That renewed focus, dubbed "the new Avaya," comes at a time of transition for the vendor, which recently saw its CEO Lou D'Ambrosio step down over heath concerns and the recent appointment if its first worldwide channel chief, former Motorola channel chief Jeremy Butt.
In April, the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based vendor also named Raj Sonty as vice president of solutions in its SMB division, bringing Sonty's expertise in the SMB channel to the forefront. Before joining Avaya, Sonty served as vice president of business operations for Xerox Corp.'s Office Group, where he oversaw the product portfolio, product and solutions management and channel expansion in the SMB segment.
Sonty is quick to admit that SMBs have unique needs and the solution providers that serve smaller companies face challenges. In his role, Sonty said he hopes to help them overcome the hurdles in the fast-paced convergence market with strong product and services offerings, building off Avaya's already solid installed base.
Recently, ChannelWeb caught up with Sonty -- his first interview since taking on his new role -- to ask 10 questions about the state of the SMB, the challenges SMB solution providers face and how "the new Avaya" plans to create harmony for its extremely important SMB partners and customer base.
With all of the transition within Avaya recently, there's been a lot of talk about "the new Avaya." What does that mean?
The new Avaya essentially is about reaching more customers through channel partners, so that's point No. 1.
Point No. 2 is: we have aligned our corporate strategy around four lines of business, which are unified communications, contact center and SMB. And the fourth line of business is services, which cuts across the other three lines of business.
So [the new Avaya] is around the four lines of business and reaching new customers through channels and channel partners.
How is Avaya's channel focus changing as this new Avaya starts taking shape? Is there anything new that partners or prospective partners should know about or should be on the lookout for as these plans start coming together?
There will be more focus on the go-to-market strategy evolving more toward an indirect model. That does not mean that overnight we will switch completely to an indirect model, but over time our plan is to shift more toward an indirect go-to-market model which essentially means channels and channel partners. We will be developing the right channel programs, looking at recruiting new channel partners and looking at enhancing the revenue opportunities of the existing channel partners. So there will be increased focus on the channel and the go-to-market aspect through channel partners.
You've been brought on to oversee the SMB side. How is Avaya changing its approach to small and midsize businesses?
First of all, the SMB has been identified as one of the three key initiatives or three lines of business within Avaya. We are making significant investments in R&D for products, solutions and services offerings. We're also making investments in sales and marketing, especially in developing the right attractive channel marketing programs as well as the services aspect of SMB. We are looking at engaging more and more of our channel partners to deploy the services offerings for SMBs.
What are the challenges solution providers face serving the SMB market and where is Avaya stepping in to ease those challenges?
Some of the challenges that the VARs and systems integrators face, especially in the SMB area, are that there is a lot of hype about IP and unified communications, etc. SMBs customers are looking for simple telephony solutions that meet their requirements.
Where Avaya is coming in, we're investing resources in training and educating our channel partners as to what the features, advantages and benefits of Avaya's unified communications offerings are for SMB partners.
There is a large base today, especially in the SMB arena, in North America and in western Europe of what we call legacy systems: key systems, TDM systems, digital telephony solutions. Avaya has a big potential advantage compared to our competitors. We have the No. 1 market share in those segments as we speak. We are better positioned than our competitors as we understand the requirements of these SMB customers. There are millions of them out there that currently have digital telephony systems and solutions. We will work with our channel partners converting and upgrading them at the right pace based on requirements whether it's a refresh of these digital systems and/or upgrades to IP telephony solutions.
You mentioned Avaya's competition. As Avaya targets the SMB space through the channel, who is Avaya coming up against most from a competitive standpoint?
In terms of the SMB marketplace, it's a fragmented market place looking at it globally. Clearly the strong leader, the new emerging leader is Cisco, and Nortel is a strong competitor of ours. On a global basis I would say Cisco and Nortel are our two competitors. On a regional basis it depends upon the region. For example in North America there are smaller players like ShoreTel, that are significantly smaller than Avaya, but in North America, particularly in the U.S., they are strong. In Europe we have Siemens, for example, and at the low end in Asia Pacific there are Toshiba and Panasonic. But globally speaking Cisco and Nortel are the two key competitors for us.