Avaya To Partners: We Need You, Mostly


Charlie Ill, Avaya's vice president of global sales, told solution providers attending the Convergence Connection 2007 conference in Hilton Head, S.C., that the company had not made good on its promises, but that he was hoping it would do better as he outlined the company's strategy for working with partners going forward. The conference was put on by distributor ScanSource's Catalyst Telecom division.

"I made a commitment about getting our global account teams to work with you in partnership to build out account plans, to include you in the account planning process I stand before you embarrassed that we have not made the progress I had expected," said Ill. "For us to be successful we have to increase our presence in front of customers who are making decisions, and the only way we can do that is through partners."

In one example, he spoke of a Canadian solution provider that had been notified by Avaya reps that they would be handling a deal directly. Ill said this would not happen in the future.

"I'll either reshape their heads or I'll reshape their careers," he said. "I commit to you that I will get this done. I'm embarrassed that we have not had any success to date, but I promise you I will get this done."

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However, Avaya's direct sales team was not stepping aside, Ill said.

"We have to prioritize the customer above everything," he said. "There will be instances where it will be better for us to take the business direct. When that happens, I want you to support that There will be other instances where the business should go through you."

Partners will be compensated for passing on leads, Ill said. "I will make sure you're taken care of as long as we are prioritizing the customer first and the team first I do not differentiate my partner community from our direct community," he added.

That was good news -- if Avaya follows through -- for Tommy James, division manager at Hasty's Communications East, an Avaya solution provider in Brunswick, Ga. His company has lost business to Avaya when dealing with larger customers in the SMB space.

"Too many times, especially in our little town, we've had to compete with Avaya, and it shouldn't be that way," he said.

In moving forward with the channel, Avaya plans to take a solutions-based approach and move to open standards like many others in the IT marketplace.

"In the past our technologies, our hardware and software have been sold so tightly interlocked you couldn't separate one from the other. It was not open standard, it was an Avaya-only solution," said Ill. "Ultimately we're going to move to an industry-standards environment. That's a transformation in the industry that will give us a unique competitive edge over everyone else in the industry."

Other aspects of Avaya's strategy included expanding its IP telephony and contact center offerings, building interoperability with business applications like SAP's ERP software, developing solutions for vertical markets and leveraging services to drive sales.

"Services gets the importance of partnership, and you will see a transformation inside of our business in the service organization that is aimed at being more effective and more friendly in a partnership environment," Ill said. "There will be offerings that will be offered to support yours in the marketplace. We will package that so you can use those inside of your implementation, and we will declare the areas where we don't think we belong, that are rich areas for our partners to provide services in their organization."