Avaya Unveils Global VAR Program To Simplify Training, Financial Incentives

According to Avaya, the hope is that Connect will simplify the training and financial incentives it can offer Avaya VARs and integrators and make its regional partner efforts less cumbersome.

In a nutshell, Avaya Connect will offer partners fewer and less expensive training programs, more financial incentives for driving business to Avaya and more discounts for higher-tiered partner levels. It also will offer partners a single, global price list for its products instead of the price lists by region it presently uses.

"We've pulled it all together into a single global framework," said Barat Dickman, director of global offer strategy at Avaya, in a Channelweb.com interview in advance of the announcement. "We have a global infrastructure and a system infrastructure and programs to address each. Those things will be easier and faster. And yet, the programs represent different needs of partners, so the programs will be customized to meet their own needs."

The changes to the program will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2010. Avaya was scheduled to discuss the program Wednesday morning as part of the 2010 Avaya Americas Partner Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

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Dickman confirmed the revamp wouldn't mean any changes in Avaya's channel leadership, and that Avaya Connect would be led by Jeremy Butt, Avaya's vice president of worldwide channels.

From a training perspective, Avaya is shifting from six levels of certification down to four and paring its nearly 70 certification tracks down to 15. Those tracks will be centered on the areas of unified communications, contact center and small- and midsize business solution life cycles.

According to Avaya, the move means VARs will spend half the time in overall training and certification courses than previously, and Avaya also will offer more courses virtually to cut down on time out of the office.

Under the new program, VARs also will be able to see rebates processed in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks, thanks to a move by Avaya from post-sales rebates to POS credits. Further, partners with higher classification levels -- Avaya offers Platinum, Gold, Silver and Authorized "- also will see additional discounts through distribution, but Dickman said Avaya hadn't yet confirmed those terms with its distributors.

According to Dickman, the simplified training and purchase options reflect VAR feedback that Avaya's previous channel programs were centered on individual products, not building solutions.

"The main piece of feedback was that conversations with customers are not product conversations, they're becoming solution conversations," Dickman said. "We have 100-some-odd courses, with a single course for a single Avaya product for a specific stage of that product's life cycle. But what partners said was, 'I'm not talking to [customers] about [Avaya product] Proactive Dialer, I'm talking to them about your contact center solution and how it fits in with their business processes.' Partner principals told us that they need us to move from more of a product-focused model."

Beyond its own program, one of the key channel issues for Avaya is how it will integrate the vast product portfolio, channel partners and channel resources of Nortel's enterprise division, for which Avaya was named the winning bidder in mid-September.

Avaya in September agreed to pay $900 million, plus $15 million in employee retention, for Nortel's Enterprise Solutions business. The deal currently is being examined by Canadian regulators.

Dickman said the process of mapping out how Nortel's channels and products would blend with Avaya's was still in its earliest stages.

A number of Nortel and Avaya sources confirmed to Channelweb.com that Nortel executives and select Nortel solution providers are in attendance in Nashville.

"It's not that I'm holding information back," Dickman said. "We're very much right now in the process of planning and discovering them, and working with their channel program management to understand very fully their program -- how it works, and how it compares to Avaya Connect. We're going to take a very collaborative approach to augmenting Avaya Connect to address the needs of all partner communities. Bear with us."