Nortel buy a success because of increased channel: Avaya

Joel Hackney

Avaya global sales and marketing chief Joel Hackney

One of the main reasons Avaya considers its blockbuster purchase of Nortel Networks a success is the increased channel presence the acquisition has brought it.

Speaking at the company’s Americas International Partner Conference last week in Riviera Maya, Mexico, global sales and marketing chief Joel Hackney said one of the main drivers for the acquisition was a desire to grow its channel base, and offered a succinct assessment of its performance on that goal: Mission accomplished.

Before the Nortel purchase, Avaya was in the 40-50 per cent channel range. Today, that number looks more like 70-80 per cent, and the historical “blue” channel (signifying Nortel resellers, as opposed to the traditional “red” partners of Avaya) has a lot to do with that.

“One of the major drivers for the acquisition was to extend our market reach and become a much more channel-engaged company,” Hackney said.

Hackney also credited the company’s channel for one of the other major successes of the acquisition – the fact that Avaya was able to continue to grow revenues for the combined entity throughout the acquisition and the transition afterwards.

Another major driver of the purchase was speeding up the pace of innovation, and again, in Hackney’s estimation, mission accomplished. “We’ve introduced almost 60 new products in 2011, some of the most innovation we’ve done in our history. And we’re seeing the benefit of that now.”

And the third reason, to help transform the company from a voice-centric company to one focused on collaboration and communications across the board, seems to also have worked, given the company’s increasingly aggressive tone in the collaboration market.

Hackney said collaboration was key because “it’s the only competitive advantage that any company can ever have” – the ability to find ideas in the organization, share those ideas and implement them as quickly as possible.

The definition of itself as a collaboration vendor has allowed Avaya to focus more on solutions and less on specific products, and that’s a big part of what’s powering growth, both because of the more all-inclusive nature of the solutions it’s selling and because of its ability to get closer to its customers through the solutions messaging. By bundling together across broad topics like contact centre and data networking, Avaya stands to get a larger share of wallet, Hackney believes.

“Customers are buying less specific point products” these days, he said.

But if the Nortel purchase has been a success, there’s still room for improvement, as John DiLullo, president of Americas International at Avaya, used his presentation at the partner conference to point out opportunities in the data networking market. The data business is up 10 per cent year-over-year, DiLullo said, but there’s room for growth and the growth they are seeing is still “lumpy” with lots of peaks and valleys.

“The data portfolio is a critical component of our growth strategy for 2012, and our data growth strategy is a 100 per cent channel growth strategy,” DiLullo said. “If you invest in us, we invest in you.”

Part of that investment includes more access to training, demo units and lab equipment, designed to help partners do more trials and beta projects based on Avaya’s data networking portfolio.

“It’s my obligation to make sure you have confidence in our product,” DiLullo told partners.