Avaya: Think Cloud... & Blockchain, IoT, and AI

As I'd suggested it would in last week's post, "Avaya Goes All In on Cloud," cloud has featured prominently in the Day 1 messaging out of Avaya Engage, the annual customer and partner conference and expo taking place this week in New Orleans. Avaya CEO Jim Chirico kicked off the conference with news that the company is acquiring its business process outsourcing (BPO) cloud partner Spoken Communications, and told his keynote audience, "If you remember one thing from my talk this morning, it's just four simple words: Think Avaya. Think Cloud."

Mercer Rowe, SVP and GM of the new Avaya Cloud business unit, reiterated the mantra and reinforced the messaging with the statement: "We're investing in cloud, we're changing our business, and we're simplifying to create the platform for innovation."

But as important as cloud is to Avaya's future, it's not the exclusive focus of innovation inside the company, said Laurent Philonenko, SVP Solutions and Technology, when he took the keynote stage. "Avaya has a huge history of innovation. It's our DNA. It's in our spirit. It's in our desire," and the innovation will not stop with the cloud and the contact center, he said. "We will continue to innovate in UC and we will continue to innovate in collaboration. There's a lot still to be done in those areas."

As Avaya evolves its platforms, it does so with the notion of enabling "everyone to connect with everything and create new use cases," Philonenko said. "Use cases are really what it's all about. Technologies are necessary, but they're not delivering the end result."

Together with Jean Turgeon, VP and chief technologist, Philonenko shared use cases related to three fundamental technology trends he said "are going to sustain everything in our business." These trends are blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI).

Blockchain & Better Security

To Avaya, blockchain is about the ability to store information securely, support secure access to information, and accept financial transactions in a secure manner that previously hasn't been possible, Philonenko said. Within blockchain, the idea of a highly secure distributed ledger is "very, very important" because it creates new use cases in contact centers, UC, and collaboration, he added.

Not that Avaya will be investing in developing blockchain technology, but it has begun identifying use cases that will drive its consumption of it -- for things like identifying fraudulent transactions, tracking licensing, or identifying who has accessed reporting, Turgeon said. These are the sorts of solutions enterprises are looking for as they go through their digital transformations, and they're all highly relevant within Avaya's portfolios, he added.

Avaya customers have made their worries quite clear, Philonenko said. "We hear from you every single day," he said to the audience, noting consistent questions about security, identify protection, fraud, and licensing. Good thing is, he added, these can all benefit from the underlying technology of blockchain (and by the way, he noted, blockchain isn't just the worldwide public network everybody talks about; private blockchains are possible too, for various use cases).

Advanced security techniques can have profound impact on the contact center Turgeon added. Biometrics, for example, can help companies authenticate customers more quickly, spending less time asking questions to verify identity. Avaya partner Nuance, for example, is working with a small bank overseas on a voice biometrics project that is expected to reduce agent handle time by more than 45 seconds, said Tony Lorentzen, Nuance's SVP and GM, Voice & Security, who joined the Avaya pair on stage for a quick conversation. If a bank customer dials from his or her phone number and speaks, the bank will be able to verify the caller's identity with no additional measures. And, by shaving off that 45 seconds of call handle time, the bank will also be reducing the time fraudsters have for social engineering, he added.

Continue to Page 2: IoT and AI