New Avaya Canada Channel Chief Focused on Capacity and Capability

Miles Davis, Avaya Canada channel chief

Miles Davis, Avaya Canada channel chief

Avaya Canada’s new channel chief is a familiar face, and he has a plan of action.

Miles Davis, the company’s director of independent channels for Canada, has taken over as Avaya’s new channel leader in Canada. And in a wide-ranging conversation with at the company’s Americas Executive Partner Forum in Cancun, he outlined his priorities in his new role, which include making sure there’s enough capacity in the channel, and building greater capabilities amongst partners.

Davis’ assencion comes amidst a restructuring of channel organizations at the vendor. As a result, Davis now reports directly in to worldwide channel chief Richard Steranka.

“It means that Canada gets a seat at the table alongside the U.S., alongside EMEA, in terms of sharing ideas, best practices, concerns, and program details,” Davis said.

Former channel chief Renzo Dipasquale hasn’t gone far. The communications vendor recently restructured its segmentation model, acknowledging the significant differences that exist in the needs of and go-to-market required for different sizes of customers. As part of that change, Dipasquale now heads up the company’s enterprise group. The other two divisions also have strong channel hooks, with former Nortel channel chief David Crook heading up the company’s commercial business, and Petrina Wong continuing to manage midmarket and SME. Throw in Canadian president Ross Pellizzari, formerly channel chief at Cisco Canada, and you’ve got leaders familiar to the Canadian channel community at all levels of sales.

But it’s Dipasquale’s move, into a role that covers the company’s top 75 or so Canadian customers, that may have the most impact out of the change. At that level, the conversation is “often dominated” by Avaya Services, Davis said, and having the former channel chief heading up that business should help to open up more of the business with the company’s largest customers to its channel partners.

The reorganization comes as there’s a surge of Canadian leadership at the vendor at all levels. It’s not lost on Davis (himself an Australian who came to Canada while working for Nortel before it was purchased by Avaya) that his new boss, worldwide channel chief Steranka, is Toronto-born. New global sales chief Pierre-Paul Allard hails from Montreal.

“I’m leveraging that to its full advantage,” Davis quipped.

Davis moves into the channel chief role at a good time for Avaya. The company’s channel business is up to 85 percent of its revenues in Canada, and its strategy is to be “customer-focused, but channel-centric.” Although he said he thinks there will always be an element of direct support from Avaya where customers want or need it, there’s still room to grow the percentage of Avaya Canada’s business that goes through the channel.

Avaya Canada channel chief’s priorities: Capacity, Capability, and Action

In his new role, Davis said he’s focused on three things. Building capacity, building capability, and taking action.

While building capacity does mean some degree of recruitment, it means a more thoughtful approach to recruitment than the company has taken in the past. Where the company has coverage gaps (by geography, by technology, or by vertical focus), it first tries to fill that gap from within the channel. If it can’t pull that off, hten it’s time to find a new partner, using a framework called ROADS (Recruit, Onboard, Accredit, Develop, and Sustain) that gives Avaya a much more systematic approach to bring partners on board, and make sure they succeed after coming on board.

“We often found ourselves in a situation where we were continually onboarding and offboarding partners who just weren’t gaining traction. With this framework, we’re finding our hit rate is much better,” Davis said. “We brought on 60 new partners last [fiscal] year across Canada, and the success rate of those new partners has been much higher than in previous years.”

Building capability is all about cross-selling, and getting more of the company’s partner base selling more of its critical lineups. There’s a growing effort across Avaya to get more of its partner base selling more of its product line – collaboration, contact center, video, and cloud. That same effort is going on internally, as it changes its own sales force from focus on technologies to focus on customer segments. Davis said Avaya is using the lessons learned from getting its own people selling across categories to make the process easier for the channel. It’s also introducing more incentives that reward attach rates, such as a program that provides margin boosts for sales of its core IP Office product into SME that also include networking and video products.

Action includes simplifying things for the company’s partners. The biggest action on this front is the long-awaited arrive of One Source in Canada and the U.S, slated for January 2014. Rolled out throughout Asia and EMEA last year, One Source is the company’s effort to finally get one integrated price book, and is also a platform on which the company will build its business processes with partners. It’s a big job, and it means changes in the company’s discounting structure that distributors will need to incorporate, but Davis sees it as significant progress.

“It’s expensive and difficult to smash two 100-year-old companies together [Avaya and Nortel] and expect there to be instant change,” Davis said.