How the channel saved Avaya

How the channel saved Avaya

Partner ecosystem "crucial" in keeping customers on-board

Credit: Photo 97488586 © Ken Wolter -

Avaya has credited its own channel and partner base for helping to weather the storm following the much publicised Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 2017.

The filing was billed as a necessary step in a restructuring effort to service a $6 billion debt that was in place since it was acquired for $8.2 billion in 2007 from private equity firms Silver Lake Partners and TPG Capital.

In a recent sit-down discussion with Channel Asia in Singapore, the vendor emphasised the ongoing importance of the channel across the region.

"The strength of our channel and our close relationship with our partners were crucial in keeping our customers on-board,” said Ahmed Helmy, senior director of Avaya. “Customer centricity was key and our partners helped us do that.

“Our customers and partners helped us weather the storm in a way that would have been difficult for a company that does not have a channel or a strong partner base."

Specifically, Avaya's close relationship with its partners and customers taught the vendor many lessons during such a dark period, impacting how the business goes to market in the future.

The experience also provided the vendor with a greater incentive to reach out to more customers and partners, and provide them with the confidence that the restructuring path was the correct move.

“We really listened to our customers to understand what they wanted and to provide them with influence over our roadmap,” said Helmy.

Investment priorities

Eighteen-months on from the vendor’s restructuring, it appears successful, according to Helmy; "we have had cash for the last year and everyone has been asking how or where we will spend it."

Avaya operates within the customer experience (CX) market, a market expected to reach $32.49 billion by 2025 according to Grand View Research, with cloud-based CX management expected to gain significant traction in the years ahead.

The growth of the cloud-based CX segment is attributed largely to the increasing number of organisations making use of cloud deployment models at their contact centre, in addition to engaging with users across different channels such as mobile, email, call centre, social media and chat.

Specifically, Avaya has partnered with a number of different cloud providers, such as Google Cloud for the vendor’s OneCloud solution with the purpose of delivering improved customer experiences.

“We need to make sure that whatever we invest in, that we deliver on what the customer expects," Helmy added. "Not just to say that we are investing in a certain technology but to follow through on the implementation and provide a benefit to our customers."

The vendor’s OneCloud solution, for instance, for unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) and contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS), enable customers the benefit of cloud communications in a "fast, convenient and automated way".

“At the beginning of our investment in cloud it was very difficult to define what our investment should look like, be it public, private or hybrid,” said Helmy. “As a large vendor, like Avaya, with such a large diverse customer base, you realise that there is no one size fits all approach.”

This “no one size fits all” approach directed Avaya's investment priorities, such as focusing more on small acquisitions that could add piecemeal value to the vendor’s portfolio of products.

“We have very solid technology,” said Helmy. “It works very reliably so there is no need to try to replace anything except that we need to modernise it with a new stack.

"Most of our investment has been on these small incubated acquisitions as well as our cloud strategy and investments in our core. We have to make sure that whatever investments we do, we also have to provide protection and continuity for our core."

The protection of the vendor’s core enables existing customers to take advantage of the new technologies being introduced without breaking the user's existing setup.

For channel partners, the protection of the vendor’s core platform enables continuity, and confidence that the skills and expertise build around the technology are still valid.

They know exactly how the technology works, and they have the in-house skills to service and sell the technology to customers, according to Helmy.

"When Avaya adds features on top of this core technology, our customers and partners also understand that they have to bring in new skill sets to the team to be able to deliver results,” added Helmy. “Basically, they do not have to rebuild everything from scratch when a new feature is added.”

Channel program

The vendor revealed enhancements to its Edge Channel Partner Program in late 2018, with an enhanced focus on cloud solution selling through the channel.

The enhancements set out to simplify the incentive structure for partners and provide tailored enablement tools, while the modifications look to boost cloud offerings indirectly through the channel.

Key changes also include “streamlined” program requirements, aligned with increased rebates across multiple business types, spanning value-added resellers, mid-market and small business partners and system integrators.

Cloud adoption has continued to skyrocket across the region, driven by small-medium businesses (SMB) realising the cost benefits as well as the realisation that their customers data is safer handled by a large cloud provider.

In 2018, Avaya grew its own public cloud seats by 300 per cent, with more growth expected in 2019, providing significant opportunities for the vendor’s channel partners.

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