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Some see Avaya's channel promises still unfulfilled.
"Confidence in Avaya from the channel is low right now," said the chief executive of an Avaya Platinum partner, who asked that his name not be used. "The economy, coupled with Avaya's sloth-like bureaucracy, spells trouble for what we see is an already troubled brand."
Avaya is challenging to work with, the partner said, highlighting such things as the need to have special pricing approved by many levels and shrinking margins, even at the Platinum level, on services opportunities.
The partner said too many executive changes and too much effort spent on integrating the Nortel assets -- along with the other, smaller acquisitions Avaya's made along the way -- have kept Avaya from getting its channel house in order.
The partner said he did not believe Avaya's Mitchell and Soderlund had the buy-in from the company's top executives to make channel a true priority for Avaya's growth, especially with the company so focused on returning to profitability.
"They're well-intentioned, but they don't strike me as empowered," said the partner of Mitchell and Soderlund. "Things still take the same escalations and the same complaints to get accomplished, however, and the difference is that in many cases, there is less margin available to Avaya partners because the company wants to take so much of the services and incremental value for itself."
Other partners, however, see a much-changed, much-improved Avaya. Steve Melchiorre and Kevin Rubin, managing partners of Converged Communication Systems, a solution provider based in Evanston, Ill., said the past year in particular has brought a renewed focus to their Avaya business.
Converged's Avaya revenue has grown 20 to 30 percent most years over the past decade, and the partners expect the same this year.
"The Nortel acquisition put Avaya behind on innovation and growth for a while, and I think they've finally come out of that," Melchiorre said. "They can re-focus and spend less time on migrating Nortel partners to become Avaya partners."
Converged's Avaya relationship was challenged during 2011 when, according to Melchiorre and Rubin, Converged wasn't seeing the attention and resources it had come to expect from the Avaya team. Converged sought to partner with ShoreTel to diversify its base, but a return push from Avaya -- coupled with a lack of follow-through by ShoreTel -- convinced Melchiorre and Rubin to mend fences.
"A lot of the things that we used to get from Avaya in 2008 and 2010 had fallen off in 2011 -- there wasn't money or resources to go around as they were still spending a lot of time on the Nortel acquisition," Melchiorre said. "But the MDF and other support have already started to come back strong. We had a very successful interactive client marketing event August 2012, and Avaya provided outstanding support, and we're planning future lunch-and-learns and other continued joint marketing events."