While there is little doubt that the pandemic has had a major effect on many aspects of business, few areas have been impacted as quickly and profoundly as communications and collaboration. From our pre-pandemic days of voice calls, e-mails, texts and chats primarily done from within the walls of an office environment, to the pandemic world of nearly constant video calls being made from our homes, the transition has been dramatic.

In fact, the change has been so noteworthy that it’s easy to start thinking that more traditional communication methods have nearly disappeared. In truth, that’s certainly not the case. Yes, popular videoconferencing tools like Zoom, Teams and Webex have certainly taken on a significant role in today’s corporate communications environment, but not to the exclusion of voice-based telephony, document sharing and other unified communications tools. Anyone who’s spoken with a customer service representative about an existing order, phoned in a tech support question or reached out to a business colleague to get information certainly understands this.

Companies like Mitel, who have been building business-focused telephony products and services for nearly 50 years certainly know it as well. They’ve seen their customers’ needs evolve during the pandemic and have had to accelerate efforts like their move to hybrid and cloud-based offerings from traditional on-premises solutions. In fact, the pandemic has provided Mitel with a significant opportunity to help customers quickly modernize their solutions to deliver the flexibility they need to support remote employees and other types of hybrid work environments.

Most recently, Mitel announced an innovative new partnership strategy with RingCentral to bring that company’s Message Video Platform (MVP) to existing Mitel customers and make it their exclusive UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform moving forward. Doing so gave Mitel customers a clear path towards a competitive, feature-rich offering for those wanting to migrate to UCaaS. At the same time, it also required the difficult decision to move away from further development of Mitel’s own MiCloud Connect service, though support and maintenance will continue to be offered. Ultimately, the decision was part of a strategy that’s Mitel’s new CEO Tarun Loomba sees as a way to fully capitalize on new and emerging business realities that the pandemic has accelerated.

“Mitel used the pandemic experience to put a laser focus on being the leader in UC,” said Loomba. “Our goal is to meet customers wherever they are on their communications journey with a world-class solution that best fits their needs and future goals.”

Loomba joined Mitel from Poly in 2020 as Chief Product Officer and moved up to the CEO role in late 2021. Prior to Mitel, he had a more than 20-year Silicon Valley history in building successful product and solution portfolios for software, hardware, network storage, data analytics, and cloud technology companies, including Polycom, SanDisk, Seagate Technology and Cisco Systems.

Regarding Mitel’s new RingCentral partnership, Loomba said, “What I’m really excited about is the uniqueness of it. Mitel and RingCentral have built a new, truly differentiated partnership model rather than a new or white-labeled product. We are leveraging each other’s existing strengths so that we can focus all our experience and innovation on what Mitel does best. This means Mitel customers have access to RingCentral’s award-winning Meeting and Video (M&V) solutions. It’s important for Mitel to be able to offer the very best UCaaS solution for those seeking to migrate, and our RingCentral partnership accomplishes that goal.”

Further, Mitel’s CloudLink technology is being updated to integrate with Ring Central’s MVP, thereby enabling Mitel’s on-premises customers interested in a multi-tenant UCaaS solution to move to the cloud at their own pace. Of note, CloudLink will act as a gateway between the two systems, allowing existing Mitel customers to continue to use their existing Mitel systems and equipment for telephony while gaining access to cloud-based RingCentral services. In addition, Mitel is working to make its 6900 series and other select device and phone hardware compatible with MVP to streamline the transition process.

As Loomba explains it, Mitel has three key goals moving forward:

  • Provide exceptional customer lifecycle management for on-prem, hybrid and cloud customers by delivering the support and tools they need to keep enhancing the usefulness and value of their business communications investments and services.

  • Deliver simple, seamless Cloud-to-Cloud migration so that existing MiCloud Connect and legacy UCaaS customers can make a smooth transition to RingCentral’s MVP.

  • Grow in the UC business, in part by leveraging the enhanced demand the pandemic has created for things like remote work, Call Center and unified collaboration tools.

There’s little doubt that organizations of all types and sizes have taken a hard look at their existing communications tools as the result of the pandemic. While the nature of some businesses might mean that their telephony and communication needs have not changed much, the vast majority of companies have had to accept the dramatically increased need for more flexible communication tools in the world of hybrid work. As Loomba explains, “Hybrid work is the new normal and companies like Mitel have an important role to play in giving our customers the flexibility and support they need to adapt to an uncertain and constantly changing environment.”

With many employees working from home, the need for easy to roll-out, adaptable and flexible cloud-based solutions, in particular, has become very apparent. As organizations continue to assess how and when employees return to their offices, there’s also the recognition that some level of home-based or remote-based work is going to continue for a long time to come. As a result, companies need to think through the options they will likely need and adjust accordingly.”

“We will be furthering our focus on supporting our UC customers throughout their communications lifecycle,” Loomba continued, “whether that means moving to a Mitel private cloud or subscription solution, incorporating integrated RingCentral cloud apps in a hybrid model to complement their prem solution, or fully migrating to RingCentral’s UCaaS solution.”

In addition, because applications like contact center have become even more important as the result of the pandemic, there are lots of opportunities to grow and even do things like bring the flexibility of remote contact center tools into regular business environments so that a set of global employees can feel well connected.

Flexible new business models are also an important part of how communication tools and platforms are starting to be sold. As Loomba elaborated, “Many businesses have specific needs when it comes to the way they wish to integrate their communications solution into their IT environment, whether those are infrastructure, security, data sovereignty, or redundancy related. This is where Mitel’s UC solutions provide great flexibility and choice spanning traditional on-premise, private cloud, or public cloud options including Azure or AWS. Customers are already choosing to purchase Mitel’s UC solutions through the subscription models we introduced in 2021 and – combined with the flexible deployment models described above – Mitel customers can purchase and manage our products in the way that works best for their business.”

And channel partners, Loomba continued, are also key to advancing the business. “Developing a best-in-class customer lifecycle motion is easily the most critical priority for Mitel as a company. When we do it well, the results are a win-win-win for our partners, our customers and for Mitel regardless of which path each customer takes. Our plan is to grow, and that means our partners will enjoy growth also. We will continue to work closely with our partners to drive net new opportunities. As Mitel continues to evolve, collaborating with our partner community remains critical.”

Thankfully, communications tools remain essential, and the pandemic has only amplified that need. In fact, Gartner estimates that the Unified Communications and Collaboration market is now $50 billion a year going forward, offering lots of long-term opportunities to many different players and several different technology options.

It’s certainly easy to imagine that a huge portion of future business communications will be more of the seemingly interminable video calls we’ve all become accustomed to. At the same time, however, there will be strong, long-term demand for end-to-end solutions that include voice, video, and collaboration; perhaps stronger than many realize. The means by which those calls will be made and routed are certainly changing, but the need for tools to enable them will not.

Bob O’Donnell

President and Chief Analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

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