Mitel converges with HP

Voice vendor Mitel has deepened its partnership with data giant HP as part of an aggressive bid for greater global market share.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  October 26, 2004

|~|BevingtonGraha_m.jpg|~|“There are a lot of Greenfield sites in the [Middle East] region, with 70% of business done off a set of plans. We found that customers wanted us to have an opinion on the data side.” - Graham Bevington, managing director of Mitel Networks EMEA|~|Mitel Networks and HP have strengthened their business partnership in the convergence market to compete with Cisco’s end-to-end offering. Neither voice-rich Mitel nor data-focused HP are able to produce end-to-end solutions on their own. “We were facing competition from data vendors who were developing voice solutions and claiming that had better features than us, which was rubbish,” says Graham Bevington, managing director of Mitel Networks EMEA. “They were taking advantage of uncertainty in the market and claiming that as Mitel isn’t an integrated solution, it can’t be as good,” he adds. Both vendors are looking to build on a strong existing relationship, which dates back several years. The companies have co-operated on marketing in the past, and have also worked on integrating technology, for example, helping Mitel IP phones and HP iPaq handhelds to talk to each other. “We already have some combined business,” says Ivan Kraemer, sales and marketing director, HP ProCurve Middle East. “So the new initiative is not a shock to the resellers who will take part. But we now have a more solidified back-end that will help solutions providers go to market and support the solutions more effectively,” he adds. The Mitel and HP partnership is on a worldwide basis but has special significance in the Middle East because of the exceptional number of greenfield sites in the region. “When convergence started we talked a lot about being data systems agnostic and while our products will still work with any data vendors, we found that we had to change our approach for the Middle East,” says Bevington. “There are a lot of greenfield sites in the region, with 70% of business done off a set of plans. We found that customers wanted us to have an opinion on the data side,” he adds. This factor along with a desire to compete with Cisco’s end-to-end offering was important in Mitel’s decision to invest in the partnership with HP. The deepening of the relationship has concentrated on improving support for the vendors’ combined solutions. A worldwide joint service level agreement is now in place between the two firms and engineers from both companies are being trained to support each other’s products. At EMEA level, around 35 engineers will be trained and certified to offer support across both vendors’ product lines, with the two companies also putting employees inhouse at each other’s organisation. “This is extremely important for the end user because it gives them real value,” says Gijs Zantvoort, alliance and program manager, HP ProCurve Europe. “The last thing you want is to be stuck between two different vendors when you need to get support. Imagine buying a car and one company does the bodywork and the other does the engine: who would you turn to if the car doesn’t run properly?” he adds. Mitel has a back office connection to HP and can use this to get solutions to problems, which will then be passed on to the customer. The same thing happens if a customer in a HP-led implementation has a problem relating to Mitel’s side of the solution. As well as support, the partnership will include channel initiatives and joint research and development programmes. Work in the channel is already paying dividends with the UAE’s ViewNet Technologies (one of several partners already signed up) concluding a deal with the Dubai International Real Estate Company to provide a HP and Mitel converged network for its Al Marooj Rotana hotel project in Dubai. In terms of research and development, Mitel and HP are working on back-end integration so that, for example, the Mitel 3300 IP phone will work better with HP ProCurve products than with other vendor’s fare. Mitel also sees this co-operation allowing it to make its desktop products more attractive to the consumer segment. “In the future, we’d like to leverage more of HP’s consumer skills at the desktop. This is especially important with increasing numbers of home workers, who need to be able to connect to the enterprise voice network as if they are in the office. At the same time, it is important for these people to have an attractive looking phone in their homes,” he explains. Convergence plays a key part in Mitel’s global business strategy with the company keen to break out of its traditional geographical heartland of North America and out of the PBX market. “Five years ago we were a North American and UK PBX company,” says Bevington. “We were a classic cricket and baseball company; if you saw these sports played, then we had a presence in those countries. With voice over internet protocol (VoIP), it’s a new way of doing things and it’s our opportunity to become a global business,” he adds. Mitel sees the Middle East as a key region in its efforts to expand its power base. In January 2000, the Middle East represented less than 2% of Mitel’s EMEA revenue. The figure is now at 10% and Mitel plans to grow it to 20% in the next few years. “We used to have an office in the UK, with EMEA just on the business card. Now we’re walking the walk and talking the talk. We have an office in Dubai and have increased the number of employees on the ground,” states Bevington. “Four years ago we were at the Gitex exhibition with no local office and this year we had local sales, pre-sales and Saudi channel partners on the stand,” he adds. At the moment Mitel is typically in the top three voice vendors in most markets in EMEA and the vendor is looking to leverage its partnership with HP and more aggressive international strategy to boost its position. “We have to make our products simple to use for end users, easy to deploy for the channel and communicate our differentiators more effectively. If we do this over the next three years I’m confident we can become number one in the market,” says Bevington.||**||

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