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My Takeaways from Time Spent with Avaya
Mobile clients have become a tired and largely ineffective mobility strategy. While Avaya does offer mobile clients, it’s thinking bigger with Avaya Mobility, which has two major components: Avaya Mobile Experience (AME) and portions of its Identity solutions.
AME is the result of two significant observations: that mobile network signaling is richer than what the traditional PSTN offers, and that most calls to contact centers are from mobile devices. Avaya is piloting AME with two customers, and both provided testimonials at Engage. The pilot program is expanding.
What exactly AME does will evolve over time, but the possibilities are broad and powerful. The low-hanging fruit is newer forms of call deflection. That excites CFOs. The truly more interesting parts have to do with richer, multichannel engagement capabilities. I believe this technology will be a game changer.
The Identity solutions are for use with AME or traditional contact centers. Avaya is building out a portfolio of technologies that use passive (audio and/or visual) biometrics to authenticate callers. It’s 2019, and despite the high number of system breaches and the popularity of social networks, contact center agents still ask me for my Mom’s maiden name.
Don’t start with the endpoints are dead thing. Endpoints are alive and well even if you don’t have one on your desk. The problem, though, is that most endpoints are boring, and Avaya has some innovative ideas here. Deskphones really haven’t evolved on the outside as much as they’ve changed on the inside. In fact, they’ve regressed. My Rolm deskphone in 1990 had features that most phones can’t touch today.
There’s a false perception that software is all that matters these days. Don’t tell that to Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Amazon, or even Facebook, because they’re all investing heavily in hardware. Hardware has changed; it’s no longer a complete solution. Today hardware is built to enhance software and services. Apps are what make your smartphone smart.
Avaya Vantage deskphones are smart, app-capable devices. As a standalone device, a Vantage phone is sharp, colorful, and contextual (there’s no need for a transfer key if you aren’t in a call). The Vantage line includes models with different screen sizes and versions that come with or without a camera. Avaya has created several applications optimized for specific use cases, or customers can build their own. Beyond phones, Avaya has introduced a line of (wired with quick disconnect) headsets that support RJ-11, USB, and even 3.5 mm connections.
I also a saw a clever prototype for a hotel room door device that provides guests with a doorbell and video intercom. Its exterior display can be set to display room status (“do not disturb” or “make up room”), and its camera can use facial recognition to unlock the door. That may seem a bit sci-fi, but as someone who’s mostly eliminated keys, I’ve been known to lock myself out of my hotel room.
The Avaya endpoint lineup, which also includes a new USB huddle room solution shown at Engage, is fresh.
Open is easy when it completes a solution (such as a UC system with support for SIP trunks), but harder when it competes with a solution. Most UC companies hang their open hat on SIP, but I consider that table stakes.
Demonstrations and use cases showed a high degree of openness across Avaya’s portfolio. The new Slack integration is an obvious use case, yet I haven’t seen the same from other vendors… presumably because most UC companies see Slack as a competitor. Yet Avaya offers its own team chat solution, Spaces.
I get the sense that Avaya wants its customers to connect with any device, application, camera, or data repository -- competitive or not. Avaya previewed a new digital workspace that provides a universal communications portal for information on calls, messages, email, voicemail, conferencing, calendaring, and whatever else the customer configures on his/her personal dashboard.
Yes, cloud. A few important points about the Avaya cloud story deserve recognition. First, Avaya reported $330 million in cloud revenue in FY18. That makes Avaya one of larger cloud providers today, comparable to 8x8. The revenue comes from a mixture of different services, but the figure is still notable. Avaya carries the burden of cloud transformation because its incremental growth in cloud often represents a decline in total revenue.
The silver lining is all that experience and customer base is an advantage too. For example, its new OneCloud ReadyNow private cloud service shows the virtue of patience. Many organizations want private cloud solutions. However, most early multi-instance solutions had scalability and management limitations. Kubernetes, an open-source platform that enables massively scalable orchestration of containerized applications, has evolved to a point that private clouds have some compelling benefits. An enterprise can flip on Avaya’s ReadyNow service in seconds and support up to 200,000 users.
The public cloud story still has some gaps, but Avaya has something in the works that it has not yet revealed. It might be an acquisition or something from the lab. Stay tuned.
The best part about larger events like Engage are the opportunities to network with subject matter experts. Engage provided several opportunities to get into the weeds with product specialists, customers, and partners.
I won’t call out specific members of the leadership team here, but will say they were generally available, accessible, and candid with their thoughts. I will give shout-outs to the following thought leaders who shared their perspectives and answered my questions:
- Dave Chavez, architect of Avaya Mobile Experience
- Steve Forcum, evangelist and prolific tweeter
- Karen Hardy, product marketing
- Ahmed Helmy, advanced solutions
Engage had a ton of content. I’m not even getting into the various product updates, the new branding, the AI initiatives, or the traction Avaya is getting with Afiniti (read related post, “AT&T: Intelligent Pairing Ups Agent Success”). Avaya is a complex company that is transitioning its diverse portfolio from products to services.
Dave Michels is a contributing editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.