Turning the tide

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Turning the tide

Jeremy Butt, Vice President

Jeremy Butt, Vice President for World-wide channels.

Founded in 1998, Solar Communications was purchased by Mark Colquhoun in December 2007.

As channel partner events go, this was an interesting one not just because of the fascinating venue but because Avaya is very clearly a rejuvenated company since it was taken private by Silverlake and TPG just over two years ago. The two venture capital companies had no qualms about replacing the previous senior management team with some of the best people in the industry, a surprising number of which list Cisco Systems on their CVs, including CEO Kevin Kennedy; the SVP of Sales and President of Field Operations Todd Abbott, and Jeremy Butt who is VP of World-wide Channels, based in the UK.

It was the latter two who held the audience of Avaya Business Partners enthralled with their plans for the company for the coming years. A company

which by the middle of December may well have grown with the addition of some 5000 Nortel staff, the Nortel channel and a large number of Nortel customers to which Avaya and their business partners will be eager to sell products and services.

But it was the new Avaya Connect channel partner programme which attracted most attention. Whilst the existing partner designations of Authorised, Silver, Gold and Platinum remain and will also be used for the Nortel channel partners that continue with Avaya, the new programme which becomes operational on February 1st next year will have a dramatic impact on the way the company does business. SVP of Sales Todd Abbott said the programme, together with the Nortel channel acquisition, is expected to help drive Avaya from its current 45% direct, 55% indirect revenue split to 85% indirect by 2011, in line with the industry norm. “Make no mistake about it,” he said. “Avaya is now and will continue to be a channel-centric company.”

According to Jeremy Butt, VP for Worldwide channels, at the top-level Avaya Connect consists of four main parts: a global benefits model, with a series of financial, sales and marketing and technical benefits; a requirements model, with partner tiers and specialisations, and a competency model for business partner staff. The fourth element is the geographic one inasmuch as Avaya Connect is a global programme.

“We have chosen to implement this because we realised we didn’t have a truly global channel programme. Each region had its own. Even individual countries had local programmes. It was difficult for Avaya staff to understand so imagine how hard it was for business partners,” said Butt. He went on to say “The idea is simple. By building stronger connections with our partners and enabling them to be successful, we can reach farther to better serve customers. Avaya Connect fundamentally helps drive sales of Avaya solutions, enabling our partners to engage more customers with our innovative products and services portfolio, and provides customers better choices to move their businesses forward.”

The programme seems to have met with channel approval. “One of the key factors of the new Avaya Connect programme is that it recognises the needs of different types of partners – from systems integrators and service providers to small and mid-size business resellers – and addresses them appropriately. This is something we haven’t seen before from Avaya,” said Phil Adams, Systems Sales Director at distributors Nimans and Rocom.”

Campbell Williams, Marketing Director at Charterhouse Voice and Data, identified a number of key financial benefits for partners, including tiered discounts, aggressive new business incentives and incentives for selling services. He also liked the prospect of reduced administration through the simplification of the pricing structure, with a single global price list. “Avaya is finally trying to make themselves easier to do business with,” he said. “That and the streamlined competency programme means we can concentrate more on our business and less on theirs, to everyone’s benefit.”

As always, the proof of the plan is in its successful implementation. Time will tell if Avaya is successful in its efforts to re-invent itself, again. But this time, with the ‘religious fervour’ brought to the table by the new senior management team which have their minds firmly set on being number one in the unified communications and contact centre markets, not just a runner-up to Cisco and Microsoft as they say themselves, just maybe the tide has turned.