Avaya Engages the Analysts
Unified communications and collaboration are passé – long live “engagement.” That’s essentially the message analysts heard at the Avaya Engages event in Santa Clara, CA recently. Those of you who follow my tweets know that I like to come up with “pretend” drinking games at conferences, where everyone takes a drink when a specific word or phrase is used by the presenters (based on the “Hi Bob” drinking game from the Bob Newhart Show). Within two minutes of the Avaya event, it was clear that “engagement” was the word of choice, and everyone in the audience would have been “three sheets to the wind” if we actually imbibed. Case in point, Gary Barnett, SVP of Engagement Solutions, announced that the Collaboration business unit was now the “Engagement Solutions” business unit, and the Collaboration Environment was getting renamed to Engagement Development Platform.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking Avaya’s use of the term engagement at all. In fact, I’m thrilled that the company has evolved from its focus on technology to a clear focus on engaging with end users and the business value that technologies such as UC and collaboration provide. It was a refreshing change to hear CEO Kevin Kennedy kick off the event by clearly articulating that Avaya is moving beyond collaboration to engagement, bridging the enterprise and customer worlds, enabling companies to be advocates for their customers. Kennedy did not mention SIP or session manager once – I loved it!
I also loved hearing new CMO Andy Cunningham drill deeper and expand on what engagement means to Avaya. Cunningham noted,” The time is now for a company like ours to capitalize on the shifts in the industry and to engage. We’re at the right position right now to do something special. We’ve re-engineered our products, and built a world-class sales force. Now it’s my turn to tell our story.” She went on to ask, “What does engagement mean? It’s a positive value-creating relationship you have with customers.” To Avaya, engagement is active, collaborative, and experiential. With a clear shot at Cisco and its focus on collaboration, Cunningham noted that, “Collaboration isn’t sufficient – engagement is about the value that comes out of it – engagement is an outcome. Engagement drives productivity, loyalty, revenue, productivity.” Yes – engagement is an outcome! The technology helps to support this, but it’s all about the outcome.
Cunningham went on to describe how Avaya will succeed in its engagement efforts: “We will take businesses beyond communications and collaboration to enable engagement for their teams and customers. We will support it with a flexible and extensible networking strategy and will proliferate our engagement platform with innovate apps from third parties and customers.” She added, ”Our mission is to enable engagement across time and space.“
To that end, Avaya rebranded and aligned its products into two solution groups: Team Engagement and Customer Engagement. Customer Engagement is all about the customer experience, leveraging Avaya’s strength in the contact center. Team Engagement is about worker and team productivity, communications optimization, and growth enablement, utilizing Avaya’s UC and communication solutions and applications.
Avaya introduced several new products at the event, such as Multimedia Messaging, IP Office Select, Avaya Snap-Ins, and the new Avaya Communicator for the user experience. However, Avaya’s focus wasn’t about introducing a whole new set of products or a new collaboration platform like Cisco’s Project Squared or Unify’s Circuit. Instead, they discussed the importance of changing the focus of conversations to emphasize value-based outcomes.
As Pierre-Paul Allard, Senior VP, WW Sales and President, Global Field Operations explained, “Avaya is about midway through the transformation to outcomes-based engagement,” noting that, “What we sell and how we sell it is very different.” He added, “We are segmenting the business and becoming more verticalized. We’re bringing outcomes in a way that’s relevant to customers by industry. We are bringing the value-based discussion with a vertical sense.” He noted that Avaya is focused on creating outcomes that are valuable to the various verticals, and that professional services, as well as partners, will play a key role in this endeavor. Avaya is trying to make things easier for partners and developers, as evidenced by the Avaya Engagement Development Platform, a more open developer program, and the Avaya Collaboratory. Hopefully we’ll see some innovative apps and capabilities from Avaya partners and developers that others can leverage.
For years I’ve been harping on the importance of the end-user experience and how we should be focused not on UC and collaboration technologies, but rather on the value and benefits these technologies and solutions provide to organizations and the impact to the individual workers and the businesses as a whole. I was thrilled to hear presenter after presenter talk about outcomes and business value.
That being said, when I went back through my article archives, I noticed an article I wrote about Avaya’s analyst conference in 2008. Recapping the 2008 event, I wrote, “What resonated most with me is Avaya’s new focus on the business user. I repeatedly heard throughout the conference about how Avaya 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. Avaya has organized the company to focus on benefits of the business user.” Later in the article I wrote, “In addition, Avaya’s professional services organization will create value for the business user, via a horizontal and vertical approach.” Avaya’s Global Services VP, noted, “We will focus our efforts on Professional Services through new, innovative solutions and verticalized offerings that speak to the Business Consumer.” “The professional services organization is also working to make UC and contact center more relevant to business users via vertical specializations in financial services, retail, health care, and public sector.”
It looks like Avaya has been trying to transition to a business value approach for several years now, and some of what we heard in Santa Clara is similar to what we heard back in 2008.
During a conversation with Allard, he explained that Avaya is now “Talking to line of business people. For example, we’re selling mobility to HR to help with recruitment.” As Allan Mendelsohn explained to me, “Instead of talking about products we’ll be talking about capabilities. We’ll have a conversation about how to address BYOD and the capabilities to deliver that. The last thing we do is talk about the specific products.”
I believe that this is the right approach, but can Avaya pull it off? Avaya has done a good job of turning around its finances and is stronger today than in the past few years, but now it needs to help its sales people and partners transition to a new selling approach. Avaya has some pretty sharp people, and a strong partner and customer base. If, as Cunningham stated, Avaya is to capitalize on the shifts in the industry and to engage, and if Avaya is going to shake things up, now’s the time.
Also on UCStrategies.com on this topic: