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Five Thoughts From Avaya’s 2024 Analyst Summit

This past week, Avaya held its analyst summit in San Diego, CA. This was the first analyst event in several years. This event focused solely on providing an update to industry analysts, the first of its kind in several years. While much of the content was NDA, many broader themes are worth mentioning. Below are my top five thoughts from the 2024 Avaya Analyst Summit.

  1. Large enterprise communications moving wholly to the cloud is not a fait accompli. The tech industry loves to swing pendulums from one side to the other, and their messaging shows it. In the late 90s, the rhetoric was that everything would move to an IP-based system. Although the deployment movement swung that way, the industry still hasn’t fully migrated from the old TDM systems. Similarly, it’s commonplace to hear that all unified communications and contact centers will be cloud-based. Much of the small and mid-market has moved that way, but large enterprises have yet to pull the trigger to move to SaaS-based services. In fact, going from my conversations with IT leaders from large companies, there are many challenges to using public clouds, including data sovereignty, control of security, economic considerations, customization, and migration issues. This is why the hyperscalers all have private cloud offerings: enterprise-class customers want the cloud model but prefer a private cloud.
  1. The Avaya management team is the best it’s been – perhaps ever. Since taking over as CEO, Alan Masarek has completely revamped the management team, and it’s in the best position I can recall in my years of covering the company. Since Masarek took the helm, he has added the following key hires:
    • Soren Abildgaard – Chief Technology Officer. Background includes Contentful, Adobe, Zendesk, Autodesk, and Microsoft.
    • Omar Javaid – Chief Product Officer. Background includes Qualcomm, Vonage/Nexmo, Tivo, HP, Qualcomm and Motorola.
    • ML Maco – Chief Revenue and Customer Experience Officer. Background includes Genesys, CognitiveScale, HPE, Oracle and Cisco.
    • Al Morales – Chief Transformation Officer. Background includes Tenneco, TD Synnex, AmerisourceBergen and AT&T.
    • Josh Mueller – Chief Marketing Officer and GM of Hardware. Background includes National Instruments, Vonage, Dun and Bradstreet and Dell.
    • Amy O’Keefe – Chief Financial Officer. Background includes Weight Watchers, Savant Systems, Black and Decker, and Ernst and Young.

Each of these leaders brings a strong pedigree and a good mix of large companies that have gone through their transformation journeys.

The only remaining executives from the Jim Chirico era are David Austin (Corporate Development, Strategy, and Alliances) and Nidal Abou-Ltaif (Global Head of Sales). Abou-Ltaif, in particular, is well known for his “customer first” mindset and has been highly successful regardless of whoever is CEO.

  1. Avaya is focused on the right customer base. Historically, Avaya has tried to be “all things to all companies.” This made sense nearly 25 years ago when the company split from Lucent. Avaya had a massive install base and was the leader in contact centers and phone systems for companies of all sizes. A lot has changed since then, with the company being much smaller than it was in the past. This requires a more focused approach to everything from sales and marketing to partner management to product development. Avaya management talked at length about focusing on the top end of its customer base, which are massive, multi-national organizations and governments across the globe with complex requirements. That’s not to say Avaya won’t service customers' needs outside this demographic, but Avaya management made it clear – the large, global companies are its strength and will point most of its resources there.
  1. “Innovation without disruption” is more than a slogan. In the social media era, companies always come up with their latest hashtag-gable quote. Late last year, Avaya started using “innovation without disruption” as its latest go-to-market. At that time, the sentiment was more vision than anything, but the company has put together a solid plan to back up the vision since then. In the contact center, customers can keep the tried-and-true Avaya on-prem system and then leverage the capabilities of AXP (as public or private cloud) for the digital channels.

For unified communications, Avaya’s large customers can use Aura for calling and Zoom or Microsoft Teams for collaboration, as Avaya now integrates with both. Smaller customers can stick with both or migrate to Avaya Cloud Office, based on RingCentral.

Whether through a partnership or using its technology, Avaya aims to minimize the disruption typically seen when new technology is introduced and when companies do what’s best for the customer, which generally leads to success.

  1. Avaya has more work to do. The leadership is in place, the product roadmap has been defined, and Avaya focuses on large enterprises. However, success from here is certainly not a given, and the company fully acknowledges they have work to do.

Looking at the product, AXP Public Cloud is a serviceable offering today, but there is still a sizable feature gap between it and many of its competitors. AI dominates the communications industry, and Avaya must continue investing in it. Also, historically Avaya has provided roadmaps but then missed deadlines. During his part of the keynote, Abildgaard talked about the importance of “Say: Do,” meaning when the engineering team says something, they need to do it, but that only becomes a reality after a few quarters of success.

Looking at the go-to-market, Avaya has a massive customer base, and it needs to convert that into public stories to better reflect the customers' voices. As it evolves, Avaya must also help its channel partners transform to align with it, and that takes both money and time.

In summary, the Avaya Analyst Summit gave me a positive view of a company that has certainly had more downs than ups in recent history. Everything coming out of the event was positive, but now it’s time for Masarek and the team to execute consistently to turn the roadmap and promises into trust so when stakeholders hear a promise, they know it will be fulfilled. A good start but more to come.