Avaya Worldwide Channel Chief To Exit

Jeremy Butt, Avaya's worldwide channel chief, will be leaving the company at the end of March, CRN has learned.

It was Butt, whose title is vice president, worldwide channels, who made the decision, according to Avaya. Reached by CRN Thursday, Avaya said that his position would not be replaced, and that all of his channel manager reports and worldwide channel chief responsibilities would instead go to Tom Mitchell, Avaya's senior vice president and president, Avaya Go to Market.

In a short interview with CRN, Mitchell, to whom Butt reported for the past two years, praised Butt's contribution to Avaya's channel growth, citing success in both the revamp of Avaya's partner program as Avaya Connect, and the gnarly channel integration stemming from Avaya's 2009 acquisition of Nortel's former enterprise business.

"He's been here over four years and has really done a great job of, as you look back, taking a company that was very direct oriented to one that's now 76 to 78 percent channel-driven," Mitchell said. "He navigated a fair amount of complexity to accomplish that. He had fairly disparate programs that he pulled into one, including success with the integration of Nortel and 5,000 partners there."

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Butt will exit Avaya at the end of March, Mitchell said, and plans to spend time with his family. All of the theater-based channel managers that reported to Butt will be reporting to Mitchell, along with several channel executive positions, such as channel strategy and channel development, that will be elevated to directly report to Mitchell as well.

"I can't think of another organization where those functions report directly to an executive committee member," Mitchell said. "That team is now effectively one hop to the CEO. The criticality of what we're doing [in the channel] is something we're very bullish about here."

[Related: 10 Key Events in the Avaya Channel This Year ]

Mitchell said there would be some reorganizational changes in the channel ranks, but declined to offer further details. He added, however, that no other channel executives were expected to depart Avaya, and that the decision to leave was Butt's.

"It was Jeremy's decision and I'm not going to speak for him on that, but it felt like a good time for him to make a change. It's been a good run," Mitchell said. "I've known Jeremy for a long time and we've been sort of finishing each other's sentences for two years now."

Mitchell said he had been so close to the inner workings of Avaya's worldwide channel apparatus for the past two years that another worldwide channel chief between him and Butt's reports didn't seem necessary. Asked if partners should now consider him the worldwide channel chief, Mitchell said that "it's not in my title but it's certainly my responsibility."

Butt has been an IT sales and IT channel executive for several decades. He came to Avaya in June 2008 following five years in channel chief roles at Motorola, and earlier in his career held VP-level sales roles for the European organizations of WatchGuard, Cisco and Hayes Microcomputer.

Next: Issues With Avaya's Channel Progress

Despite the solidification of the partner program and praise from partners that Avaya had put a lot of its former channel conflict behind it, top Avaya VARs still see the company's channel progress inhibited by uncertainty about its pending IPO, the complexity of the post-Nortel integration go-to-market model and channel partner profit margins that have been squeezed as Avaya attempts to stabilize its financial position.

But its channel chiefs have been adamant that Avaya is investing more in partners and in lucrative channel programs than ever. At its November 2011 Americas partner conference in Las Vegas, Butt and Mitchell told CRN that Avaya's focus for the new year would be urging partners to sell more of the Avaya portfolio as an architectural play and also migrating partners to a simplified, streamlined product pricing structure called the Avaya Pricing Model (APM) expected to hit the U.S. by the end of 2012.

"The customers have greater expectations and we've got the solutions to fulfill those expectations," said Butt in a November discussion with CRN on Avaya's full-portfolio focus. "Between us and the market trends, partners are naturally moving in that direction but many need help moving in that direction."

Avaya is also focused on recruiting net-new partners following its purge of about 1,000 underperforming VARs and integrators in the past year.

Avaya saw frequent executive turnover during Butt's tenure. Mitchell, a former Cisco channel chief, joined Avaya in an advisory role in 2010 and took over the worldwide go-to-market strategy a year later. Earlier in 2011, Avaya's former U.S. channel chief exited, and the company has also had its share of VP-and-higher level departures and additions throughout that timeline.

Mitchell emphasized that Butt's exit would not portend another massive reorganization of Avaya's channel team.

"This is not some kind of purge or a precursor of substantial change," Mitchell said Thursday.