Because the closing of the acquisition will take place during a planned extensive restructuring of the Mitel channel program, the integration of both programs into a new one will take place in relatively short order.
On Thursday, Ottawa-based Mitel made its latest acquisition, picking up ShoreTel, a long time acquisition target of theirs, for approximately $530 million. The company detailed its overall strategy behind the deal in a conference call Thursday morning. Less was said about the channel strategy it will pursue once the deal closes, however. Given that more than 3,200 partners are involved between the two companies, that’s an issue of some consequence.
Given the two companies’ different focus, the number of overlapping partners is relatively small, however. Mitel’s strength is in the midmarket and enterprise, while ShoreTel’s strength is in SMBs, particularly that segment of SMBs that want a system that is very easy to use.
“The fact that they are SMB is good for us,” said Todd Abbott, Mitel’s EVP of Global Sales. “They bring a channel that’s complementary to us, and doesn’t overlap. We don’t need to acquire to be successful in the large enterprise, because we are already strong there. ShoreTel augments our position on the low end, with the SMB play.”
“When you map it out, the channels are pretty complementary,” said Rich McBee, Mitel’s CEO. “There is very little channel overlap – less than 10 per cent.”
McBee said that Mitel had spent considerable time studying the channel fit, given that ShoreTel had been an acquisition target of theirs for years.
“Their highest sales are in the lowest geographies for us,” McBee said. “In SMB, there are a lot of small towns that have this business across the U.S. You can’t have a channel partner in every one of them. So the channel partner overlap isn’t as big as you think it is.”
While the company’s product roadmap is necessarily opaque at this stage, pending the closing of the deal, likely by the end of September, the channel roadmap is much more clear, however. The integration of the two programs will take place by the spring of 2018 because it coincides with a major channel restructuring Mitel had already planned before the acquisition took place.
“Our message to the channel is that ShoreTel will execute as is through the calendar year,” Abbott said. “Mitel was already embarking on a revision of our channel program. Our plan was to begin talking to partners about this in Q4. We were planning to announce to the distribution channel in February, and go live with the program at the start of calendar Q2. That was already the plan, before the ShoreTel acquisition.
“Now we will look at integrating the ShoreTel channel program within the context of this change that was already taking place,” Abbott said. “The Mitel and ShoreTel cloud programs are not fundamentally different. We will incorporate them and come up with a new combined program for that same timeline, the start of calendar Q2 next year.”
The relative lack of channel overlap means that Mitel will not need to trim redundant channel partners once the companies combine. In fact, they would like to add new partners – poached from Avaya. McBee made a pitch on the call announcing the deal for Avaya channel partners to leave that company and its restructuring and get with an ascending company.
“Come and join us!,” he stated.