SMB-focused unified communications vendor ShoreTel has announced PartnerStart, a program designed to open up the ShoreTel Connect CLOUD market to partner installations, and to prepare them for that task.
Since the 2012 acquisition of M5, which became ShoreTel’s cloud business, partners have been excluded from cloud installations.
“It wasn’t available through partners before,” said Heather Tenuto, vice president of global go-to-market programs and strategy at ShoreTel. “After ShoreTel bought M5, the two installation options were both ShoreTel-led. It is a complex installation. Numbers need to be ported, and the timing has to be exact.”
No effort was made to facilitate partner cloud installs until earlier this year, when ShoreTel finally was able to unify its on-prem and cloud products, in its ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Sites.
“This unified platform, Connect, took a long time to integrate, and Partner services for cloud was predicated on the single platform,” Tenuto said. “Once Connect was launched, we were able to begin setting it up so partners could be involved as well.”
Tenuto acknowledged that partners have been asked for this for a long time.
“We launched this in response to channel requests to be able to deliver support in cloud services,” she said. “ShoreTel has a robust VAR channel that did the onsite implementations, and they wanted to participate in the cloud in the same way.”
The PartnerStart program, developed in conjunction with channel partners, empowers partners who become certified to be the single point of contact for cloud installations, allowing the partner to remain the central point of contact for the customer.
“Having the partner in the middle in this role provides a better experience,” Tenuto said. “End users are relying on partners for advice in an increasingly complex area. PartnerStart helps partners stay in that role, and helps them monetize it.”
PartnerStart requires partner certification, but Tenuto said that the training needed for certification is not onerous.
“We are only requiring that one person at each partner get PartnerStart-certified in order to do the installs,” Tenuto said. “It doesn’t require a lot of training – about 9.5 hours in total.”
PartnerStart eligibility is also limited to ShoreTel’s Enabled partners, the top tier in their three-tier program.
Tenuto said that partner interest in the program has been very strong.
“I’ve been surprised at how interested in our partners are in this,” she stated. “I had initially hoped that half of the eligible partners would become involved, and now I believe it will be more than that.”