Avaya’s new mantra: From collaboration to engagement

  • Collaboration is an activity, engagement is an outcome
  • Key this transition is its new Engagement Development Platform
Avaya’s new mantra: From collaboration to engagement
ENTERPRISE communications specialist Avaya Inc is moving away from being a product-centric company to one that is able to serve the broader business communication ecosystem with greater agility, according to its top marketing executive.
 
Speaking at the recently concluded Avaya Technology Forum (ATF) in Bangkok (pic above), Avaya chief marketing officer Andrea ‘Andy’ Cunningham declared that the new organising principle for the company is to move away from just being collaborative to one that is fully ‘engaged.’
 
“The world has come to expect mobility, social, cloud, virtual, video, chat, analytics, flexibility and ease of use,” she said in her keynote address.
 
“We expect the world ‘at a click’ today – yet today’s aging telecommunication infrastructure is no longer able to deliver the promise new technologies have to offer. … Avaya wants to take advantage of this and engage.”
 
Beginning life as the enterprise communication group within Lucent Technologies Inc in 1995, Avaya spun off to become a fully independent company and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Oct 2, 2000.
 
Its rationale for the breakaway was to give personnel who knew the enterprise business communications best, the flexibility and focus to accelerate innovation and improve operations.
 
The Santa Clara, California-based was taken private in 2007 when it was acquired by Silver Lake and TPG Capital.
 
Avaya made a name for itself by becoming one of the leading players in the contact centre enterprise telephony solution space.
 
In its latest Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony (registration required), research firm Gartner said that Avaya is the second-largest corporate telephony vendor worldwide, with 12.1% market share in 2013.
 
Gartner said that while Avaya’s overall revenue has been declining, sales in corporate telephony and contact centres remain strong.
 
Cisco Systems Inc remains the dominant player in this segment, with about 14.5% global market share in 2013, according to Gartner.
 
In 2009, Avaya broadened its portfolio and branched into networking products when it won a US$900-million bid for Canada’s Nortel Networks’ enterprise voice and data business units.
 
Avaya’s new mantra: From collaboration to engagementMeanwhile, Cunningham (pic) told about 800 customers, partners and media members at ATF that collaboration is no longer enough in the new world.

“We’re moving from a world of collaboration, which is an activity, to a new world of engagement, which is an outcome.

“Engagement is a positive value-creating relationship that comes from an environment that is active, reliable, pervasive, contextual, and most importantly, borne out of experiential communication between people,” she said.
 
Cunningham said engagement drives everything and is something beyond feeling good, or an event – but instead increases productivity, loyalty, revenue, and more importantly, profitability.
 
This is true for both internal teams within enterprises as well as customers who interact with the contact centre, she said.
 
Citing research undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Cunningham argued that when teams become more engaged, they generate higher productivity, drive financial growth, increase innovation, and people get retained – all of which boosts business outcomes.
 
Meanwhile, customers who are more engaged provide more feedback on products, increase referrals (resulting in more sales), and repeat their purchases. The companies they buy from get to retain their loyalty.
 
“In short, good team engagement improves business performance,” she declared. “And good customer engagement means greater lifetime value of the customer.”
 
Cunningham said that in line with these trends, Avaya has begun to organise itself into a company that will deliver an “engaging environment” using mobility as a central tool.
 
“We will move away from point products towards a more solutions-based approach, specifically in a ‘mobile engagement environment’ that solves specific challenges for customers.
 
“We’re packing our solution in our portfolios to deliver everything we offer in a mobile context on the one hand, using the cloud as a platform,” she said.

Flexible platform
 
Gary Barnett, senior vice president and general manager of engagement solutions for Avaya, said central to the company’s transition is a new platform it calls the Engagement Development Platform (EDP).
 
Avaya’s EDP has been designed to enable customers and partners to develop custom workflows and business apps, on top of the platform, to do whatever they need to do.

Customers would be able to integrate their existing or new applications with Avaya’s unified communications technology and contact centre capabilities including voice, video, text, and email.

The company claims that this application development platform makes it easy to use and requires no detailed or specialised knowledge of communications or protocols.
 
Avaya’s new mantra: From collaboration to engagementIn an interview with Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of ATF, Barnett (pic) said interactive voice response (IVR) systems and automatic call diallers (ACDs) – which have been the staple offering in enterprise telephony – are a thing of the past.
 
They are very rigid and cannot respond to the needs of today’s business world. IVR and ACDs are brokers – something that sit between people, media or devices and the customer or other employees – within the enterprise, Barnett said.
 
“EDP has the capabilities to do all of that and more, as it is an application development platform that our customers and partners can add to,” he claimed.
 
Barnett said that using what Avaya calls ‘Snap Ins,’ customers and partners can add their own capabilities and applications to the EDP platform and customise them to their liking.
 
“It’s about taking people, media, devices, business events, or any other use cases or outcome that you want implemented,” he explained.
 
“It is far more flexible and comprehensive that than the hardcoded apps that the industry has been putting forward for team and customer engagement in the last three decades,” he added.
 
Still in transition
 
As Avaya undergoes its transition to a software-driven company and moves away from point products to become an 'engaged' company, Forrester Research believes that it will be more ready to take on the larger, bigger players.
 
In a brief research note (subscription required) following Avaya’s partner and analyst event in Orlando, Florida in January, Forrester said that after a number of years working to rationalise and work through the acquisition of Nortel, Avaya is getting its footing so that it can compete with Cisco, Microsoft, and other unified communications, contact centre, and networking vendors.
 
Forrester said that while it’s not clear sailing at this point yet, as Avaya has just begun to execute on a cloud strategy and still needs to migrate the legacy Nortel base.
 
“But if it can pull off integrating networking into its engage strategy, Avaya will have a stronger market share that will pull it away from the networking pack of Alcatel-Lucent, Extreme Networks, Huawei, and Juniper Networks and toward Cisco and Hewlett-Packard,” said the research note authors Andre Kindness and Art Schoeller.
 
The two analysts also said that Avaya’s converging of unified communications and networking is a work in progress, and recommends that customers shouldn’t expect to see all the benefits that Avaya is touting too soon.
 
They advised customers to perform due diligence on Avaya cloud offerings, inspect what the enterprise expects from any new implementation, and press Avaya for a detailed roadmap of its contact centre solutions.
 
Edwin Yapp reports from the Avaya Technology Forum in Bangkok, Thailand at the kind invitation of Avaya Inc. All editorials are independent.
 
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