Avaya's Channel Chief Talks New Partner Program And Need To Shed Thousands Of Dormant Partners

Avaya's Channel Leader Bullish About 2017

Avaya is looking to "start fresh" with the launch of a new partner program, Avaya Edge, focusing on greater incentives and better channel enablement as it sheds thousands of dormant partners.

Since the Santa Clara, Calif.-based unified communication specialist hired Steve Biondi as its channel leader one year ago, Avaya's channel recourses have shifted dramatically to reward solution providers who bet more of their business on Avaya. In doing so, Avaya needed to take a hard look at its 10,000 channel partners and lose some dead weight.

Biondi gives CRN an in-depth look at the new Avaya Edge partner program, shedding 30 percent of "dormant" partners and how Avaya has transitioned from a hardware to a software company.

What's a significant difference in the new Avaya Edge program that partners should be pumped about?

Whether you were a reseller or a service provider, you were all kind of treated the same before. But in this new model we have tracks that say, 'If you're a reseller, here's what we expect and here's your sales motion and here's how to make money' – the same thing if you’re a service provider. And we even have different tracks now for enterprise-specific partners and mid-market specific partners.

What did you want to change with Avaya when you first looked at its channel?

When I first got here, we had about north of 10,000 partners in our program, yet there was a significant number of folks who were dormant. We could see them crawling around the portal, but they weren't selling anything.

We had a lot of partners in the program who were just looking around for data, but not necessarily selling anything.

How many partners did Avaya have who weren't really selling Avaya?

The number that was dormant was in the 30 percent range.

The dormant partners really hadn’t generated revenue for us in a long, long time. That's not to say they can't come back in and join. But we wanted to make it clear that we're going to start fresh and the starting point is going to be the willingness and desire to go to market with us in a positive way.

So how will the new Avaya Edge program better enable and help the Avaya-focused partners now?

Probably the top 20 percent [of partners] generate the majority of our revenues globally. So we have lots of good partners in the middle there who are doing the $50,000 to $100,000 transactions -- we love those guys and want to keep those guys healthy and happy. For the bigger guys, we want to make sure this program it's lucrative and supportive as well.

If I have 30 percent less partners in my program and roughly the same budget, we could assert that there's a good double-digit opportunity for greater benefit … Your ability to make extra money and more money and yet have a clear line of site to those earnings is far, far greater.

Does this new program align with Avaya's strategy towards becoming a software company?

The company here has been going through this transformation to a software and services company for some time and this past year it was evident that we needed to make some structural changes to the program to allow for people to really take better advantage of it. It was awfully complex. God bless the partners who've been working with us, we hadn't made it easy for them.

We're really preparing people here to selling software devices versus the physical devices they had in the past.

How is Avaya's transitioning from a hardware to a software company?

We are a software company that happens to also sell hardware and we continue to innovate in the hardware space. We've driven our company to report that 74 percent of our revenue globally for fiscal year 2016 were software and services.

We are the only vendor in this communications space that any of our solutions that you can buy as a physical device you could also buy as a software device. Anything in our portfolio can be purchased in a software device.

What is differentiating Avaya in the market?

We have the best fabric network solution [Avaya Fabric Connect] in the industry – no one can touch our stuff.

I've spent the past two weeks going through deep, deep discussions with our global alliance partners -- people like Google, Amazon, Oracle as well as our service provider fleet and some we're going to be doing in the global SI's space -- because there so much interest around setting up services practices around our Breeze [UC platform] development, around really leveraging the software portfolio.

We announced Breeze in March and there's 800 installations already. It's a great opportunity.

How important is this new partner program to Avaya?

The strength of a channel program is the degree to which it enables the success of its partners, recognizes and applauds their capabilities. This means the program needs the flexibility within a supportive structure that reduces requirements to only those that are most essential. I believe the new program accomplishes this and enables our partners to capture share through the transition of the market.

Why should Avaya partners be pumped about 2017?

Now is absolutely the best time to be a partner with Avaya. The opportunities are immense. The pull in the market is fantastic. We've demonstrated a strong, healthy, vibrant company despite what you might read and interpreted from some of the things you hear in the industry. It's going to be a great 2017 for us.