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Avaya Execs Rally Customers, Partners

Avaya Engage, the company's annual customer confab, kicked off yesterday in Las Vegas with a high-energy Cirque du Soleil dance performance leading into keynote presentations by a series of Avaya executives. Taking the stage in the dancers' wake, CMO Morag Lucey wasted no time in drawing the analogy between the troupe's Michael Jackson One tribute and Avaya's mantra: "We're one Avaya, one community, one team."

John Chirico, Avaya COO and head of sales, continued the message. He drew his inspiration from the late-in-the-game, come-from-way-behind win Patriots QB Tom Brady pulled off in this year's Super Bowl. "Great teams always find a way to win. ... And I can tell you this organization is an organization that's committed to winning. This is an organization that knows how to win. This is an organization that knows how to team," he told Avaya Engage attendees.

Avaya's goal clearly is to make its way through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings with Brady-like aplomb and come away with a comparable victory -- less burdened by debt and therefore more nimble. Avaya is making efforts to stack the odds in its favor -- listening to customers, acting with urgency, and simplifying business processes to reduce friction for customers, Chirico said.

When Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy took the stage, he turned to his personal experiences, with two young granddaughters requiring serious medical attention and surgery -- a "reorganization of assets, if you will," he said during his keynote address.

"The thing that gets you through that is following process, putting your faith in people who know what they're doing -- specialists -- following the protocol ... and the fact is the prospects for growth have never looked better," Kennedy said. "That's the prospect for these two young ladies, and I thought it a fitting metaphor for what our industry and our company is going through."

Avaya Highlights 3 New Partners

Avaya introduced three cloud-related partnerships at Avaya Engage yesterday. They are:

  • Salesforce - Tight integration of contact centers and CRM, across mobile devices and the desktop, to provide a "360-degree, contextual service" for customers
  • Spoken Communications - Co-development partnership with this contact center-as-service provider for facilitating business process outsourcers' move to the cloud
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise - Virtual private cloud contact center service, designed to be regulatory compliant and cross all industries

Kennedy broke the situation down to the financial facts, which for many readers will be well-known by now. The company's current debt structure was put in place some nine years ago, prior to the 2008-2009 recession and before the cloud model turned the hardware-centric telecommunications world on its head. To deal with that structure, Avaya headed back into the market every two to three years to amend and extend its debt. The most recent time it did that, the cost of high-yield debt went up 300 basis points, which meant Avaya's debt service would cost the company about twice as much as it had been. With that as the tipping point, Avaya recognized that it would need to reorganize its assets, he summarized.

The goal, as oft stated, is to deliver Avaya into a more compelling future for itself -- and customers, of course. Continued innovation, and especially the application of innovation to the technologies that will see enterprises through their digital transformations, is foremost on Avaya's mind, Kennedy added.

Avaya has changed how it innovates, to create a portfolio aimed at making sure it is "open, mobile, enterprise-focused, and that [it] would help move from passive infrastructure, which is an anachronism of the telco world, to policy, automation, and engaging infrastructure of the future," Kennedy said. "And once you do that, your infrastructure becomes more relevant to verticals," he added, "and you can build applications that are relevant to healthcare, to retail," and, apropos of the conference being held in Las Vegas: "in casinos."

Digital transformation is a journey, with all the arduousness that that implies. "The great news is, we are taking an industry that was in the basement, and now it's becoming a boardroom conversation," he said. If you save a billion dollars for your company over four years, you're in the boardroom. Kennedy concluded: "We built, and we'd like to build with you."

Watch for more news out of Avaya Engage, including coverage of product announcements from Zang, an enterprise cloud offering, Internet of Things networking, and more.

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