Upon hearing recently that networking company Avaya Communication is becoming a private company, the thought did occur that perhaps there would finally be an infusion of aggressive competitiveness in what has become a dull, dull company.
Public ownership, among other things, can do that to an organization. Big old companies operate too cautiously, move too slowly towards change, and all too readily accept a decline in status without putting up much of a fight. It’s why, in my opinion, the network communications equipment industry in general has become a wasteland outside of Cisco Systems. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Cisco keeps fighting and has parlayed disaster in the networking equipment business at the turn of the century into \unparalleled dominance. Seems most of the competition – if you want to call them that – weren’t nearly as determined. Most continue to stumble and fumble (think Nortel, 3Com and Enterasys) or they are content to lay low and scurry for the few scraps of business that Cisco doesn’t own or care about. It’s a lousy situation for buyers. Goodness knows enterprise customers could use a viable second choice, at the very least to believably suggest to Cisco that they can do business elsewhere.
Will that choice be Avaya – at least in the VoIP/unified communications space? I was excited to hear that Avaya was now in private hands. It suggested to me that the company has an opportunity to be dynamic – to operate in a much more nimble and energetic way. Avaya, like most other network equipment makers, seems almost invisible. Perhaps without the constraint of shareholders, Avaya can move more quickly and make a lot more noise. Its first challenge should be to aggressively and loudly promote its brand, its technology and redefine its value proposition.
I recently spoke with Canada country manager Mario Belanger, to ask whether such an approach is immenent as a result of new private ownership. I was somewhat disappointed to hear that there’s no announced new market strategy, at least not yet. Belanger admits the company is pretty much the same today as it was prior to the private acquisition. That’s fair.Change does take time, so let’s give Avaya a chance to turn the ship and set a course.
The hope is that Avaya takes on a determination to become an assertive and viable market alternative. The space between the top network equipment maker in Canada and number two is wide and getting wider. Avaya has an opportunity to make a significant move up. But like any good number two player, they need to try harder.

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