Avaya examining Canadian distribution model post-Nortel

As networking vendor Avaya proceeds with the integration of the enterprise business of Nortel Networks following its roadmap announcement last month, the vendor is examining a Canadian distribution model that now sees it with four distribution partners serving the market.

The Nortel acquisition also included its sponsorship and technology contracts for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and Avaya ‘s vice-president of worldwide channels, Jeremy Butt, was in Vancouver this week to take in some Olympic events. He also visited Toronto to meet with Avaya employees and members of the company’s newly enlarged Canadian channel community, which now includes legacy Nortel and Avaya partners.

One of the pieces of the Canadian picture Butt and the channel team will be examining is distribution. Avaya’s legacy distributors in Canada are Westcon Group and Catalyst Telecom, while Nortel had Tech Data and Ingram Micro. Butt said Avaya is still examining what the right model will be going forward, and has met with each of their distribution partners in the last few weeks.

“Everyone wants to be relevant. It needs to be a balanced relationship. We’re working to find the right balance and how many distributors we need, and they understand that,” said Butt. “We’re working to find the appropriate model.”

Part of that will involve deciding on what level of support and value-add Avaya wants its disties to provide to their partners. It will certainly be beyond a simple broadline model, said Butt, and will include support and training, but just how far up the value-chain is still undetermined.

“We do have an idea of what we’re looking for,” said Butt.

On the partner front, Butt said the integration has been proceeding smoothly and Avaya has been successful in convincing most of the former Nortel partners it was targeting to stay onboard with Avaya. It would have been naïve to expect to retain everyone, but partners were grouped into must retain and would really like to retain, and of the “must retain” target list, Butt said they got 98 per cent to remain onboard.

Meeting with Canadian partners, Butt said partners have been mainly asking about the integration and how its proceeding, as well as more information on the new training model and the availability of new training courses for technical, sales and marketing staff.

Overall, he said the cultures are coming together well although it’s a little different here in Canada then elsewhere globally, as here former Nortel partners outnumber the legacy Avaya solution providers. That also means more data-focused partners, something Butt said the new Avaya Connect partner program has been designed with the flexibility to accommodate.

“Avaya Connect was designed as quite a robust single global program, designed to cater to people who want to specialize in SMB or services, and we have the ability to have a data specialization,” said Butt. “It’s been built robustly enough to incorporate increased data or SMB customers without devaluing the program.”

One thing that Butt said surprised him was that the comments and concerns he heard from Nortel and Avaya partners were largely the same. He said the new services model Avaya announced with its roadmap, which moves Nortel to a more “industry-standard” annuity model, have been well received by Nortel partners as this was a model Nortel was already moving toward with its Pass program.

“Nortel partners and customers recognize there is a services-attach needed on new sales, everyone expects and knew that, and we continue to work on details and training around that,” said Butt. “We’ll help them sell it, and we’re available to back them up, but there’s been no push-back.”

Before the Nortel deal, Avaya had a goal of achieving 85 per cent channel centricity. With Nortel on board that goal was achieved ahead of schedule. Butt promises they won’t be stopping there.

“We want to keep driving that centricity, not just stop and celebrate the success because we did the acquisition,” said Butt. “Eight-five per cent was the stake, and it will move. I can’t say right now where, but it will definitely be north.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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