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The Time is Now, and the Place is ShoreTel

My title is taken from remarks made by CEO John Combs at last week's ShoreTel Champion Partner Meeting. It captures the mood of the event, from the ShoreTel executive team, to resellers to technology partners. Combs went on to say that, "The market is in a perfect storm. Nortel was the first to go down, but won't be the last. ShoreTel is in a position to accelerate out of the storm."

With revenues rising every quarter, ShoreTel relies completely on channel sales, a model several competitors are trying desperately to emulate. So keeping the channel partners happy and engaged is key to the company’s success--a job they are doing quite well based on the mood in San Diego last week. At breakfast the first morning, I overheard one partner tell another, "ShoreTel makes it easy for us to look good." I asked him if he was willing to repeat what he had just said on video, and he was more than happy to oblige. My thanks to Scott Moore of Trident Technology Solutions of Raleigh, NC:

At the same time, ShoreTel is very aware of perhaps its biggest shortcoming--brand awareness, discussed in an earlier blog by Eric Krapf. After Eric's story posted, the issue of brand awareness was given even more attention. The second day's keynote was billed as a roadmap presentation, an NDA session. Instead of going directly to that, VP of Marketing Kevin Gavin took 45 minutes to discuss a branding roadmap. He explained that in the past, ShoreTel had concentrated its investments in building the product. The second highest investment has been in channel development. Brand development has been a distant third. In fiscal 2010 (which ended June 30th), ShoreTel for the first time invested millions in branding. In FY11, Gavin reported they will be re-doubling those efforts, promoting what he believes is a competitively differentiable message: Brilliantly Simple.

Finally, I'll make some observations on the product roadmap session (without spilling any NDA beans). Director of product management Jeff Ridley in 45 minutes briskly presented the numerous changes being rolled out with Release 11 and planned for future releases. Subject matter experts like Venky Raman, Senior Product Manager for Contact Center, came to the stage and spent five minutes or so hitting just the highlights.

What struck me most about the roadmap session was the applause. New capabilities and new products were greeted by an attentive audience with repeated outbreaks of it. Kudos to ShoreTel for the exuberance displayed by its channel partners.