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Saturday, November 01, 2008

The "New Avaya" – Innovating Desktop Telephony For UC

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

Avaya’s announcement this week of a new President and CEO, a Cisco and AT&T Bell Labs veteran, Kevin Kennedy, capped the theme of this year’s Avaya Global Analyst conference – refocusing business telephony applications under the umbrella of unified communications (UC)!

The analyst meeting was noteworthy, not just because the company has been privatized for about a year now and has been reorganizing itself product-wise and internally, but, as a leading provider of traditional enterprise telephony systems, Avaya is also in the process of reshaping itself as a key “UC ” technology provider. This means moving its traditional desktop voice telephony products and services into the emerging multimodal world of enterprise UC to support both Gen Y/Millennial employees and customers.

There were a number of newly hired executives in attendance, some so new that they didn’t even have their Avaya business cards yet, but are recognized industry experts who can help reshape the “New Avaya.”

Keeping Desktop Telephony Links With UC

While Avaya has joined the rest of the telecommunications industry in moving towards new and open software-based SIP telephony and multimodal UC, they have also updated their vested interest in premise-based desktop voice communications equipment with “touch-screen” IP phones that provide a richer user interface for applications and interoperate with desktop PC “softphones” and a variety of personalized end user mobile devices. They also have packaged up a convenient hardware/software UC solution for the large, untapped SMB market, to replace simplistic legacy key systems.

The “New Avaya” is still transitioning from traditional desktop person-to-person telephony by consolidating it’s product focus on “business user“ functions, i.e., “UC” (unified communications for internal users) and “CC” (contact center functions for customers) and restructuring its organization and market approaches accordingly as described by UC Strategies analyst, Blair Pleasant and a slew of other industry pundits. But Avaya is also moving beyond voice conversations into the realm of transmodal integration with business process applications.

Avaya To Provide Communications-oriented Business Software Solutions

Rather than offer just voice-based “horizontal” communication functions, Avaya is moving up the UC technology food chain to address the communication needs of “vertical” market business processes. That requires integrating their real-time voice communications capabilities with both online business applications and text-based person-to-person communications. While this means integrating IP telephony with the email, IM, and business application software domains of Microsoft and IBM and consumer services, it also means protecting its large legacy TDM telephony customer base, which will slowly but surely be forced to migrate to IP Telephony, UM, and UC.

That concern may be what has prompted Avaya to place its UC focus on business end user needs for communications, particularly where real-time, person-to-person contacts are involved. Now that UC has opened the door for such contacts to be more “contextual,” personalized, and integrated within online business applications, Avaya is moving its telephony and messaging offerings to fit the particular needs of different kinds of users in different vertical markets. With new desktop and mobile devices becoming more flexible, screen-based and speech enabled, the path to customized multimedia user interfaces for UC is now open.

While there are lots of online software application offerings in the vertical markets today, Avaya believes its long-time expertise with real-time voice communications, a key component of UC, will give it a competitive advantage as a strategic partner for enterprise UC migrations. Avaya’s traditional telephony product reliability may also help preserve its future software role in UC against the likes of Microsoft, which is already aiming to displace enterprise hardware PBX functions with its new OCS R2 software server.

A Few Things I Didn’t Hear Enough About

The Avaya Global Analyst meeting was crammed full of information as their new executive team tried to lay out all the changes that would be taking place in their product lines. Jorge Blanco, Vice president, Product Management, Unified Communications, almost lost his voice in racing through a long overview of Avaya’s new hardware and software product roadmaps, all converging on UC and CC needs of different sized organizations.

CEBP - While Avaya’s earlier move into “communications enabled business processes” (CEBP) was never viewed as a “UC application,” it’s role in initiating contacts with people was definitely viewed as a driver for UC, particularly for mobile users. However, there was little mention of CEBP at the Avaya meeting, either in the context of UC, nor as an important element of “CC,” where I see it playing a strong role in “proactive” customer care applications for mobile users. Maybe when the reorganization settles down, and the new managers that Avaya has brought on board have had a chance to develop their plans, we will see some missing pieces in marketing strategies.

Hosted Services – While Avaya did talk about their new emphasis on “Operations Services,” (formerly called “Managed Services”) and “Co-Delivery” of customized solutions for vertical markets, their presentations emphasized premise-based hardware and software for business organizations. However, given the growing shift in business applications to SaaS, on-demand “cloud-based computing,” and most recently, Microsoft’s announcement of their Windows Azure, etc., I heard very little about Avaya’s plans to exploit their new business UC applications as hosted services, particularly for the SMB market. This could be done directly, through application partners, through service providers or sales channels, as some competitors have been announcing.

However, Avaya did indicate that it would be offering voice–to-text messaging services to enterprise customers as a proprietary service provided by SpinVox. Furthermore, Avaya’s new president and CEO, Kevin Kennedy, comes on board from his role at Cisco as Senior Vice President of the Service Provider Line of Business and Software Technologies Division. That certainly could be helpful to the “New Avaya!”

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.