Transition culture

There are some monumental changes taking place in the Avaya channel, as attendees at the vendor’s recent Business Partner Conference found out.

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Transition culture
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By  Andrew Seymour Published  December 6, 2009 Channel Middle East Logo

Most vendors will do all they can to gloss over any faults or flaws in their operations — not Avaya.

Executives at the IP telephony and unified communications specialist have gone through the firm’s policies and procedures with a fine toothcomb during the past 12 months, culminating in the imminent launch of a partner programme that is set to be at the forefront of its “channel-centric” strategy.

Unveiled to more than 300 distributors and resellers at its recent EMEA Business Partner Conference, the Avaya Connect Programme replaces all outstanding partner schemes to create a single framework for processes, pricing, training and certification requirements.

Avaya hopes the programme will underpin its ambitions to be seen as a channel-driven company, having traditionally pursued a mixture of direct and indirect business that has often left partners feeling compromised.

The vendor, which is due to get its hands on Nortel’s enterprise solutions business this month, intends to expand its indirect business in EMEA to 68% this year, up from 57% in 2008. That still leaves it a long way behind rivals such as Alcatel-Lucent’s Genesys (70%), Cisco (86%) and Microsoft (95%), but Avaya is striving to ensure that within three years the volume of business it does through the channel is at least 85%.

Avaya’s pledge to embrace a channel-focused culture has been met with scepticism by some elements of the channel. Todd Abbott, senior VP of sales and president field operations at Avaya, is understanding of that, but insists the economic downturn has actually been a good opportunity to show doubters that it means what it says.

“We entered this year with a commitment to be channel-centric and we stuck with it, making all of the investments that were necessary for us to be able to execute on that,” said Abbott. “We recognise that we don’t grow without a very strong channel ecosystem that brings in the application skill sets, the complex technology skill sets and the coverage of customers. When we entered this economic cycle and downward Q1, the Avaya of old would have switched back, but we did not waver from our strategy.”

While Avaya is battling to redress the balance between direct and indirect sales in EMEA at large, the situation isn’t quite as urgent in the Middle East, where it has always transacted an overwhelming portion of its business through partners.

In fact, more than 90% of sales are fulfilled by the channel, according to Roger El-Tawil, director of channel and marketing at Avaya’s Middle East and North Africa office.

“As far as partner behaviour and indirect culture goes, we have been very much in line with how the new programme is going to come into play, so from that perspective it shouldn’t be a big transition” he explained. “However, from a programme perspective, we now have an engine which is tuned for performance.”

The Connect Programme will officially go live on February 1st, signalling a dramatic change in the way that Avaya engages with partners. By its own admission, Avaya’s previous channel programme was overly complicated and unstructured, but it is confident that the Connect initiative will provide partners with the consistency and support they have been looking for.

Jeremy Butt, VP worldwide channels at Avaya, says the aim was to create a “globally-consistent” programme.

“Every programme has to be refreshed every four or five years because it doesn’t keep up with the market, the technology and the number of partners,” he said. “We were very overdue a refresh because we were inconsistent around the world and the programme was very difficult to manage.”

Avaya Connect will be shaped by tiered global discounts, business incentive programmes and funding to improve market coverage and closure rates. Partners will be graded into one of four separate tiers depending on competencies and revenue thresholds, taking into account the respective sizes of markets across EMEA.

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