Prior to his hiring at Avaya last month, Pellizzari most recently came from a position at global IT solutions and services outsourcing provider, Mastek Canada, where he served as the general manager of Canadian operations and senior vice-president on the North American Leadership team.
Pellizzari, who has worked in the technology sector for more than 25 years, is also no a stranger when it comes to channel-focused companies and the channel. Prior to Mastek, Pellizzari was the vice-president of channel operations for Cisco, where he was responsible for the company’s Canadian partner program and also for its channel.
Pellizzari is not the only ex-Cisco employee to join the ranks of Avaya. Two years ago, Charles Giancarlo, a former Cisco chief development officer, stepped in to fill a temporary position as Avaya’s CEO when Lou D’Ambrosio, stepped down due to unspecified medical reasons. Not long afterwards, Kevin Kennedy, who was also a past Cisco employee, stepped in to become the new CEO of Avaya. Also around that time, John DiLullo, who also worked at Cisco before, was named as the leader for Avaya’s Asia Pacific operations, and most recently, he was appointed as the new vice-president for Avaya’s Americas International sales theater. With all that Cisco blood in the company now, you’d think that the Avaya team has big plans to go against its competitor in the UC and enterprise communications space.
CDN had the chance to speak with Pellizzari where he discussed his time at Avaya so far, his plans for the company’s Canadian operations and his action plan going against its industry competitors.
Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
CDN: Congratulations on your new post with Avaya. Why’d you leave Mastek and why’d you move to Avaya?
Ross Pellizzari: It wasn’t so much a decision to leave Mastek, but instead, I found that Avaya was a great opportunity for me to really stretch my leadership skills and take on a larger role in Canada. I left all the doors at Mastek open and made a lot of good friends there in a year and a half. Avaya is a much larger challenge here in Canada with almost 1,000 employees here.
CDN: You’ve been with Avaya now for about a month. How has it been so far?
R.P.: I spent the first four weeks visiting our offices from coast-to-coast and meeting our staff, partners and our customers in Canada.
CDN: You’re known in the industry for being a long-time channel advocate, especially while you were at Cisco. With your experience and background, what do you bring to the Avaya community from a leadership standpoint and what kind of leader will you be?
R.P.: The first thing is that I understand the industry and two, I understand the partner community very well. I also know that you have to have a healthy and profitable relationship between both vendors and partners. When it comes to communication, I’m very straightforward and transparent when I’m talking to employees, customers and partners. This is important in getting to understand your customers and partners’ needs and understand how their business model and ours fits in.
CDN: From what you’ve seen so far, what would you like to see changed or enhanced with Avaya’s Canadian and/or channel operations?
R.P.: The messaging and asking, what is the message we’re bringing to customers and partners around Avaya? The messaging that we’re going to bring is that we’re an intelligent communications player and our mission is to write the best communications solutions to enable businesses to excel. As long as we make sure that messaging is clear with us, our partners and customers, then we can really succeed. And secondly, it’s about the team and understanding your data points, your market penetration data and also understanding both big and small partners.
CDN: What are your plans for Avaya’s Nortel business in Canada?
R.P.: With the acquisition, Avaya now has a larger install base and more opportunities from a customer and partner standpoint. We now have to look at that install base and the technologies and look at upgrade and migration path as we move forward to drive revenue, productivity and enhancements for us and our partners.
CDN: What are your top priorities for Avaya’s Canadian business in the short-term and also looking ahead, long-term?
R.P.: In the short term, it’s about getting out and meeting the employees, customers and partners and sharing the Avaya message around our direction and priorities. Long-term, the integration of the (Nortel) acquisition will go on for a while, and our apps world is getting bigger and our application opportunity from the contact centre and UC space will be a big focus for us. We’ll also continue to leverage our support and services group to satisfy our clients. You’ll also see the Canadian operation and the global corporation marketing team will solidify messaging in the next 60-90 days. There will also be more Avaya at the channel level for sure moving forward. Avaya will also be directly communicating our message to clients at the end-user level too.
CDN: Having worked at Cisco and leading its channel for several years, what sort of shakeup can we expect to see between Avaya and Cisco now?
R.P.: You’ll see two companies battle in the UC space to be number one and number two. One thing we all know is that if you want to compete, you want to be one or two and we plan to grow our market share and our presence in those markets. You’ll see more Avaya and more exciting news from us and we’ll continue to bring value and technologies to our clients.
CDN: Do you have a message to your customers and partners as the new leader at Avaya Canada?
R.P.: I spent three years of 28 in the channel. A lot of people think my background is entirely channel and what they don’t know is that I also understand the go-to-market strategies at the end-user level too. From a channel perspective, you’ll continue to see customer-centric programs that help our channel partners, who in turn, help us. We’re striving for double-digit growth in and I don’t want to lose our position in the market. We also want to reward our employees and partners for doing innovative and game-changing things, whether that’s how they go work with a client or how they work with partners to go after the market. The bottom line is that you have to play fair but you also have to play to win.
Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.