate contact-center environments (one on-premises, the other cloud-based) into a single Connect Contact Center built on the foundation of the company’s Enterprise Contact Center. The new system includes multiple interaction channels, not only inbound and outbound voice with automated callbacks from queue, but Web chat and email routing. Like Connect, the Agent Interaction Center UI is browser-based and allows for easy management of multiple contact channels, agent and service KPI delivery, support for up to 1,000 concurrent agent logins for both cloud and onsite deployments, real-time and historical reporting, and integrations with workforce optimization and CRM systems.

Both Connect and Contact Center are available now. The Connect client starts at $39.99 per seat.

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