Bullet point briefing: Don Smith

Mitel Corp. of Ottawa recently launched the Mitel 3000 Communications System, which provides conferencing, call routing and voicemail to 52 users. The vendor’s chief executive officer, Don Smith, recently briefed Network World Canada on the convergence of voice and data, the education and hotel markets, plus his take on the economic crisis.

**With Sun Microsystems Inc., Mitel is starting to sell the Sun Ray IP Phone Bundle, which combines the Sun Ray thin client terminal with Mitel IP phones and Java cards.

“While I can’t name the customers, we have our first couple of installs done. The proposition is proving to be one that’s interesting to the market. It fits to a green agenda, it fits to an IT efficiency agenda as to how easy it is to manage desktops, and it also fits to a data centre virtualization and more data centre centric customers as well.”

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**The economic crisis may result in special emphasis on the government and construction sectors.

“It would be hard for people in general to avoid that credit crunch. It’s out there, it’s a fact of life. I cannot speak for the other businesses out there, or my competitors, certainly from my point of view, remember it’s an aspirin not a vitamin market. This is a phrase coined by Geoffrey Moore after the dot com bubble. In an aspirin market, people only have time for pain, not for wellness. It means people are focused on what the return on investment is going to be, and you had better be very crisp about that, about the benefit you’re bringing to customers, so we make sure we are very crisp. At the same time we make sure we put an emphasis into sectors that will ride through this in a solid manner. Clearly there’s a lot of government business that will be that way, health care, the (Kindergarten to Grade 12) school districts typically will fit into there. We have customers in the construction business where big construction projects tend to be fully financed and they tell me they won’t have issues until 2010, if they see an issue. The hospitality industry is much the same, we’re seeing green field projects are locked and loaded and we just need to win our share of them.”

**Users are more comfortable with the convergence of voice and data networks because they are now more confident in the wide-area networks.

“We see more comfort, not still 100 per cent comfort, but more businesses are willing to have fully converged out to desktops, both the real-time piece and the non-real-time piece, which is usually the data piece. Three years ago some companies wanted to run separate infrastructure for their IP, not because they didn’t have faith in the technology per se but because they didn’t want to have their data and real-time stuff combined. That’s really changed. People have a lot more confidence in the capabilities of their wide- area network, not what Mitel does but the MPLS networks. I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of hospitality organizations we have who have gone complete IP. Most hotel rooms have analogue phones and they put the IP stuff in all the places that you and I would not touch as guests, whether that’s the food and beverage stuff, the conference facility in the hotel. The way that hotel staff move around, a lot of them get Wi-Fi type handsets, just because they can see real efficiencies, whereas for you and I as room guests it’s not part of the cost equation.”

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**Unified communications will help make teachers more accessible to parents.

“If you took UC into schools, you’ll actually find what’s most compelling for some of them is stuff that you’d think is relatively simple, such as voicemail systems. If the parents want to find out what little Johnny is supposed to be doing for homework, you’ve actually simplified it so you don’t have to end up speaking to the teacher. Those things aren’t exactly necessarily technological breakthroughs but they’re all about understanding how the customer works and what they really want to do. We have some customers where the organization might not be particularly large but they have geographically dispersed their people. Now when you geographically disperse them using UC type technologies is pretty important.

**IP communications can help attract tech-savvy employees.

“There are only 5 reason people buy. I used to think there were four, but now I realize there are five. The first is to save money. The second is to improve operational efficiency, i.e. change the way people work. And if you look at most of the reasons people adopt IP communication its to do integration with current business processes they have. The third one is to increase your customer loyalty and retention, the interaction you have with your customer. The fourth one is to drive new revenue streams. The fifth one is the one I realized 18 months to two years ago, which is if you’re in a business which has to attract talent, and it’s young talent, then they will have been using tools including IM and computing tools and you really want to attract the right talent you really need to have the right communications environment, it’s another piece of the puzzle in getting those people to join you.”

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