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SMB telephony

Avaya targets SMBs to carve out a place in the IP video conference market against Telepresence and Halo

With the recent global release of its software-only unified communications system, Avaya Inc. hopes to continue to expand its channel partners selling to small to mid-size businesses.Avaya’s Meeting Exchange Express is the latest audio conferencing solution to hit the small to medium business marketplace.

Meeting Exchange Express provides small businesses with the ability to organize and conduct conference calls in an instant and at any given time. The audio conferencing system can support up to 300 participants using a single server linked to multiple ports.

After conducting research based on several years of customer data and service provider costs, Avaya believes businesses that currently use monthly telephone carriers will see a return of investment within 10 months if they transition to Meeting Exchange Express.

Although HP and Cisco Systems have already launched their own line of Web and video conferencing products, respectively called Halo and Telepresence, Jon Arnold, principal independent consultant at JArnold & Associates, an independent, Toronto-based industry analyst and marketing consultancy, says it was only a matter of time before Avaya’s came out with a solution of its own.

“Companies like Cisco and Avaya have started to make the move towards the small to medium business market,” ­Arnold said.

“Vendors are coming to the market with fully integrated solutions that keep all lines of communications under one system.”

Gone are the days where separate log-ins are required for access to messaging systems. With today’s unified communications systems, access to e-mails, voice mail and fax are now readily available under a single-server system making user convenience easier.

Tracy Fleming, Avaya Canada’s national IP telephony practice leader, believes these new systems are the communication solutions for smaller companies.

“Meeting Exchange ­Express is geared towards different markets,” Fleming said. It’s a different solution from video conferencing because it’s audio conferencing for small to medium businesses.”

While the presence and adoption of this technology is still relatively new within the business market, Fleming predicts a growing customer base as more companies catch wind of these products.

When compared to HP and Cisco’s higher-end priced Halo and Telepresence products, it doesn’t hurt that Meeting Exchange Express comes with an affordable price tag.

“We see now and in the future a lot of our business partners picking Avaya’s products because they’re so cost-effective,” Fleming said. “We expect our partners to continue to grow.”

Using single-server architecture with several ports, up to 10 users can log on per port. Prices begin at about $600 per port.

On the call centre side, Avaya has introduced Customer Interaction Express, an all-in-one call centre solution for small to mid-size businesses. This system monitors all incoming and outgoing customer transactions including phone calls, e-mails, faxes, and text messages sent from mobile devices.

Prices and use of this service also mirrors that of Avaya’s Meeting Exchange Express, where several individuals use a single port. This not only increases service and productivity, it also increases company profit.

With these solutions already on the market, Arnold says the key to communication success lies within education.

“Companies need to make an investment on educating channel partners about these products,” Arnold said.

Fleming also supports this idea.

“As technology changes, every­thing becomes easier for the user,” Fleming said.

“But from the back-end, it’s becoming more of a challenge to keep ourselves on trend. We’re planning education seminars and hands-on sessions to outline how our products work and to highlight what the benefits are. We’re also running seminars for our staff on solution-based selling.”

“As a manufacturer, the role that we now see ourselves in is to become educators,” Fleming said.

“Because at the end of the day, no one knows these products better than we do.”