Mitel Analyst Conference - Transforming for Digital Transformation

20 Nov 2016

Digital transformation was the theme at the Mitel analyst/consultant event in Dallas recently, as speaker after speaker talked about the shifts taking place in the industry. According to CEO Rich McBee, digital transformation means different things to different people. Using Mitel's definition, "Digital is any technology that connects people, machines, or information, while Transformation is the realignment of the foundational concepts of a business, from its operating model to its infrastructure." McBee noted, "We're at the front edge of this huge transformation. There's rapid technology innovation, new business models, and new processes. Businesses are going through a transformation as they move to the cloud and opex models, and we're also experiencing an economic transformation in light of economic uncertainty." McBee pointed out that Mitel will leverage its technology and vertical capabilities to help companies fundamentally transform their businesses.

Mitel's mission is "to deliver solutions that enable customers to communicate and collaborate anywhere, over any medium with the devices and applications of choice, securely." It will do this by expanding its base inorganically and organically, providing a path to the future via the cloud, and powering the digital transformation, which includes IoT, giving machines a voice, business productivity tools, and the mobile enterprise.

I had a chance to speak with Wes Durow, CMO of Mitel, about challenges that Mitel is helping to solve, and Mitel's role in digital transformation.

Bob Agnes, EVP and President, Enterprise Division, used the artist Wassily Kandinsky to demonstrate how transformation can result from small changes. Noting that "Our canvas today is this thing we call cloud," he told the analysts and consultants about a new Mitel Cloud API Platform and architecture being developed, that leverages Amazon Web Services and microapplications, or blocks of code that provide capabilities to build applications faster and help reduce development time.

The Cloud API architecture will tie together traditional call control, a new API platform, and next-gen applications. Agnes noted that the value for the customer moves from call control to the applications and how the applications interact with the cloud control. The platform will include a Mitel API gateway to let developers access Mitel services, such as chat, presence, call history, etc. Mitel's call control capabilities will connect to the API platform to make it easier to embed communication capabilities in various applications. Applications will be constructed by microservices and connected together through APIs. While Mitel did not provide a specific date for when this new platform will be available, we expect to see the first applications sometime in the second half of 2017.

The new platform will let customers continue to use their existing PBX or call control while adding next-gen applications and features and move to the cloud, without touching the PBX. As Mitel has made no secret of the fact that it will continue acquiring companies, this new platform will make it easier for Mitel to acquire another PBX vendor and integrate the vendor's PBX into the platform.

Verticals are key to Mitel, which focuses on hospitality, healthcare, and the state/local government and education markets. For hospitality, Mitel offers the Mitel Connected Guest, and is introducing MiCloud Hospitality, for an integrated mobile guest experience. For the government and education market, Mitel is offering Mitel Mass Notification. Expect to see more IoT applications in the healthcare market, especially for elder care, as we're seeing more medical devices that are network connected and integrated.

At the event I had a chance to speak with Jim Davies, VP of Vertical Initiatives, about Mitel's vertical strategy. During our interview, Jim also discussed Mitel's views on CPaaS and the use of APIs. Rather than take a CPaaS approach, Mitel is focusing on application development and leveraging Amazon Web Services.

I also met with a relatively new member of the Mitel team, Ryan Smith, Cloud Evangelist. Ryan discussed the role of cloud technologies on "shadow IT" and the need to understand the needs of different types of workers. He also discussed the cloud as the next step of legacy phone systems and the migration to the cloud based on its many benefits.

While Mitel's announcement about its new platform wasn't earth shattering, as several UC and UCaaS vendors are also developing platforms that tie together call control, APIs, and applications, leveraging AWS and microservices, I thought that it was a relatively elegant way for the company to support existing customers while preparing for future acquisitions. In addition to making it easy for existing premises-based customers to move to the cloud, the new platform will make it easier to tie in a variety of legacy PBXs, setting the stage for future acquisitions of a PBX vendor or vendors.

Mitel continues to progress, despite being up against some better-known brands. McBee noted that the company is constantly dealing with "Mitel Who?" and that it needs to be on the front end of the innovation train. He added, "We're moving and taking leadership. We've transitioned from a follower to a leader in various markets." He also pointed out, "We can take advantage of the change in the industry, or be victims of the change." Mitel clearly wants to take advantage of the change, and its new platform will help prepare the company for the next stage of digital transformation. As McBee noted during the closing executive panel, "This isn't the Mitel you once knew."



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