“Barcelona is fun and dynamic, with great history – sounds a bit like Avaya.” Or so said Jan Lawford, Avaya’s senior director of EMEA channels, at the start of the vendor’s annual regional partner conference, which took place in the Catalan capital earlier this month.
Vendor get-togethers are usually typified by this kind of self-aggrandisement, and it is easy to take it all with a pinch of salt. But, on this occasion, Lawford’s words perhaps hint at a deeper truth.
Like all great cities, Barcelona is that literary staple – a city of contradictions. In equal measures ancient and modern, devout and cosmopolitan, flamboyant and industrial. And, increasingly, Avaya has become a company of contradictions.
Like its rivals, it is apt to turn the hubris up to 11 and, in Barcelona, it took the time to remind partners and the press of its many and varied achievements.
But the New Jersey-based firm seems incapable of going five minutes without castigating itself over its chequered channel history and the ludicrously over-complicated way in which it used to conduct its business.
Avaya’s contrition began in earnest two years ago, when it began to make a big show of its new-found desire to embrace the channel.
And it has certainly made notable progress. Two years ago, indirect revenues accounted for little more than half of the company’s total sales. Today, the figure stands at 77 per cent globally, and 82 per cent in EMEA. The introduction of Avaya’s first standardised global channel framework earlier this year has also helped massively reduce the number of hoops through which partners are expected to jump.
Avaya’s worldwide vice president of channels, Jeremy Butt, said: “[In the past two years] we have managed to align our channel strategy with the corporate go-to-market strategy.”
The channel chief went on to detail how far Avaya has come in making itself easier to do business with. The vendor’s channel programme has reduced training tracks from 113 to just 13, while the hours that partners need to commit to training has been reduced 64 per cent.
Butt stressed that vendors need to work constantly to ensure partners remain committed. “There is an old expression in the channel: if you want loyalty, buy yourself a dog.”
But for Avaya it cuts both ways, and Butt was in bullish mood in Barcelona. He outlined how the vendor is determined to ensure all partners are judged by exactly the same standards. “We have fewer partners now than we did on 1 February [when the partner programme launched],” explained Butt. “I think that is a good thing. We have levelled the partner community.”
He added that, in one territory, the number of partners holding a unified communications accreditation had reduced from 600 to 200 overnight, as thresholds were stringently enforced.
Avaya’s EMEA vice president, Michael Bayer, told attendees the vendor would be looking to become more focused and specialised. The Nortel acquisition has provided new areas in which to develop lucrative expertise, he added. “We have rebalanced in favour of video and collaboration. We have great opportunities to specialise and segment.”
Collaborate with Flare
The vendor’s own recently launched Flare technology will also be instrumental to its plans to ascend into more rarefied territory.
“It is going to transform Avaya from a voice company to a real-time collaboration company,” said Bayer.
Steve Walker, managing director of Platinum Partner IP Integration, claimed the vendor has made significant progress in the past two years.
“Four or five years ago, if you weren’t one of the chosen few, you had to be doing an awful lot of dollars’ [worth of business], or you had to know somebody,” he said.
“Now, we have [relationships] with virtually all the senior people. They seem to be taking their role seriously and I feel it is definitely a different company.”
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