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Mitel's Mobile-First Strategy Just Might Work


Every unified communications presentation you hear today talks about the importance of mobile communications as a paradigm-shifting force. All of the UC solution providers check that box by providing a mobile client. And while each has its nuances, they mostly provide the same features.

But the mobile client is really just an afterthought of a desktop-centric UC experience. It is a confusing add-on application that presents users with a less-than-seamless experience.

Do I want to make calls over the cellular network or over Wi-Fi? Do I want to receive switched calls or VoIP calls over the cell network? When I make a call, what happens when I use the app dialer? Will it send out my cell caller ID instead of my system caller ID?

My own mobile UC experience on Apple iOS has been frustrating. I've found that the mobile UC apps work well when active, but frequently have to be reloaded.

So with this as a backdrop, I found myself really intrigued by several things I heard during a recent Mitel analyst and consultant briefing in New York. The biggest takeaway for me was the company's mobile-first strategy (see related post, "Mitel Makes Big Play in Mobile Enterprise").

At first, I thought this was just something marketing came up with to get some traction in a crowded space. But as executives walked through the mobile-first strategy, I realized that this could result in what I have been waiting to see for years in the industry: a seamless mobile experience.

And as I previously mentioned, a seamless mobile experience is like the Bigfoot or Loch Ness monster of UC. Some say it exists, but I will believe it when I see it.

Mitel CMO Wes Durow quoted an industry statistic that showed 83% of businesses have not yet integrated their communications systems with mobile communications. I would assume that doesn't even include the companies that have gone with a mobile-only strategy.

The problem, something I wrote about here a few months ago, is that the lack of seamlessness is really holding back this entire mobile business segment. And to move forward would require deep integration into the carriers to offer the experience users want. But as I mentioned in that earlier piece, I was pessimistic about the possibility of a UC vendor being able to successfully integrate with either the smartphone OS or the carrier services. And to be honest, I still am.

But Mitel may have the answer. It comes through this spring's Mavenir acquisition.

A large part of the briefing centered on the strategy of leveraging the Mavenir acquisition to really beef up mobile integration with UC. It is one thing to say you are a mobile-first company, but your strategy has a lot more teeth when you are able to talk in the level of detail about the carrier side that the folks from Mavenir do. Since they live and breathe carrier-side software functionality, they are perfectly positioned to offer features that nobody else in the business can.

The other interesting aspect of the acquisition is not what Mavenir can bring to the Mitel side, but what Mitel can bring to the Mavenir side. When you break down Mitel's projections, the wireless side could clearly grow to be the majority of future revenue. Time will tell how that plays out, but the optimal scenario is Mitel finds a real synergy between the two sides of the house and is able to marry wireless networking software and UC.

And that is where our first glimpse of a truly seamless mobile experience lies.

Coming back down to earth, we all know that this is easier said than done. Even with the inroads on the carrier side, this is still an uphill battle -- especially in the U.S., where the two big guys are less than enthusiastic about opening things up, particularly for the business market in which they are not overly interested. But this is becoming a global market opportunity, and wins in other parts of the world might begin to get them interested.

I would love to be able to offer my clients a truly mobile-first experience -- one that offers true seamlessness that can even be utilized by the, how do you say, less sophisticated of users. If you add that along with the promised-but-not-yet-delivered HD voice interoperability, our world changes dramatically.

Of course, many variables sit outside of Mitel's control, so success isn't guaranteed. But I love the vision, and am impressed with the leadership in place to make a go of it.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communication technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.