Avaya Channel Strategy Tilts Toward Full Portfolio Partners

Avaya is shifting away from point product sales and toward the broader, partner-led sale of its full technology portfolio, including a stepped-up focus on contact center, unified communications and data networking by its roughly 1,800 U.S.-based solution providers.

"Everyone has to make the journey to solutions, and we will set the business in that direction," said Tom Mitchell, Avaya senior vice president and president, Go-To-Market. "We have existing customers who aren't selling wide enough. You could have a contact center specialist who's not adding the discussion around video and UC or other areas."

Avaya will continue to support partners focused on particular pieces of the portfolio, be they in any of the buckets. But from Avaya President CEO Kevin Kennedy on down, the push at Avaya's U.S./Government Sales Leadership Partner Conference this week is to encourage broader and deeper sales of the full Avaya stack, be those sales from adjacent technologies or services attachment.

Mitchell gave the example of a telephony-focused partner averaging $200,000 deals, but adding $180,000 per deal based on that partner's expansion into data networking, contact center and services sales on top of his core competency. That's not uncommon given Avaya's breadth, he said.

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"It's not like you have to build an entire new business to go there," Mitchell said. "It's very accretive because you already have assets there."

"The customers have greater expectations, and we've got the solutions to fulfill those expectations," added Jeremy Butt, vice president of global channels at Avaya. "Between us and the market trends, partners are naturally moving in that direction but many need help moving in that direction."

Tim McDermott, president of MAC Source Communications, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based solution provider, said he fully backs the strategy.

"We're going to do it because we believe in it, not just because Avaya wants us to do it," he said. "I think for me, the entire scope of the portfolio, being able to go deep and wide with our enterprise customers with an Avaya solution is huge. The rate of introduction of new products has been staggering to say the least, and the products caught up with the hype this year."

John Babcock, president of Relational Technology Solutions, a Columbus, Ohio-based solution provider, said Avaya's strategy would help partners understand what it wants its channel to look like.

"It's been great that there's been this shift toward the channel, but my sense is there are going to be some more changes," he said. "I want them to help me understand how we're going to compete and who we're going to collectively compete against in the market."

Avaya's focus will be architectural, according to executives, with collaboration endpoints, SIP-based infrastructure and the data networking portfolio it acquired through Nortel as an infrastructural underpinning.

"The partner of the future, for us, has to sell the full portfolio," said Steve Bandrowczak, vice president and general manager, Data Solutions, at Avaya. "We've been very clear about that. The ones that will grow with us and that will make the most are the ones that sell the full portfolio."

NEXT: Avaya VARs Applaud Strategy

Many Avaya solution providers see Avaya's full portfolio push as a strategic advantage.

"You talk about selling across the portfolio, there are so many tangential applications and solutions when you're talking about UC, integration into contact center, and a good data story," said Dan Whalen, vice president of engineering at Carousel Industries, an Exeter, RI-based solution provider and Avaya Platinum partner. "I agree with the messaging from Avaya."'

Strategic Products & Services (SPS), a Parsippany, N.J.-based solution provider and Avaya Platinum partner, has been offering Avaya's full portfolio for years.

Avaya has gotten serious about aligning its services and potential cloud-based opportunities with the technologies it wants its partners to sell, said Jim Maynard, vice president of sales for SPS.

"They want to be in a position to support people who want to deliver cloud-based services," Maynard said. "We want to support those and we want them to do it with our infrastructure and our tools."

During the conference, Avaya executives frequently cited the need to move away from point product sales and toward line-of-business solutions-based selling. Avaya VARs and distributors concurred that designing customer solutions is more about business use cases and architecture versus technology reselling.

"We keep talking in terms we're familiar with," said Lynn Murphy, senior vice president of U.S. and Canada for distributor Westcon Group. "Hearing Avaya boil it down into business solutions with technology behind it, I think we have to do the same thing."

"Part of our approach to solutions selling is that to be successful in this market, you have to defeat the technical jargon we have in our industry," said Ken Gent, president at Sunrise Solutions, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and Avaya SME-focused partner. "It's building something based on their needs."

NEXT: Avaya's Tech, Data, Services Strategies Take Hold

Mobility, security and software will all figure prominently in Avaya's 2012 product roadmap as the company looks to shore up its UC and contact center dominance, and further the story around Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-based technologies.

Specifically, Avaya will broaden its portfolio around video collaboration, mobile collaboration, an enhanced customer experience in the contact center and network simplification, according to Alan Baratz, senior vice president of global communications solutions at Avaya.

That means new mobility and video endpoints, Baratz asaid, as well as enhancements such as multi-party video access and continuous presence across all Avaya endpoints.

There will also be added capabilities for Avaya Flare, the collaboration platform Avaya launched a year ago. Flare Communicator for Apple's iPad is making its way through Apple's approval process for inclusion in the App Store, Baratz, and will be available as a free download in its beta version -- an announcement that brought applause from the Avaya partner crowd on Tuesday.

To Avaya Aura Conferencing, Baratz said, Avaya is adding integrated audio, video and web collaboration, short voice and video messaging capabilities, continuous presence with customizable windows, and more efficient bandwidth management. There will also be new bundles around Avaya contact center solutions focused on midmarket, as well as a version of the Flare interface for PCs, expected in 2012.

Avaya's data networking portfolio, seen as questionable when Avaya acquired it through Nortel's enterprise group in 2009, has also been a success story for Avaya. According to Avaya's Bandrowczak, Avaya partners traditionally focused on voice that have moved to data over the last three quarters have collectively grown business almost 60 percent, with three times the wallet share of their existing customers.

"This is allows you to be in the ecosystem of selling into everything," he said. "It's how do I sell into business process. It's 'Oh, you run Oracle, here's how I collaborate on top' or 'Oh, you virtualize with Oracle, here's how I enter that.' There's a whole stream of conversations that they've never had before."

According to Bandrowczak, if a partner had attached data networking to every unified communications opportunity sold in Avaya's fiscal 2011, it would have created a funnel of more than $1 billion in potential revenue. Avaya is also seeing gradual interest in its Virtual Enterprise Network Architecture, or VENA, the data networking architecture Bandrowczak says offers better benefits that competing data center fabrics.

"Our vision goes all the way to the branch," he said of VENA. "And we have product right now."

Along with greater adoption of data products, services attachment will also be a major priority for Avaya VARs, said Mohamad Ali, senior vice president and president, Avaya Global Services. Avaya is providing several models for services, with varying rebates and partner rewards such as 17.5 percent for Platinum partners, as well as partner data to educate solution providers on how much money they're leaving on the table without a focus on services attachment.

"At the end of the day, that helps them, and it helps us," Ali said. "We might as well get this all right to begin with. Everybody in our ecosystem needs to be healthy."