Avaya execs see focus as a clear differentiator

John DiLullo

John DiLullo, president of Americas International at Avaya

RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO – The biggest change is sometimes the lack of change.

After a whirlwind two year period in which it reinvented itself as a company completely focused on collaboration, purchased former giant Nortel Networks and re-authored its channel programs twice, Avaya executives at this week’s Americas International Partner Conference here were focused on a message of stability and predictability.

John DiLullo, president of Americas International at Avaya, said the company entered its recently-completed fiscal 2011 expecting to grow about twice the rate of the overall market in the region. And it did. It’s just that the market grew 2x what the company had expected, meaning the company’s overall growth was about 9.3 per cent.

A big part of that growth came from its focus on collaboration – the unified communications business was up 21 per cent year-over-year. Joel Hackney, worldwide sales and marketing chief at Avaya, said that growth was being powered by the overall focus on collaboration, and the focus on bundle and full solutions in particular.

“We used to express our advantages in terms of feeds and speeds of a feature set,” Hackney said. “Our customers are interested in that, but the benefit of Avaya is that we’re one of the few companies focused on collar, with a breadth of products across collaboration.”

The focus is also helping against competitors. DiLullo reported that when Avaya was in the running for a deal in 2011, it won 50 per cent more often than the deal went elsewhere. The executives compared Avaya’s focus on collaboration with rival Cisco’s broader business – which has included challenges with peripheral businesses such as the now-defunct Flip video cameras, and opening up new markets like its Unified Computing System data centre server lineup.

“We’re not trying to be an IT shopping mall,” Hackney said in a meeting with press here. “We’re not in storage, we’re not in servers. Our specific focus is on the enterprise, and they’re looking for choice and flexibility much more than two or three years ago. That plays right into the design and architecture of our strategies.”

DiLullo was more blunt in his assessment of his competitors – most notably Cisco: “The rest of our competitors have distractions,” he said “We can outperform them.”

The focus on collaboration – and on the cross-platform nature of the opportunity – is also making Avaya more attractive in an era when Bring Your Own Device is becoming more attractive in the marketplace. Hackney said that because most Avaya solutions are “agnostic to the end device,” the company’s products play well in a multi-platform world.

DiLullo also reported that the company is seeing growth in its two-tier VAR channel for the first time in quite a while. While the company had grown its business through partners, in recent years, that growth had largely been powered by service providers.

“We’ve made a serious commitment to the channel in the SMB space,” he said. “We don’t have an alternative – our only path to that market is through the chance, and in most markets, only through two-tier channels. We believe in this metamorphosis – people used to view the channel as an extension of the vendor’s sales force. Those days are gone. Now, we view the channel as an extension of our customers’ IT departments.”

DiLullo said his goal for the company’s fiscal 2012, which wraps up at the end of September next year, is to make the Americas International region a $600 million region for Avaya. To do that, he’s going to have to see growth in the channel of at least $25 million.

To do that, DiLullo promised more demos, more training, more lab equipment, more support and most importantly, more margins, saying the company would get “maniacal and fanatical” about improving partner profitability.