When two become one

Jeremy Butt, VP worldwide channels at Avaya, explains how the company absorbed Nortel

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When two become one Jeremy Butt.
By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 20, 2011

Twelve months ago Avaya faced the prospect of rolling out a completely revamped channel programme and absorbing an entirely new channel network inherited from its acquisition of Nortel Enterprise Solutions. Jeremy Butt, VP worldwide channels at Avaya, was the man tasked with making sure all that happened as smoothly as possible. Channel Middle East met up with him at the company’s MENA Partner Conference in Dubai to get a status report.

Channel: It is almost 10 months since Avaya officially introduced the Connect Programme. How important has that launch been for the company?

Jeremy Butt: It is the first global programme Avaya has ever had. It was extremely timely because we’d had seven different programmes at Avaya. We are a US$5 billion-plus company — you can’t manage seven programmes! When we started designing it none of us knew that we would end up acquiring Nortel, so had we not of made a move to a single channel programme we would be trying to manage 12 channel programmes now, which would be completely impossible and frustrating for everyone!

Channel: Given it is a global programme, how much flexibility is there for regional localisation?

Jeremy Butt: It is not 100% the same worldwide. What you do is you create a global channel programme framework that is 85% correct for everyone and then you have to do a little tuning from theatre to theatre, obviously. But from a framework perspective it allowed us to build out a whole load of infrastructure and a lot of systems that support the programme, so it has been very well received by partners. The hardest thing is always transition — moving from an old programme to a new programme — but partners understand the end game.

Channel: Has the transition process been completed now?

Jeremy Butt: Just about, yes. We basically set ourselves 10 months to make the transition to the end of our last financial year, which was the end of September, and then going into October we said we are going to level everyone — Platinum, Gold or Silver — depending on where their certifications are. By and large it has gone okay. There are some partners that have dropped down, without a doubt, and we haven’t held back from that. A lot of partners got demoted and they will have to decide if they want to get themselves back up again in terms of certifications. We got the majority of partners to where they needed to be and where we wanted them to be, but some partners did drop down.

Channel: Does that leave you short in terms of capacity?

Jeremy Butt: No, it doesn’t actually, because frankly when we brought all the legacy Nortel and legacy Avaya partners together, you could probably say we had too many going forward anyway. So some haven’t got themselves over the line and I am not worried about that, and others we will work to get them back up to where they need to be. But I also think there were a number of partners around in other parts of the world that said, ‘Avaya has made all these statements before and said if you don’t meet a certain requirement you are not going to be in the programme and Avaya has done nothing about it.’ I think it came as a shock to some people that we have actually taken action, but it is the right thing to do because you have to protect the partner that has invested. I don’t think anyone would say that wasn’t a reasonable position to take.

Channel: Are you planning to make any enhancements to the programme?

Jeremy Butt: We built the programme to allow us to have specialisations and last year we had two specialisations that we were running with: SME and services. But we constructed the programme so that if we needed to do additional specialisations we could insert them. When we started that design we didn’t know we were going to have a data portfolio, so we have a data specialisation track and now with the release of all our video products we will have a video specialisation as well.

Channel: Is the Connect Programme driving more partner loyalty? Are you finding out who wants to be friends with you and who doesn’t?

Jeremy Butt: Yes, I think so, and we are going to drive more aggressively into what is loyalty over the next few years. We want to start recognising loyalty and competency even more than we recognise volume. Today, we have a mix of recognising volume — how much revenue someone does — and competency — how many certifications they have. We want to move ourselves more towards loyalty and competency and away from volume.

Channel: Avaya said last year that 80% of its business came from special bid pricing deals and it really wanted to drive that down to a much lower percentage. How much progress has been made?

Jeremy Butt: Some, but not a huge amount. It is because we haven’t finished doing the re-pricing of our global pricing structure. Until we have done that we are still going to have quite a high number of special bids, but what we have been working on is an automated process. It doesn’t make it any easier in terms of business justification, but it makes it significantly easier to actually be able to process a bid, so we are doing a lot of automated work on it.

Channel: How much attention do you pay to the Middle East channel?

Jeremy Butt: We pay a lot of attention down here. Jan Lawford, who runs our EMEA channels, spends a reasonable amount of time here. This is a vibrant market, it has always been a vibrant market, but this is a relationship-driven market as well, so not only does it need great technology, it needs great relationships. And I think we do enjoy good relationships with our partners — they are very open and honest relationships. Bringing the Nortel family into Avaya was a challenge for a few months because some of the ways in which they did business was different, but the market is growing very strongly for us here, we have got a great channel team and I feel very positive about the future.

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