By James E. Gaskin
Avaya launched IP Office 7.0 on May 17 at a glitzy event in New York City by running a videoconference session between two cakes. After typical executive speeches about the company’s newest unified communications system, TV’s “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro wheeled in a giant cake that included working phones and monitors made from baked goods.
After that auspicious beginning, Tom Mitchell, senior vice president at Avaya and president of Avaya Go to Market, spoke about IP Office and outlined Avaya’s rejuvenated channel program. His first statement: “IP Office is a 100 percent reseller product.”
Unlike some vendor channel programs that seem tacked on and have low executive commitment, the support at Avaya comes from the top. “I sit on the executive committee and I am accountable to the board for what’s right and wrong with channel partners,” he says. “This is a structural commitment to the channel, [which] is considered in every decision.”
There are more than 9,000 Avaya certified resellers and 11,000-plus sales professionals employed by SME (small to medium enterprise) resellers certified to sell Avaya products. There are also more than 6,000 Avaya employees dedicated to supporting the channel, according to Mitchell. “I’d be very surprised if the partners said we’re not listening to them,” he says.
SME resellers used to lag a bit in using Avaya’s technology to help customers, notes Mitchell, who now sees them forging ahead of enterprise sales groups. He has also been surprised at the range of custom solutions provided by resellers, particularly using IP Office 7.0. “I spoke to one law office that identifies each incoming call, searches its database, and starts tracking call time immediately, then routes that information to billing when finished,” he explains. “The reseller helped the firm develop an accurate call billing system that’s indisputable.”
Like every vendor, Avaya is looking for more quality partners, says Mitchell, noting that IP Office 7.0 includes new computer-based capabilities to appeal to nonphone resellers. “These are great products for our partners to build value around,” he says. “One partner set up a system for a 35-person company in Texas that accepts calls, does a data dip, and responds back to the customer with tracking and airbill information.”
On the subject of innovation, Mitchell is expansive. “Avaya brought out more innovations in the past year than in the previous 10,” he says. “Our innovation roadmap for partners is full of collaboration improvements, video features, SIP endpoint upgrades, and new software capabilities in IP Office 7.0. It’s daunting to me the amount of information our partners have to assimilate. Now they don’t want products faster, they want help on making the front-line sales guy more effective selling social media tools in Kansas City, for example; help on how to drive these improvements out to the field.”
The integration of Nortel resellers into the Avaya fold is complete, says Mitchell, giving a nod to the company’s purchase of Nortel’s IP-PBX business in September 2009 and the ensuing concerns about support for Nortel’s legacy equipment (as well as its resellers). Nortel resellers have installed 30 million customer phone lines, and there are 7 million for the IP Office product line. “Earlier IP Office handsets work great with the new IP Office 7.0,” says Mitchell. “Even better, older Nortel handsets, and all their configuration settings, are supported by IP Office 7.0.”
Mitchell and others at Avaya say this support for older handsets helps resellers save customers up to 40 percent on new systems and eliminate most retraining. Customers who have learned Nortel system codes can use their familiar handsets and codes, while upgrading the underlying system and features list.
“Several of the resellers, small to large, involved with our launch were former Nortel resellers,” says Mitchell. “They are pleased at how well the IP Office 7.0 transition supports them and their customers.”