Out to make amends

A healthy mix of Middle East representatives, including Redington, Aptec, Almasa and EMW, were among those to make the trip to Madrid for Avaya's recent annual EMEA Business Partner Conference. They returned enlightened by the IP communications vendor's willingness to accept its faults and usher in a new era of partner engagement.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  October 14, 2008

A healthy mix of Middle East representatives, including Redington, Aptec, Almasa and EMW, were among those to make the trip to Madrid for Avaya's recent annual EMEA Business Partner Conference. They returned enlightened by the IP communications vendor's willingness to accept its faults and usher in a new era of partner engagement.

Avaya's VP of worldwide channels Jeremy Butt pulled no punches when describing Avaya's current channel approach upon taking to the stage to address EMEA resellers at the vendor's recent Business Partner event.

"We have created ourselves a very complicated maze to try and work through - I have had our channel programme explained to me three times and I am still struggling with it so you must be struggling enormously," said Butt to a theatre full of channel partners.

What was coming up was that the product is actually pretty good and we have a very strong foundation of partners and distributors, but we are becoming too complex to do business with.

This candid admission was not the only one to come from Butt, and indeed from Avaya, as the company went about laying its cards on the table for all to see in what seemed to end up as a mutually cathartic exercise for both partners and vendor.

Butt was almost as brutal in his evaluation of how Avaya has been doing business and, in particular, how it has been interacting with the channel until now. Since being instated as the global channel boss less than six months ago, Butt has been busy trying to evaluate Avaya's partner strategy, a job he says has been fraught with complexity.

"I started doing a little enquiry into the channel and spoke to quite a few partners and what was coming up was that the product is actually pretty good and we have a very strong foundation of partners and distributors, but we are becoming too complex to do business with," admitted Butt.

Avaya acknowledges that partners have had to contend with an overly complicated and non-standardised partner programme, lack of investment in channel structure, unnecessary involvement from the vendor in smaller transactions and an unclear product and service strategy.

Even the stinging criticism that Avaya has been overly competing with its own channel was addressed, culminating in the vendor promising it will no longer sell direct.

Michael Bayer, Avaya's president of field operations in EMEA, assured partners that work is being carried out to eradicate the majority of instances where Avaya is engaging with the end-user directly.

"We are not going to take a new customer on direct without a VP signature and a clear understanding why this customer really wants to do business directly," vowed Bayer, a commitment which was met with applause by the assembled channel masses.

As the pledge to cut out direct business sank in, Avaya also put forward ‘high touch, channel-centric' as a motto for how it will engage with partners in the future.

The IP telephony specialist says that it will continue to work with end-users, but only in collaboration with partners.

One of the major changes that it needs to implement within its internal structure is the way that its own sales teams are compensated, a modification that Avaya insists is firmly in the pipeline.

It also backed up this channel-centric message with the revelation of forthcoming partner mechanisms designed to increase the predictability, integrity and consistency of the work it conducts with partners.

This includes the creation of a partner relationship management system, an EMEA deals desk to offer same-day turnaround, the standardisation and simplification of its channel programme and the election of channel representatives to a partner council.

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