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Avaya's New Focus

If you've read Brian Riggs', Allan Sulkin's and Sheila McGee-Smith's articles on about the Avaya Analyst conference in Boston, you know about the new executive team at Avaya, and some of the other changes taking place. I was pleased to see a reinvigorated organization, with a strong company transformation strategy that has been set in place. Simplification was one of the key themes. Charlie Giancarlo, interim CEO, noted that a year ago, Avaya had 27 different business units, which were reduced to three (UC, contact center, and SMB).As part of its efforts toward simplification, Avaya will be discontinuing some of its products (e.g.; evolving from two separate contact center SME products to a single product leveraging the best features of each), and removing some products where there's an overlap. The company also plans to simplify its packaging, especially for its UC Editions. By eliminating the complexity of its solutions and number of SKUs (stock keeping units), Avaya expects the time and effort it takes for partners to sell and quote solutions will be reduced.

The other themes were channel centricity and a focus on the business user. Avaya is one of the few companies that had not embraced an indirect sales strategy, but it is now moving in that direction. Avaya expects 80-85% of its sales to come from indirect channels in the next few years as it implements a global and uniform channel program. Giancarlo noted that Avaya has a very loyal channel -- "especially considering how they've been treated in the past." Wow - such honesty is so refreshing. And for the most part, what he said is true. Avaya has not been the easiest company for partners to work with, and channel conflict has long been a problem for the company and its partners. The new go-to-market strategy is a "high touch-channel centric" strategy that is replacing Avaya's direct sales coverage. Todd Abbott, the new SVP Sales & President of Field Marketing, is implementing a new sales compensation plan to be channel neutral, and will hopefully eliminate the channel conflict.

I was very pleased to hear about Avaya's new focus on the business user, as the company states that it will deliver business value to its customers by focusing on the way its products are used by the business end user - whether it's the business owner, department manager, knowledge worker, etc. But - this is easier said than done. Other companies in the UC market have been looking at the end user (not the IT manager) and how they use communication tools, and how these tools can help them be more productive, effective, and efficient at their jobs. I strongly believe that focusing on the end user and business processes is critical, but identifying those users and their needs is very challenging. It's too soon to say if Avaya can crack the code, but I give them credit for trying and hope that they succeed.

Part of the way Avaya will approach UC and CEBP (communications-enabled business processes) is through its professional services organization, via a horizontal and vertical approach. Brett Shockley, former CEO of Spanlink, was brought in to lead Avaya's horizontal application team, focusing on UC and contact center applications. Brett has been in the industry for a long time and understands the needs of users, and is certain to be a big asset to Avaya.

Another long-time industry veteran is Ed Wadbrook, most recently of Microsoft, who will work in Jorge Blanco's group on moving Avaya's Communication Manager to the next generation product. While I can't discuss the changes in store for Communication Manager, it will follow the theme of simplification and consolidation - the new product will be announced next spring (just in time for VoiceCon).

I didn't hear as much as I would have liked about Web/Enterprise 2.0, and there was only one demo that showed that Avaya is thinking about some of the new social networking technologies and capabilities out there. Hopefully we'll see more activity on this front in the next six months. Avaya has brought in many outsiders to its executive team and we expect to see lots more fresh, new ideas.