Avaya is trying really hard to convey the message that this isn’t your father’s old Avaya. There were signs everywhere at the Las Vegas MGM Grand hotel and conference centre telling anyone who walked by that this is the “New Avaya“. The signs and the “we are new” messages from Avaya’s executive leadership made me think if the old Avaya was bad.
The old Avaya was never bad; it just was a company that didn’t get it. The new Avaya looks totally different just from a year ago. The one thing I notice is the heavy Cisco influence. There are many ex-Cisco employees at Avaya such as its CEO Kevin Kennedy and its Canadian president Ross Pellizzari. What I also noticed was the heavy Nortel influence as well. There were several ex-Nortel employees at this conference reminiscing about the good ole days when Jean Monty was the CEO and Nortel dominated.
This may not sit well with long standing Avaya employees but the Cisco/Nortel influence is a positive one. Cisco is the most progressive channel vendor in the market place. Nortel understood and utilized channels well. Not as good as Cisco or Microsoft but still a very good record in the channel for Nortel.
Avaya doubled the margin payout in deal registration from a measly five per cent to 10 is one example of the Cisco influence. They should have went further to 15, but this is baby steps for Avaya and I think the channel partners I spoke to at this conference and a few of the distributors realize this and are willing to support the company in its channel development.
The growth incentive program is another positive step for Avaya as it grows its channel. By offering solution providers an opportunity to double is margins if they sell key products such as Flare collaboration and Aura SIP is a move that a company such as Avaya needs to do if they want to attract top partners. And, make no mistake if Avaya is to be successful with its new products in video, collaboration, contact centres and the SMB it needs top partners because the complexity of these solutions are only going up and up.
Another sort of copy cat move by Avaya is introducing a customer satisfaction component to its Connect umbrella program. I believe you have to tie customer satisfaction to partner compensation. Cisco pioneered this to great success about seven or eight years ago. Now the market place knows Cisco partners deliver excellent solutions and professional services and overall customer satisfaction because if they don’t; they don’t get paid.
Avaya executives told me its customer satisfaction program will be released some time next year and they did not say if it would be tied to a partner’s compensation. I know partners don’t want that. They did not like it much when Cisco did back in the early part of this decade, but it is a necessary step in Avaya channel evolution.
But the biggest thing that convinced me this is a new Avaya is the amount of money the company has invested in the channel. According to its channel chief Jeremy Butt, Avaya has invested $1.6 billion dollars. Now that is significant skin in the game. That kind of money really tells channel partners that Avaya is finally serious about its commitment to the channel.
The old Avaya, however, still creeps into the new Avaya. For example, the company still has not formulated its price list. I think they should have done that well before the partner conference. A lot of partners were expecting an announcement on pricing at this conference. This too is an important part of its channel direction. If they screw up on pricing it could lead to channel dissatisfaction and that is something the new Avaya does not need. But like I said earlier – baby steps.