New Avaya channel program changes provide more targeting, rewards

Enhancements to Avaya’s program are intended to be non-disruptive while also allowing more rewards to be targeted to strategic areas. The company also pledged to be a better partner than it has been in the past.

Steve Biondi 300

Steve Biondi, Avaya global channel chief

SAN DIEGO — Avaya acknowledges — and is planning for — a short term future where its traditional hardware infrastructure base shifts to software and the cloud. To deal effectively with this transition, the company acknowledges that it needs to make better use of its channel than it has in the past. Accordingly, at its Avaya Executive Forum here, its senior executives delivered a constant message that Avaya is changing its processes and policies to become more partner-friendly, and to get partners more involved in joint go-to-market activities. It also announced several new programmatic initiatives.

Steve Biondi, a longtime IBMer who took over as Avaya’s global channel chief late last year, told partners that while Avaya hasn’t always been consistently supportive of its partners in the past, those days are done.

“We appreciate that we don’t make it as easy for you as it should be some times, but we need you,” Biondi told an audience of Avaya’s top partners in attendance at the event.

Pierre-Paul Allard, SVP, WW Sales, President of Global Field Operations at Avaya, also promised that mistakes of the past would not be repeated.

“Through all the changes, I don’t think we’ve been as good a partner as we should, and we are going to change that.” he said. “We changed the program a little fast. We really want to be partners in the true sense of the word, so that collectively you and Avaya can and will grow. That’s really the message here. We are making a commitment  to work better with you. You might have heard that before many times but we are committed to making it better for you, and will improve our channel programs.”

The changes come in several forms. While there will be no earth-shattering changes to the partner program structure that will require partners to re-invent the wheel in working with Avaya, there will be tangible improvements on several policy fronts.

“We are getting more serious about putting the customer first,” Biondi said. “We are setting ourselves up to take advantage of an enormous total addressable market of $50 billion because we have solutions that can address these markets. We are getting a lot more disciplined in terms of our structure this year, in terms of  handing out leads and tracking them,and putting programs in place for both the reseller community and the distribution community. We want to enable you to go after new and different markets.”

Biondi  said the changes will both simplify things and be more effective.

“We are not going to have big adjustments that turn people sideways,” he said. “But our partner programs will be structured in such a way that you will make more money.

Gordon Blackie

Gordon Blackie, President, Canada and Latin America

The changes begin with replacing the Grow Right program with two successor ones, said Gordon Blackie, President, Canada and Latin America.

“Grow Right had mixed reviews,”  he said. “It was about the move from volume to value based selling, but it wasn’t very focused. We didn’t know if we were growing certain segments of the business because it was more ‘one size fits all.’This will allow segmenting in these areas, will make sure channel partners are aligned to our key imperatives, that we have programs designed to their skill sets, and allow them all to compete fairly, rewarding both big partners and boutique partners properly for making investments with Avaya.”

Grow Right will change over in April. It will be replaced by Growth Bets and Percentage Growth.

Growth Bets is actually an expansion of the Big Bets program, which worked with a limited number of partners – one in Canada.


Santiago Aguirre, Avaya Americas International channel chief

“We both invest 50 per cent and we define sales metrics for four quarters,” said Santiago Aguirre, the newly appointed Avaya Americas International channel chief. “That investment can be things like buying them equipment, or opening an office in another city. That program now becomes Growth Bets, and has five specific areas in which we will invest.” These are: the midmarket; fabric networking; cloud;  contact centre; and modernization of the base, particularly the upgrading of legacy Nortel equipment.

“Midmarket and networking will be the first to roll out,” Aguirre said. “The cloud isn’t ready yet, and will follow after.”

For some of these, like networking, Aguirre said the recruitment of new partners will likely be required. For others, like the upgrade of the Nortel base, more focus is seen as the solution. This has been a vexing problem in Canada for years because the old Nortel systems continue to hum along, so that many customers see no need to upgrade even though the old systems lack the modern amenities of the new, particularly with respect to social media.

“We have talked and talked before about this, but in the end nothing has happened,” Aguirre said. “We need to bring forward certain partners that will get this done.”

Percentage Growth has a couple of different components.

“Depending on the growth revenue performance of partners, we will give them special treatment,” Aguirre said. “The ones who can grow revenue 5 per cent year over year will get a 3 per cent back end rebate.” The other element is that partners whose revenue in a category comes to one million dollars in a quarter while maintaining a 40 per cent growth in that category will also get 3 per cent.

“This is a formalization of something that had been done ad hoc,” he said. “When a partner specializes they grow faster.”

“These back end rebates are pretty substantial,” Biondi said.

In addition, the deal registration threshold has been lowered from $50,000 to $10,000.

“This will let  partners speed things up and ramp up their business really fast,” Aguirre said. “The old limit worked, but it took longer to provide special pricing for a customer. By creating the five new bundles [made available in Canada late in 2015] and lowering the deal registration from 50 to 10, partners can get quotes very fast. It’s definitely tied to the bundles.”

Biondi said that while Avaya isn’t naive enough to think all the channel problems will disappear with this kind of move, they hope it sends the right signal to partners.

“It definitely makes it easier to do business with us,” he said.

The channel execs also told partners that the customer quality service requirements Avaya has used in recent years as part of channel scoring are going to be tightened up, although not right away.

“We are going to go further with the KPIs,” Blackie said. “Before we just had a high level scorecard. This is more for FY 2017, to make sure that partners deliver the quality of service that customers expect.

“The folks who are not delivering the customer quality of service we want them to have, we are going to revisit those relationships,” Biondi said.