Avaya Engage Dubai - Experience is Everything in the Age of Intelligence
Along with fellow UCStrategies Expert Evan Kirstel, I recently had the privilege of presenting and participating in Avaya Engage in Dubai, an event that brought together over 1,500 Avaya customers and partners from around the globe (with the exception of the Americas). This year's event was the first time Avaya brought together customers and partners from Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. While I was initially hesitant about traveling so far to attend this conference, I’m extremely glad that I made the trip. I met with several people in Avaya’s international leadership team, as well as a variety customers, partners, and developers – all while experiencing the wonderful hospitality of the Avaya team based in Dubai.
Digital transformation was the key focus, and Nidal Abou-Itaif, President of Avaya International (EMEA & APAC) discussed the digital transformation divide and various challenges to doing digital right. He explained that every organization is now digital or has access to digital technologies and it is no longer a debate about whether to become digital. However, there is now a divide between the “haves and have-mores,” or those organizations that are using their digital capabilities to innovate and transform their operations.
In his opening session, Abou-ltaif addressed the elephant in the room regarding restructuring Avaya’s business and the uncertainty that surrounds it. He noted that, “Avaya is taking care of its customers, partners, employees, and continuing to serve you. It is business as usual.” He added, “We will continue to be open and transparent with the channel and customers for a healthy relationship.” None of the customers I spoke with seemed to have any concerns about the future of Avaya, and were all moving forward with their projects.
Applications, APIs, and SDKs
The theme of the event was “Experience is Everything in the Age of Intelligence,” and what really stood out for me was the level of innovation presented by Avaya and its customers. Avaya did a great job of not presenting slideware, but showcasing customers that are digitally transforming their organizations using Avaya solutions, including Emirates National Bank of Dubai, dnata Travel, Dubai Civil Defense, KDDI Evolva, Department of Defense Australia, and many others. The Assistant General Director for Smart Services from the Dubai Civil Defense discussed their use of smart technologies to help protect citizens and ensure safety and security. Partnering with Avaya, they are excited about using Avaya Equinox to offer capabilities to citizens from the browser without having to download any software.
We heard from additional customers as Morag Lucey, Avaya CMO, led a panel featuring customers that are using Avaya solutions as part of their digital transformations. One company noted that they are “digitally obsessed,” while others agreed that their challenges aren’t around technology but around people. They all noted that as customer and consumer expectations change, they are using technology to enhance customer relationships and interactions. The customers rely on Avaya not just for the technology solutions, but for the company’s expertise and the relationship they have formed.
Throughout the event we heard fewer discussions about products than about developing applications, embedding communications into applications, and digital transformation. Avaya has been transitioning from a legacy hardware vendor to a software and services vendor, and with its Breeze platform, the company is making it easier for customers, partners, and developers to communication-enable applications. Breeze was prevalent throughout the event, as many of Avaya’s new solutions are built on its SDK and APIs, and the Snapathon in the demo center featured applications utilizing Breeze. Morag Lucey and Gary Barnett, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Engagement Solutions, told the audience that Avaya had 16 major releases in 2016, including Oceana, Oceanalytics, Workspaces, Breeze, hybrid cloud, and Aura 7 – all of which are built on top of Breeze.
Partners are Key
I had the chance to speak with Morag Lucey about the key messages of the event, including innovations and Avaya’s investment in solutions. She also discussed the role of partners and the future of Avaya.
Addressing partners the day before the official kickoff of Avaya Engage, Fadi Moubarak, Channel Director Avaya International, noted, “Avaya is developing solutions that we’re giving birth to in the cloud, even though we as a company weren’t born in the cloud.” He explained that in a hyper-connected world, customers want platforms, tools, and APIs, which Avaya now provides, making it easier for partners to develop and add value to solutions. Moubarak encouraged the partners to “Build your own intellectual property – using Avaya tools” so that the partners can define their value proposition to customers and create stickiness to customers. Avaya is now offering tools, such as Breeze, to help partners add functionality and value to their customers.
Innovation is a Breeze
On stage and in the Exhibit Hall we saw demos from a variety of partners, such as Catalina Labs which developed Wixi for fixing consumers’ wifi issues remotely, with the ability for the customer to speak to the ISP directly from the Wixi app. Catalina noted that it took only three weeks to build this product, which will soon appear in Avaya’s Snapin store. At the #Snapathon booth in the Exhibit Hall, Avaya showcased various partners developing innovative applications, several of which use virtual reality and augmented reality, while embedding Avaya communication capabilities in the applications. Also on display was the new Vantage device, featuring a hospitality application Avaya developed, which was pretty darn impressive. As Paul Reif, Avaya’s Director, Product Management, Team Engagement, explained, every hotel room requires a phone for emergency calling regulatory purposes. Avaya created a totally customized experience based on the Breeze SDK, providing a tailored user experience for the guest to access resort services, restaurants, city guides, etc., as well as the ability to control the room temperature, open and close the shades – all from the device. These capabilities drive a better user experience while increasing revenues for the hotel.
During the event, I had a chance to speak with Nidal Abou-ltaif about innovation in his region. As I mentioned, throughout the event I was very impressed with the level of innovation I saw from Avaya, its customers, and developers, and asked Abou-Itaif about why there’s so much innovation coming out of this region. He also discussed the key messages from Avaya Engage.
SDN is a Star
While Avaya highlighted some of its new offerings, including Oceana, Equinox, and the Vantage device, the star of the show seemed to be Avaya software defined networking (SDN). Jean Turgeon, Vice President & Chief Technologist, Software Defined Architecture, highlighted several new customer wins, noting that there are now 841 fabric deployments globally. Farid Farouq, Head of IT at Dubai World Trade Center, the Middle East’s largest convention center, discussed using Avaya fabric network to transform the way the center digitally enables exhibitors. Evan and I saw the proof of the success of Avaya’s networking in the region, as we visited a couple Avaya customer sites with our host, Ayman Majzoub, Sales Director – Europe, Middle East & Africa, Asia Pacific.
We visited Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, which uses Avaya SDN Fx, Avaya’s fabric-based, software-defined network architecture, throughout the building, providing a secure and scalable network for tenants and visitors.
View from Burj Khalifa
Evan and I also visited Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7-star hotel, which also features Avaya technologies, including the phone system, networking, contact center, and more. Guests can access complete voice, data and video services such as Internet access, video-on-demand and total room automation from almost anywhere within the hotel premises.
A reception desk at the Birj Al Arab
We also visited Emirates NBD (National Bank of Dubai) and its Branch of the Future, which uses Avaya technologies and solutions. Emirates NBD has deployed ITMs, or Interactive Teller Machines, in five locations, providing video-based interactive technology allowing customers to conduct transactions and banking services using real time video/audio interactions with a centrally-based teller. This enables the bank to provide extended service hours with live teller assistance and address concerns and questions immediately.
Emirates NBD Interactive Teller Machine
Dubai is an exciting place to visit, and it’s clear that the city will continue to grow and expand – both vertically and horizontally! Based on my discussions with Avaya and its customers and partners, Avaya will continue to play an important role in this growth and expansion.
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