Avaya vows to still work with IT, network managers

Avaya Canada, like its parent, has for years been largely selling its IP telephony products direct, meaning its staff had a close relationship with customers.

But the division’s new head says IT and network manages shouldn’t worry because the company is shifting sales to its service provider and integrator partners.

“We want to be able to engage with the IT management team and the line of businesses within the enterprise customers we’re dealing with,” said Gerard Baglieri, vice-president and general manager of Canada, “and we want to bring a partner along to make sure we round out the services and the capabilities we have to bring to them.”

That was one of the main messages Baglieri and other Avaya senior staff delivered to Canadian industry reporters and analysts at a briefing Thursday.

One message is that the company is trying to bring the technology in its enterprise unified communications and call centre products to solutions for small and medium-sized organizations.

Another is that privately-held Avaya, which was bought just over a year ago by two U.S. venture capital companies, is in good financial shape. Without saying so, they were comparing Avaya to competitors – such as Nortel Networks and Cisco Systems – which have to issue regular quarterly financial results, some of whom are seeing plunging revenue and announcing layoffs.

Privately-held companies, of course, have an advantage over public firms – they can keep behind closed doors their dirty laundry.

Part of the message delivered Thursday is that – so far – Avaya doesn’t have any. After 12 months of restructuring, “we feel we’re extremely well positioned to navigate through this [environment] and be the number one player in this business,” said Todd Abbott, the company’s senior-vice-president of sales and president of field operations.

The recession will force consolidation among competitors faster than expected, he said, but Avaya is “very profitable and stable,” although he didn’t provide financial figures. “Our ability to navigate through tough times and work with customers, frankly, has never been stronger,” he said.

Baglieri, in an interview with Network World Canada, said that the financial uncertainty isn’t affecting Canadian sales. “We’ve picking up the pace here, because we recognize there’s a void in the marketplace with some of our competitors not stepping up to the plate … The pace of our business is on track for this quarter.”

Forrester Research analyst Brownlee Thomas, who advises customers on telecom purchasing strategy, said later that in a private briefing the executives were more forthcoming with revenue figures.

Last fall vencaps Silver Lake Partners and TGP Capital paid US$8.2 billion for Avaya, based in Basking Ridge, N.J. One of the main goals was to give the telecommunications manufacturer time to slash its 27 product groups down to a smaller number and focus on two areas: unified communications and contact centre systems.

To some degree it has succeeded. In August, Gartner said Avaya held the world market leadership in combined IP telephony and time division multiplexing (TDM) enterprise line shipments.

On the other hand, it noted “disappointing” IP shipment growth in North America in the first quarter of this year, which resulted in layoffs and senior management changes. Avaya has also been slow to articulate its vision for software-based telephony and service-oriented architecture that spans existing and future platforms, the report added.

Among the management changes was the appointment of Baglieri, who last month left his job as the Singapore-based director of Motorola’s south Asia mobility business. Although there were several positions open within Avaya, Canada offered “the fundamental change I was used to providing,” he said.

The company is trying to shift to having partners – including Bell Canada and Telus – sell the majority of its products. Globally, about 55 per cent of sales come from Avaya’s sales team, a figure the company wants to raise to 85 per cent.

Thursday’s briefing also briefly touched on products expected in 2009. An upcoming version of Avaya IQ, its next-generation call centre reporting platform, will include high availability, increased capacity and integration of voice portal reporting.

As previously reported, the technology Avaya gained when it bought SIP application server maker Ubiquity Software Corp. in 2007 will come to market in the first half of next year, said Tracy Fleming, an Avaya Canada senior consulting systems engineer.

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