Mitel should rethink exclusive approach to its UC channel program

Mitel’s new Exclusive Business Partner channel program for its unified communication (UC) products asks solution providers to be totally exclusive to the company.

This tactic is unnecessary and impractical in today’s channel, and Ottawa-based Mitel should remove it from its plan before an official Canadian launch on May 1. The EBP program was recently introduced at an Orlando, Fla., partner and customer conference and is currently only available in the U.S.

Carter Chapman, director of channel sales at Mitel, told CDN that partners must agree to only sell Mitel UC products to all new customers to be eligible for the EBP program.

This flies in the face of those solution providers today that seek to be customer focused. Gone are the days when a channel partner was a self-described IBM VAR, Compaq VAR or Apple dealer. Solution providers simply cannot force feed customers any particular set of products.

Solution providers today are more apt to deploy multi-vendor solutions, which more specifically fulfill customer needs. Partners realize not every single product from a specific vendor fits or performs well within every IT environment.

Vendors also recognize this reality and offer incentives for partners designed to encourage them to sell more of their specific products. Mitel should simply do the same. Use the carrot, rather than the stick. Mitel could win greater channel support by offering better margins or bonuses for displacing a rival’s product at any customer site.

That’s how Cisco does it, as does IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Smart vendors recognize they can’t be everything to everyone, and they don’t hold the feet of VARs to the fire in this way.

Everyone is looking for partners that specialize in UC. UC is a rapidly growing and profitable business and, according to the Radicati Group, approximately $20 billion in UC product and services sales will be driven through by the channel worldwide by 2010.

Even UC market leaders Cisco and Microsoft concede they need to work together in many instances in order to solve the UC challenges of their respective customers.

Creating partnerships that demand exclusivity is not the right approach, especially when UC skills are less than plentiful. I plan to relate this message to Mitel CEO Don Smith when I meet with him on Feb. 13. Stay tuned for his response.

What do you think about Mitel’s approach and its chances for UC success in the market place? Are you a Mitel channel partner in Canada, and if so, how do you feel about the exclusive nature of this UC program? E-mail me with your thoughts at the address below.

Two quick hits before I go. D&H Distributing has announced a leadership succession plan. Current president Gary Brothers will move to the position of president emeritus over the course of the next year. At the end of the current fiscal year, he’ll be succeeded by a team of co-presidents. Taking the helm will be Michael Schwab, current vice-president of purchasing, and Dan Schwab, current vice-president of marketing.

Also, hard disk supplier Western Digital Corp. has announced it is joining The Green Grid, an industry-led group dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centres and business computing systems.

— Posted by Paolo Del Nibletto, 7/02/08, 09:55 PM,

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