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Avaya offers incentives to woo partners from ailing Nortel

Nortel partners looking for a new home can be "fast-tracked" into Avaya's partner program, but in Canada they plan to be selective

With networking vendor Nortel Networks currently attempting to re-organize its operations under creditor protection, rival Avaya is laying-out the welcome mat for Nortel partners looking for a new networking equipment maker to call home.

Avaya has announced that it will offer incentives to Nortel partners interested in moving to Avaya, in the form of a “fast-tracking” into the Avaya Business Partner program. Mary Whittle, channel director for Avaya Canada, explains Nortel partners can move past the 101 to 301 courses necessary for Avaya certification and began at the 401 level. While the first three levels deal with broad industry concepts, at the 401 level more Avaya-specific technical and marketing material is covered.

“The heritage of Nortel and Avaya is of two companies with over a century of innovation in voice,” said Whittle. “Partners that have been loyal Nortel partners are likely to have a similar understanding of the base technology as an Avaya partner.”

And with the biggest cost for a partner engaging with a new vendor coming around certifications and training, Whittle said the fast-tracking removes a major investment barrier for Nortel partners looking to make the jump, making it a faster and less costly process. She added the similar heritage of Nortel and Avaya has been one of the drivers.

“They’re comfortable the Avaya portfolio is one that recognized the importance, frankly, of picking-up the phone and getting a dial-tone,” said Whittle. “Nortel partners see that Avaya respects and recognizes their industry expertise and knowledge.

A spokesperson with Nortel Networks declined to comment on Avaya’s program, except to say its partners know and trust its solutions, and the reliability of its products.

While it may appear Avaya is going after the partners of a rival that’s in dire straits, Whittle said this program has actually been developed in response to Nortel partners that have been approaching Avaya since the creditor protection filing.

“The situation for Nortel is causing them concern and that’s why they’re reaching-out to us,” said Whittle.

When Nortel made its bankruptcy announcement, Whittle said Avaya made a conscious decision not to immediately go after Nortel partners but rather wait, examine what the impacts would be on both the end-user community and the channel, and consider Avaya’s ability to play a role.

“We took a bit of a step back to wait and look at it, but the Nortel partners came to us,” said Whittle.

She said the fast-tracking program has been well-received by Nortel partners. Globally, 120 former Nortel and Siemens partners have joined the Avaya partner program. In Canada, since she came on board earlier this year, Whittle said three former Nortel partners have joined Avaya and they’re currently negotiating with a two others.

Whittle added the Canadian market is a little different in terms of channel coverage, and speaking broadly its her desire to ensure the Avaya has a coverage model that allows its partners to be successful and have coverage where its needed without saturating the market or causing price erosion.

“I’m being very judicious in terms of who we’re going to sign on with, why they’d be attracted to Avaya and why it would make sense for us to partner with them,” said Whittle. “Very attractive to us would be partners not in the Greater Toronto area. I feel I could definitely expand my reseller base in other geographies.”