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Avaya's Services Play

This effort is being led by Chris Formant, president of Avaya Global Services. Chris had been on the job for just 3 weeks when I met him at VoiceCon; he came to Avaya from Bearing Point, after tours of duty in the banking industry and with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, as well as being CEO of the consulting company Scient.

Formant said Avaya had deliberately looked outside the immediate confines of the telecom industry: "If they were looking for a great break/fix guy, they wouldn't have come to me."

What Avaya was looking for was someone to build up a larger consulting business, a drive which Formant said could, down the road, potentially include acquisitions of specialist consultancies and integration companies, though right now the immediate focus is on staffing up with more consultants who have experience with multivendor and realtime communications environments. Multivendor means all the major communications vendors as well as ERP, BRM and other business software systems.

Another critical point was made to me by Chris Formant's colleague Ajay Kapoor, director, enterprise communications consulting and systems integration for Avaya Global Services. In talking about why consulting was such an important element not just for a vendor like Avaya, but for customers, Ajay tossed out a word I hadn't really expected to hear in this context: Mobility.

On the one hand, we all know mobility is a crucial--maybe the crucial--piece of Unified Communications. But Ajay talked about mobility, and the role that consultants can play in dealing with mobility--in terms of dollars and cents: "The fastest-growing part of IT's spend right now is in mobile expenses," he pointed out. He didn't add--but could have added--that this is pretty much the least-controlled and even least-understood part of the IT spend. He indicated that integrating and accounting for mobility will be a focus for Avaya's new team of consultants.

Like Nortel, the Avaya folks I talked with did their best to be reassuring about whether a focus on consulting, services and software will put them in competition with their channel. Chris Formant claimed, "It's not black-and-white; this is not a binary business," when it comes to cooperating with a channel whose members may also want a chunk of the consulting, services and software business of their big enterprise customers.

Ajay Kapoor told me that half of Avaya's revenues now come from software and services, and like every other vendor, this share of the business is expected to grow. So as with Nortel--and pretty much every other "traditional voice" vendor--they'll have to find a way to co-exist with their channel.