Avaya Executive Partner Forum 2016 – Growth and Engagement
At the Avaya Executive Partner Forum in San Diego last week, the weather was windy, but much of the discussion was cloudy – well, about the cloud, anyway. A handful of analysts got to attend Avaya’s annual event aimed at its top partners in the Americas and hear from new Global Channel Chief, Steve Biondi and many others. Biondi kicked off the event with candor, addressing the channel partner audience by saying, “We don't make it as easy as it should be for you some times, but we appreciate you.”
He told the channel partners, “Our 2016 Imperative is growth; our growth is dependent on your growth and together we plan on doing a lot of that this year,” adding, “We’re interested in growing all aspects of our business. We’ll be more surgical in our solution offerings for enterprises and the midmarket.” He noted that while the enterprise business pays the bills, 61% of all spend will happen in the midmarket, which Avaya defines as 2000 employees or less.
Avaya’s 2016 channel initiatives include: investing in growth, simplifying and streamlining partner benefits, and introducing a next gen co-delivery partner program. Noting, “The customer at the center of everything we do, and we need to make sure they’re delighted,” Biondi stated that Avaya is getting more disciplined in the way they deal with channel partners, and are improving their digital marketing programs, providing partners with more leads, and adding programs for distribution and channel so that they can work together.
We also heard from Gary Barnett, Senior VP and GM of Engagement Solutions, which includes Avaya’s Team Engagement (unified communications and collaboration) and Customer Engagement (contact center) offerings. Gary discussed some of the changes going on at Avaya and how the company can help its partners and customers. He also talked about the blending or blurring of team engagement and customer engagement, as well as Avaya’s Engagement Development Platform (EDP). With EDP, developers don't need specialized programming expertise, and can use “snapins” to create applications and workflows, which “Turns the world into software-defined engagement.” Expect to hear a big announcement at Enterprise Connect about EDP and snapins that will be very appealing to customers and developers. I had the chance to sit down with Gary and get his perspective on several topics.
As mentioned, Avaya is putting a new focus on digital marketing and marketing programs. I met with Avaya’s new CMO, Morag Lucey, who hasn’t been on the job for very long, but she’s already made some important changes. When I asked her what her short term goals were, she responded, “Make sure people know who we are, make sure we are driving demand, and make sure we help close business.” One of her first tasks was to build a marketing team, as the previous team was more or less dismantled, with various functions moved into different parts of the business. She brought field marketing back into marketing from the regions, and built a team for driving demand, headed up by Lee Ho, who was part of the Esna acquisition. Some of the changes were very evident, as several times throughout the event we heard about the importance of storytelling, using videos and use cases to illustrate the value of Avaya’s products, rather than talking about the products themselves.
Avaya also discussed its new unified client strategy. Mo Nezarati, GM & VP, UC Applications, explained that, “We all have our browser open all the time – the browser is central to what Avaya is doing. The best experience is a unified one – people don't want to jump from the business application they’re using in order to have a video meeting or send an IM.” Avaya’s new client strategy is based around: active participation, persistent collaboration, and quality experiences, providing embedded applications and clients, communication-enabled custom apps, and turnkey apps and clients. Mo noted that Avaya’s goal is to have a single client that works across all the platforms, converging all of Avaya clients to provide a seamless experience. To that end, Mo introduced Avaya Communicator 3.0, providing access to enterprise voice, video everywhere, persistent multimedia messaging, in-meeting experiences, and integrated recording. The new client uses contextual controls and is based on a mobile-first design. Mo also introduced Avaya Communicator for Web, a browser client for embedded engagement, leveraging WebRTC.
As the conference was a partner event, I had the chance to speak with several of Avaya’s channel and SI partners. I spoke with Adam Cole of TelAgility and Barat Dickman of Westcon, who jointly launched the UCaaS Solution Powered by Avaya IP Office. Aimed at system integrators and VARs, this offering takes the challenges and complexity out of offering a cloud service, enabling Westcon’s VAR and SI customers to overcome the cost and risk associated with selling UCaaS, making it accessible for every reseller, regardless of their business size. Adam and Barat explained that many partners want to offer a cloud solution, but don’t want to deal with the cost and overhead involved, including dealing with compliance, mediation, billing, FCC rules, number porting, etc.
To help its partners, Westcon introduced UCaaS Solution Powered by Avaya IP Office, which packages the necessary elements that SIs and VARs need to offer a cloud service, includingmarketing, provisioning, billing, carrier services, data center, etc. The goal is to help expedite the migration to the cloud.
There was some non-disclosure information shared with the analysts that obviously can’t be discussed, but suffice it to say that Avaya is working on some very interesting things that will give competitors a run for their money. Expect to hear some interesting announcements at Enterprise Connect and the coming months.