Avaya Names U.S. Channel Chief, Shakes Up Connect Partner Program

Avaya Wednesday made several shake-ups to its channel organization, including the appointment of former VMware executive Joe Lohmeier as its new U.S. channel chief. The unified communications vendor also revealed several tweaks to its Connect Channel Partner Program aimed at shifting Avaya's partner rewards structure from a volume- to a value-based model.

Avaya's new vice president of U.S. Channel Sales Joe Lohmeier replaces former U.S. channel lead Karl Soderlund, who left Avaya in March for Aruba Networks.

Lohmeier joins Avaya from VMware, where he most recently served as vice president of Americas Sales, according to an internal Avaya memo written by Vice President of Avaya's Worldwide Partner Organization Richard Steranka and shared with CRN.

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Prior to his two-year run at VMware, Lohmeier spent 12 years at Cisco, where he was most recently director of sales, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Lohmeier, who was not immediately available for comment, will report to Steranka.

Jamie Wood, executive vice president at Avatel, a Brandon, Fla.-based Avaya Silver partner, said she is glad to see Avaya name a replacement to Soderlund.

"We always like to see those leadership roles filled as quickly as possible," Wood told CRN. "It helps us align, as partners, with the strategic direction leadership wants to go."

Wood said she wasn't familiar with Lohmeier personally, but said his track record with VMware and Cisco seems to make him a solid choice.

"I'm sure it's been a good decision to choose [Lohmeier]," Wood said. "We are excited to start interacting with him more."

Lohmeier's appointment is one of several shake-ups made recently to Avaya's executive channel ranks. In September, Tom Mitchell, senior vice president of global sales at Avaya, revealed plans to resign. Avaya tapped Pierre-Paul Allard, senior vice president of global strategy and development, as Mitchell's replacement.

In July, Avaya Worldwide Channel Chief John Spiliotis left the company to head up Americas sales at network security specialist Palo Alto Networks. Steranka assumed his role.

Lohmeier joins Avaya as the Santa Clara,Calif.-based company prepares a major shift in the way it structures its Connect Channel Partner Program. Starting in October, Avaya will no longer segment partners as Silver, Gold or Platinum based solely on revenue as it has done in the past. Instead, partners will be ranked based on their earning of a new set of certifications called Solution Experts.

According to Steranka, this shift in how Avaya ranks and rewards its partners was based entirely on solution provider feedback. "They really wanted a way to differentiate themselves in the market," Steranka told CRN in a recent interview.

Wood, a member of the Avaya Business Partner Advisory Council, said she had been asking Avaya to transition to a value-based partner rewards structure "for years."

"The whole transformation -- going from a volume-based rewards program to one based more on value and skill set -- we find that to be critical," Wood said. "We think basing your level of achievement on your solution expertise and your customer service excellence, not just revenue dollars, really puts more meaning behind the whole Avaya Connect levels."

NEXT: A Closer Look At The New Avaya Connect Program

Out of the gate, Avaya is offering six Solution Experts designations: Unified Communications for Enterprise; Unified Communications for Midmarket; Contact Center for Enterprise; Contact Center for Midmarket; Networking; and Video.

To reach the Platinum level, partners will need to hold at least three Solution Experts designations, while Gold and Silver partners will need at least two and one, respectively.

Partners' ability to earn these new Solution Experts designations is based on three factors. First, they will need to have a certain number of employees holding Avaya's sales, design and implementation credentials. Steranka said Avaya has not decided how many credentials partners will need to hold.

Second, partners will still need to hit a certain revenue threshold to earn a Solution Experts designation. Specifically, partners will have to reach and maintain a set sales quota for whatever Avaya product is associated with that Solution Experts designation. To earn the Unified Communications in the Enterprise designation, for example, partners will need to hit a certain revenue goal for Aura, Avaya's enterprise-focused UC platform.

Steranka said these revenue requirements won't be as high or as tough to reach as they were under the former program. He said Avaya hasn't decided what the new revenue targets will be yet.

Lastly, partners will need to reach and maintain a set customer satisfaction score to quality for a Solutions Expert designation.

Partner discounts at the Platinum, Gold and Silver tiers will not change under the new program.

Wood, for her part, said she expects the revamped Avaya Connect program to accelerate Avatel's climb to Gold or Platinum status, now that revenue requirements aren't as heavily weighted. She noted that it also puts Avatel, which focuses primarily on the SMB and midmarket, on a more level playing field with larger, enterprise-focused Avaya partners.

"This is really going to allow us to reach for the top," Wood said.

Steranka said the program changes will go into effect this October, but partners will have until October 2015 to meet the new medal status requirements.