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Avaya Wants to Help Navigate Digital Journey

I recently had two opportunities to discuss digital transformation with top Avaya customers gathered for events at the company's executive briefing centers. In hosting these events, Avaya's goal was to educate customers on the meaning of "digital transformation," provide examples of digital organizations that hit close to home for those in attendance, and, of course, showcase the arrows in its quiver they could use to achieve their own digital transitions.

Of course, when talking about digitization, almost everyone uses examples of digital natives such as Airbnb, Amazon, and Uber. These companies, unlike the norm, had the luxury of starting with clean slates and not having to worry about legacy infrastructure, re-skilling of employees, or shifting to entirely new processes. Most established companies, such as those in attendance at the Avaya events, are feeling the pressure of having to "go digital" but the task for them is as daunting as would be having to change the wings on a plane... in flight.

In my presentation, I focused on the urgency all companies face on digital transformation, and on how traditional organizations might get there. All industries are moving faster than ever before, and businesses must look at the way they interact with customers and how employees work if they want to remain competitive. It's not enough to provide a good experience. Customers want an experience that is highly personalized and contextual in nature.

In one exercise at the events, we asked attendees to write a statement answering this question:

    "What is the first thing in your digital transformation that you must tackle to have widespread impact to customers, employees, and/or both?"

From the question, we were trying to understand where organizations stood with digital transformation based on the next steps in their processes. Almost all answers focused on either improving workforce productivity or transforming the customer experience. These focus areas are consistent with those I've found in my research as the top two digital initiatives across all organizations.

But that's where the commonality stopped, as responses from Avaya event attendees are all over the map on the use of advanced collaboration tools as part of a digital transformation. Below are some of their verbatim responses:

    "Implement working and effective customer experience ease of use solutions with minimal input from stakeholders -- intuitive design!"

    "How business leaders are real time connected on the improvement towards customer experience using digitization"

    "Employees -- collaborate for innovation / success"

    "Migrate to an IP based PBX"

    "Enabling omnichannel in an industry highly regulated"

    "We need to architect our platform to treat data as an asset as that data will not only fuel our digital transformation but that of the ecosystem around us"

    "We desperately need to further combine our contextual awareness of what our customers are doing across our channels to better support them (and predict when support is needed) through live channels. Today's multi-channel world we live in has created great but disconnected user experiences"

As this sampling of responses shows, digital plans run the gamut from migrating to an IP-based PBX to establishing contextual awareness. Most established companies need to worry about running their businesses and can't live and breathe digital 24x7, so the variety of responses shouldn't be a shock. Avaya's task was to demonstrate through real examples that it has the tools to help all customers move the ball forward.

In doing so, Avaya showcased Equinox, its converged communications, collaboration, and conferencing platform; Oceana, its next-generation contact center solution; and Breeze, its development environment. The demonstrations seemed to resonate with the audience.

Showing the usefulness of Equinox for agile workers, Avaya ran a slick demo showing the flexible interface and intuitive workflows, as well as the ability to initiate an action with a single click. I understand an executive briefing center is a controlled environment, but still worth noting is the outstanding quality of voice and clarity of video on mobile devices. The ease of use and quality of experience definitely came through in the demo.

Avaya also demonstrated the flexibility of Oceana and Breeze. While most people think of Oceana as a contact-center solution for customer-facing applications and Breeze for improving employee productivity, the fact is both can address the opposite sides of the communications coin. The use of multitouch, omnichannel tools for customer services has been widely discussed on this site, so I won't dwell on it too much other than to say the range of customer types (Gen Z through Baby Boomers) means contact centers must be able to address the needs of any type of customer preference. Some customers want to chat, others use SMS, and others still may prefer picking up the phone -- and for many, if a conversation starts off as a chat, easy escalation to a call is desirable.

Based on the quad-generational workforce (Gen Z, Millennial, Gen Y, and Baby Boomer), isn't this exactly the same issue workers have when collaborating with one another today? Some users like video calls, others prefer chat, and others still prefer the good old-fashioned phone call.

In its demos, Avaya did a nice job of positioning Oceana as more of a full solution and Breeze as a set of building blocks -- called Snap-ins -- that enable companies to embed a collaboration experience in mobile and desktop applications. A company can use either to create personalized experiences that can delight customers or employees, and the combination of the two brings some much-needed consistency to the user experience regardless of how a conversation starts.

Noteworthy is that a company can drop Equinox, Oceana, and Breeze into an Avaya engagement regardless of where the company is in its digital transformation process. Considering the varying stages of digital transformation we saw reflected in the responses to our exercise, this is a critical factor.

Most Avaya customers in attendance seemed to have reasonable understandings of where they need to go in their digital journeys, but lack a clear path for getting there. Here I want to give a tip of the cap to Avaya for how much it has advanced Oceana since introducing the platform last October. This development effort makes sense, since Avaya has a huge contact center business and Oceana provides a path forward for many of those customers looking to become digital organizations.

Using digital natives as examples is easy to do when discussing digital transformation, but the reality is that most organizations are struggling with the shift to digital. Communications plays a significant role in enhancing customer service and improving employee productivity, but getting from the legacy to the new stuff can have its challenges. Despite being in bankruptcy, Avaya has kept its foot on the pedal and now has a great set of applications to help customers make this journey.

And speaking of the bankruptcy, that topic did come up during our digital transformation sessions. Most attendees I spoke with admitted to having some concerns about the bankruptcy, but said Avaya's transparency and proactivity during this ongoing process has helped put their minds at ease. Indeed, the Avaya executives in attendance -- Gary Barnett, SVP and GM of engagement solutions; Jim Geary, head of U.S. sales; Andy Steen, head of strategic marketing; and Karen Hardy, VP of product marketing -- answered all questions, including a few uncomfortable ones about how the company ended up in bankruptcy in the first place, openly and honestly.

I'd been expecting a bit more trepidation from customers, so this is a good lesson on the value of staying out in front of news.

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