ShoreTel Launches VOIP App Initiative

— August 30, 2006

Pure-play IP PBX provider ShoreTel on Aug. 28 will branch out into the IP telephony applications space when it debuts a pair of new application options that focus on integrated customer relationship management and Enhanced 911.

Fast-growing ShoreTel kicked off its application integration efforts with a new add-on module for its IP PBX that integrates the phone system with the Salesforce.com Web-based CRM application.

The two new applications are the beginning of a push by ShoreTel and its channel partners to develop more integrated applications for ShoreTel's IP telephony offerings, in order to deliver greater business value to its customers, according to Walt Weisner, vice president of global support services for ShoreTel, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

As the IP-based phone system and the CRM application are able to share data, sales personnel can quickly call up customer records and click to dial the customer. At the same time, inbound calls can be automatically linked with a customer file so that a user fielding the call will automatically have the screen populated with the customer data.

The new integrated E911 application extends the E911 features that already exist in the ShoreTel IP PBX to help customers improve the way they respond internally to emergencies.

Beyond the basic caller ID information provided by the IP PBX to the local Public Safety Answering Point, the new application allows for multiple responses, depending on configuration.

Those include automatically placing notification calls to designated internal and external parties; notifying specified users via a screen pop and audible alarm; recording E911 related events such as the calling party's name and extension in a call log; and allowing users running the application's client to communicate with each other in real time.

The application consists of a server and client. The server constantly monitors system trunk lines for outbound 911 calls and responds according to the configuration. It is aimed at retirement communities, nursing homes, prisons, universities, schools and other large campuses.

ShoreTel intends to deliver additional applications for its switches depending on user demands, the company said. Its professional services arm provides custom development in support of its channel partners. ShoreTel also has a developers' network for software developers and system integrators who want to create their own integrated applications. The network provides a library of programming interfaces and development tools, a discussion forum, integration examples developed by members and ShoreTel partners, and a help desk.

What comes next has not yet been determined, but will be based on customer demand. "This is the beginning for us to focus in the application area and understand what customers want. There is no lack of ideas. Over time we'll see where things evolve, but we will focus on real-world solutions," Weisner said.

The new Salesforce.com integration module and E911 Notification Application are available now. The Salesforce.com module list price is $100 per seat, and the E911 application lists for $2,000 for up to five clients.

ShoreTel, owing to the distributed architecture of its IP PBX and the ease with which it can be managed, is the fastest growing IP PBX vendor in the market, according to Ryan Olsen, industry analyst with Synergy Research Group, in Reno , Nev.

"ShoreTel is finding great success quarter after quarter—they are steadily increasing their market share. The momentum is on their side. They have great technology behind their products that should continue to drive growth at this pace," Olsen said.

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