Avaya’s Zang introduces new cloud phone service, and new collaboration tool

Zang moves into the cloud PBX market with Zang Office, although at this stage, the channel opportunities, other than referral fees, are limited. Partner opportunities for Zang Space, the collaboration tool, appear stronger.

Bryan Dingwall, Senior Product Manager at Zang

LAS VEGAS — Zang, an Avaya company created after Avaya acquired Richmond Hill ON-based Esna in 2015, is looking to shake up the cloud communications space with two major solution announcements. Zang Office is a cloud-based phone service, with a focus on team collaboration. Zang Spaces is a cloud-native collaboration and meeting tool designed to create a persistent collaboration space that is tied to teams. Both announcements were made at the Avaya Engage conference here.

Zang is a combined cloud communications platform and communication applications-as-a-service. Led by Mo Nezarati, who founded and led Esna before its acquisition, its function is to make it possible for developers to quickly build and deploy applications that communications-enable consumer or enterprise applications and services. Avaya’s overall strategy is to move unified communications from being app-centric to being platform-centric, and Zang certainly fits well into this approach.

The Zang Office cloud-based PBX is focused on improving team collaboration within a company. Its features include interactive voice response, voicemail with voicemail-to-email translation and landline-to-mobile transfer, caller ID, and extension dialing. It went into limited release last November, and is now in GA.

“Office is our entry into the Cloud PBX space,” said Bryan Dingwall, Senior Product Manager at Zang. “There are already many players in this space, but we see a major differentiating factor in that we are a complete one-stop shop. Customers don’t have to source from multiple vendors. A software-based phone client is provided, and there is bundled pricing as well as discounts when customers procure multiple solutions. It’s also all available through self-service online.”

For most of Avaya’s channel, the opportunities to make significant money with Zang Office appear limited, at least for now.

“This will primarily be sold direct,” Dingwall said. “We do have a referral program for sales, and a sales agent model where the partner will be able to handle the opportunity.

Dingwall said that it is entirely possible that the channel role with Zang Office may expand in the future.

“Obviously, we are new at bringing this product to market,” he said. “It’s fair to say that we will try and leverage the Avaya channel and give them some options. We are very much at Stage One in working with the channel here.”

The Zang Spaces team collaboration application, which centralizes team conversations into one place, will be familiar to Zang-watchers. Esna began development on it before its acquisition. Last year it went into beta, and has been available in the app store since late October, although this is its formal unveiling.

“Zang Spaces is a persistent collaboration tool that is geared to workspaces and work loads in team environments,” Dingwall said. “The idea is to make a persistent collaboration space that’s tied to teams.”

Zang Spaces has come a long way since Esna began to develop it.

“We are leveraging some of the Avaya core tech under the hood, specifically to power the voice and video media components,” Dingwall stated. “There are advantages in being part of Avaya.”

Dingwall said that Zang sees the SMB as the sweet spot for Zang Spaces, because SMBs are strong adopters of this kind of technology. It does, however, scale to many thousands of users, so is enterprise-capable. They are adding outside integration options, starting with calendar scheduling.

“We offer a free tier, but with Plus and Business licenses, the capabilities increase, and include video and some of the workflow,” he stated. “We see Plus Licenses as being the primary one most users would want to take advantage of.”

Like Zang Office, the channel role will be referral and sales agent-based, but Dingwall indicated he thinks a significant number of partners will become involved with Zang Spaces.

“We have a very mature channel, and over 80 per cent of sales are through partners,” he said. “We see more opportunities for channel partners to take advantage of this. This is something that partners have been asking for. They couldn’t entertain some opportunities because they needed this to go along with the Unified Communications-as-a-Service solution. With this, they will find new opportunities that otherwise would have stayed with the premises-based solution products.”