Avaya calls on channel to fall in line

Avaya recently held its annual Business Partner Event in Dubai, the main focus of which was to make sure its partners fully comprehend the vendor's forthcoming focus on solutions. Channel Middle East caught up with Avaya's MEA managing director, Nidal Abou-Ltaif, to find out the implications of this new direction.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  March 1, 2008

Avaya recently held its annual Business Partner Event in Dubai, the main focus of which was to make sure its partners fully comprehend the vendor's forthcoming focus on solutions. Channel Middle East caught up with Avaya's MEA managing director, Nidal Abou-Ltaif, to find out the implications of this new direction.

A lot of IT vendors operating in the Middle East market still remain very UAE-focused. What is Avaya doing to avoid falling into that trap?

The UAE will always appeal as one of the top three markets in the region and it will continue to be our regional head office. To avoid falling into that trap we have a dedicated team for the UAE.

The priority of the rest of the team that live in the UAE is to support other countries and people on the ground in Saudi, Qatar and other countries. It is easy to focus your energy on the UAE though because you are there.

Are Middle East partners where you want them to be in terms of development?

The majority of our partners are on the plan. There is, however, still a lack of aggressive thinking, not only in our partners, but in the industry. People pay less attention to project management, especially when you move to integration and application.

Project management is not effectively carried out. We have to make sure business partners and customers understand the importance of project management.

You have been publicising the success of the Arabised telephony system. How many units have you actually sold?

It is very difficult to tell because it is in-built with all our phones. We sold tens of thousands of phones last year but they all have Arabic.

We didn't launch it to gain market share, but because of the need and commitment to the market. But it has now become a differentiator and we are even working on improving it.

Are partners selling the required amount of services that you would like them to?

We are asking all of our partners to make sure their differentiation on the applications cycle is for service and integration. We have also moved the Avaya university programme to Dubai, reducing partners' travel bill.

We are now talking to them about how we want to treat services and maintenance differently, as we become more applications driven.

You have recently been targeting the SMB segment quite aggressively, but most commentators still regard Avaya as an enterprise-focused company. What should partners make of this?

Most of our enterprise partners do not touch the SMB segment. We may go with our enterprise [partners] to the SMB market but they are not authorised to sell the products. We have a different set of partners that sell to the SMB segment.

Only a few of our partners carry both types of products. The enterprise and SMB segments are both important to us. But for revenue generation, enterprise is the most rewarding. We are asking partners to address certain verticals so that they don't go after every project in that space.

And our SMB partners have a totally different set-up to our enterprise-focused partners. It is totally a different way of looking at that market. Our most successful partners focus on one sector. People targeting both are successful in only one sector.

What is your strategy regarding partner numbers?

For enterprise, we have a very limited number of partners and some of them have tier-one and tier-two makeup. Avaya is not increasing tier-one at all. We are scaling up tier-one to go to the next level - applications, CEPP, these type of products.

Tier-two are signed distributors so we are not flooding the market. We want to increase our consideration rate but we don't want to be like others. We are expanding because we don't have coverage through the whole market.

You will see us working closely with partners in the next few quarters who want to work across multiple countries. You will also see us working with some of the global systems integrators and with companies that decide to focus on the hospitality, financial and healthcare verticals.

So what would your advice be to channel partners?

Scale up resources and know where Avaya is moving. As we said at our partner event, we're moving towards becoming a software-based company, scaling up our contact centre, introducing CEPP - we are the first in the world to do it and we want to stay dominant in the contact centre market.

We use our certification to ensure partners are skilled and we are beefing our team. Last quarter we had 20 people and now we're hiring more so there will be more demand and partners need to go and catch up.

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