Avaya Canada channel chief sees real momentum in march from PBX to software and services

Avaya’s Corey Mindel discusses partner momentum in selling Avaya’s software-based next-gen products, including Zang, which can be a tricky issue for some partners.

Corey Mindel, Avaya Canada’s channel chief

Avaya’s strategy of getting customers – and partners – to transition from their legacy PBX business to Avaya’s newer and software-focused offerings is not a new one. In Canada, however, it has been handicapped by the fact that that legacy gear, much of it Nortel, has simply kept on chugging, leaving many customers reluctant to replace equipment that still works for the newer technologies. In many cases, however, the appeal of the new features unavailable on the vintage legacy gear is now finally inducing customers to make the move.

“As we transition from the legacy PBXs, we have some pretty significant changes from a technology perspective to sell the value in moving customers to the new solutions,” said Corey Mindel, who formally assumed the channel chief role at Avaya Canada earlier this year.

The Powered by Avaya IP Office solution, a hybrid cloud UC and CC platform designed for mid-market customers, encourages customers with these old Nortel systems that still work to upgrade to modern technology, because the new features like social media support can be added through the hybrid capacity without making the old gear redundant.

“This really is a wonderful mid-market solution, and we are starting to see it align with mid-market customers,” Mindel said.

“Our new Edge program [a more simplified program that replaced the Avaya Connect program last fall] drives our global relationship with our partner community, and has global rules and regulations that all the geos stay within, but in Canada we lead the way in many aspects,” Mindel said. “One thing we have done very differently in Canada is our whole cloud transformation strategy. We are transitioning to a software and services company and have made some huge investments in transformations into the cloud. In the cloud model, we work closely with the partner community. We have to stay within the confines of the global program, but have the flexibility in Canada to be creative in how we go to market together.”

Mindel said the results so far this year have exceeded expectations.

“The big thing on the channel side has been the transformation to the Edge program from the old Channel Connect,” he said. “It has been very well received by the channel community. It has added some significant financial benefits, around both loyalty and sales teams incents. In terms of our channel numbers, we have overachieved our plan in the first half and grown the business year over year.”

Getting partners to nudge their customers off the old CS1000s and move towards the future is a challenge which has bedevilled Mindel’s predecessors in the Canadian channel role. He acknowledged that time has finally become an ally here, however.

“The legacy products are still an element of our business, but partners are making less investment in the old infrastructure because updating it doesn’t add to their business,” he said. “These solutions still work fine, and if dial tone is all your business requires, you still won’t make a move. But if you use a system to do more than that, then its time. The CallPilot voice mail solution on these systems is based on an old Microsoft OS and other systems that aren’t supported any more. It’s getting to the point where these systems are so old, some changes need to be made. Something like OfficeLinx, which came with Esna, lets them make that transition in a relatively low cost option.”

Mindel said that Avaya’s next-gen offerings give partners ample ammunition to make suggestions about moving on to their customers.

“The collaboration features are so strong,” he said. “Avaya Oceana is all about use cases and differentiators, and has led to some really interesting conversations in the enterprise space. Our Breeze development platform lets partners have different conversations as well. On the UC side, Equinox is a great collaboration tool in the enterprise space.”

Zang, as Esna has been rebranded, remains a great wild card for the channel, with a lot of potential which is still in its early stages. Zang’s initial business was very ISV focused, although they have been trying to add a channel component to that. Last year they added two new services, Zang Office, a cloud PBX offering which has a limited, referral-based channel model, and Zang Spaces, which enables immersive collaboration with voice and video, and has a broader channel scope.

“Zang is a pure cloud solution, which is a low, no touch option in the 25 and under space,” Mindel said. “Some partners are interested in not turning away that business. They do make a good base margin and it’s recurring business. For older partners, it adds a lot to the value of the business when they want to exit. In the simple low end space, Zang Office makes a lot of sense and it has margin in it for the partners.”

Since its inception, Zang Office has been criticized by some partners, who see it as Avaya competing against their IP Office offerings. Mindel doesn’t think that charge is valid.

“Zang is base telephony,” he said. “It’s not the same as Avaya IP Office, and not a true competitor with it, because it’s limited today in terms of what it delivers. In Canada, we don’t have the sales force to sell this direct, and we are reliant on the partner community. If they don’t push this, there won’t be huge traction.”

Mindel also indicated that they are looking at new types of partners to sell Zang as well.

“It is really in its early stages, and we don’t know quite where it will go,” he said. “We are looking at different partners who don’t have voice at the core of their business, because voice partners tend to be afraid of the Zang model. So we are trying to engage and enable new partners that do other things that they can wrap Zang around. Solution providers who sell to property managers are one example. They often need to add a voice system. So it makes sense for them to sell Zang.”