How does ShoreTel stay ahead of Research and Development – a CONSTANT frustration to their larger competitors?

It’s simple.  They follow the same philosophy Inflow Communications does – focus on a core competency and become very good at it.  Let me explain:

All of ShoreTel’s VOIP phone system competitors follow one or both of the following two models:

The “let’s do everything under the sun” model – In addition to selling phone systems, let’s sell firewalls, data switches, wireless equipment, web filtering, consumer equipment, etc.  Heck, some sell televisions (you know who you are Samsung, NEC, and Toshiba).  If this is the case, how much focus or research and development will be going into your beloved phone system?  Nope, you’re just another product line in a sea of electronics.

The “let’s have 20 models of phone systems, each with a million part numbers” model – they have the smaller business model, the medium business model, the big business model, and the real real big business model.  No, sorry, you can’t easily migrate from one platform to the other.  You say you’ve outgrown your current system?  No problem, simply fork out another $30K and we’ll get you on the next platform up.  Don’t worry about the 100 part numbers and descriptions (like PZ-ME50-US Memory Expansion Daughter Board) on your quote.  Just sign the dotted line.  A trade-in for your current system?  You’re funny!  Planned obsolescence is how we make money!

Often times all of these models are a result of the industry’s “innovation through acquisition” model (Mitel buys InterTel, Avaya buys Nortel, Cisco buys anybody with a pulse).  The result?  A system that’s inflexible and cannot scale across the manufacture’s product lines.  Also, that one specific phone system model you purchased has to continually fight for R and D dollars (or fight to not get sent out to pasture).

The ShoreTel Model – one platform, one technology that spans from a 5 phone office to a global enterprise with thousands of phones and hundreds of locations.  ShoreTel’s architecture is incredible.  I simply deploy appliances, each with the system’s entire database burned to flash memory, wherever I need to expand my “single-system image”.  ShoreTel hardware and software has been the same building blocks of their solution since they starting shipping products in 1998.  This means all of their R and D dollars (about 22% of their total revenues) get invested into ONE platform.  What about data switches, firewalls and televisions?  ShoreTel leaves that up to the experts.  They just keep their technology open-standards-based; with means they play nice with everybody.  What does that mean for the customer?  A whole lot of a good thing.  A system that is continually being enhanced (software upgrades are included in the support contract) and it’s never in danger of being discontinued.  They maintain a single technology platform and a single system (again one technology for hundreds of sites, voicemail, ACD, etc).

The Inflow Model – We focus strictly on Unified Communications, VoIP phone systems, and video conferencing.  We are the Northwest’s premier ShoreTel reseller and ShoreTel makes up about 90% of our revenues.  We employ more tier-3 ShoreTel engineers than any other ShoreTel reseller in the Northwest.  All of our experience and training focus on being the best in this very specialized market.  That means we’re very, very good at what we do.