Much to the dismay of Avaya channel partners, Ken Archer, who joined Avaya in 2005 to help revamp the communications vendor's channel strategy, announced that he is leaving the company, CRN has learned.
According to an Avaya spokesperson, Archer recently said he'll leave his post as vice president of North American channels at the end of January. Few details surrounding Archer's departure were disclosed, but an Avaya spokesperson said he is leaving "for personal reasons." It was unclear Tuesday if Archer had a position lined up with another company.
Donny Ward, a vice president in Avaya's sales division, will take over as vice president of North American channel sales when Archer leaves. An Avaya spokesperson said Ward has held a sales vice president role in Avaya for several years focusing in different territories, most recently the south east United States. Ward started his career at American Bell in 1983 and has since held several positions within Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Avaya.
Avaya said Ward has been a big channel proponent and has pushed hard to integrate the channel into direct sales. In one recent quarter the channel accounted for nearly 75 percent of Ward's sales, according to Avaya.
Archer was responsible for Avaya's North American channel strategy, program and team that supports all sell-thru channels, including solution providers, VARs, system integrators and service providers. He held the top channel spot within Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya for nearly three years and was responsible for roughly $1 billion in revenue. He came to Avaya with more than 20 years experience in the channel and before joining Avaya was vice president of the Direct Response Channel for Hewlett-Packard.
"I'm not thrilled," Neil Stanton, president and CEO of Whippany, N.J.-based solution provider ConsultEdge, said of Archer's departure. "The guy has been phenomenal to work with. He's been great for the channel."
Stanton wouldn't speculate on why Archer is vacating his post, but said Archer's performance and relationship with the channel was top notch. He said Archer was a major component in Avaya's bridging the gap between the channel and direct sales and that Archer created several channel programs to help reignite business for VARs.
"Talk to anybody in the channel and they'll tell you that Ken was a breath of fresh air," he said. "He set the stage for a successful 2008 in the channel. He's done nothing but good things for our business. He's made doing business with the channel a good thing. It's a shame he won't be there to see the fruit of his work."
Yankee Group senior vice president Zeus Kerravala, however, said the timing Archer's departure makes sense and comes in a period when Avaya's channel is in great need of a new direction.
"I think Avaya is becoming more of a software company, so they're going to need a different type of channel," Kerravala said. "They need less traditional telco guys and more ISV partners and systems integrators."
Under Archer, Kerravala said, Avaya's channel was slow to transition to accommodate the necessary change and growth.
"Avaya needs a big channel facelift," he said. "They've got too many of the traditional telecom interconnects. Avaya's heading down a software and CEBP [Communications Enabled Business Processes] route. That's more the domain of ISVs and SIs."
Kerravala continued that Archer stepping down "can be a positive for Avaya, if they replace him with a guy that can make the channel transition faster."
Stanton said he's worked with Ward, Archer's replacement, as well, and is confident that Ward can take the helm of Avaya's channel and make the transition fairly seamless, especially working with the team that Archer put together.
"Donny's going to be good," Stanton said. "Donny knows business. There might be some things that take him a little time, but with Ken's team in place it should go smoothly."
Last year, Archer placed third among VARBusiness' top 60 channel executives of 2007, receiving high praise for his dealing with Avaya's channel.
At the time, Archer said his goals were to earn the loyalty and dedication of Avaya's partners. He added that his biggest challenge was that there were "never enough channel resources or investment dollars to do everything that is a potential opportunity for growth."