Avaya preaching cloud to Canadian customers and partners at road shows this week

Educating customers – and partners – about pure play and hybrid cloud options is a critical part of the Avaya strategy.

David Robertson, Managing Director and President of Sales, Avaya Canada

Avaya’s message about the importance of moving to the cloud is not new. The company has emphasized its importance to both customers and channel partners over the last several years, as Avaya transitioned from being a traditional hardware infrastructure player to basing its business on software and services. They are making another push now. This week, a national Canadian road show around Avaya’s reinvigorated approach to the cloud concludes with an event on Tuesday, October 17, in Montreal, followed by one on October 19 in Toronto.

“A lot of our customers have been asking us about our cloud strategy,” said David Robertson, Avaya’s country manager in Canada, whose formal title is Managing Director and President of Sales. “This is a big push for Avaya, in coming up with the right portfolio, and having the partner community to present it back to customers.”

The messaging now emphasizes that Avaya has both full born-in-the-cloud, and hybrid cloud options, to appeal to what best fits a customer’s requirements.

“We are really trying to come to market with a full suite of offerings,” Robertson said. “Zang is our born-in-the cloud unified communications offering with a slick suite of services, and North American carrier rights. It speaks to the purists of cloud, who want everything to be mouse clicks. For the more traditional customer, particularly the ones with on-prem Nortel systems, we are offering Powered by Avaya IP Office, our hosted hybrid cloud option. That’s especially important in Canada, with the large Nortel heritage of customers who want a transition path to the cloud.”

It’s a simple set of options, and Robertson said that’s what customers want.

“Customers are looking for simplicity,” he said. “Avaya’s cloud strategy offers them either a full jump to Zang, or helps them transition to the cloud with a hybrid hosted option. At the highest level, cloud is all about consumption, and this gives them a clear choice of how to do that. Cloud and digital transformation and customer experience all go together, hand in glove, and our open standards allows us to play in all these different mediums. We have the best algorithm in the business at processing communications, and what we are excited about for the future is embedding digital transformation strategy in the software.”

Robertson acknowledged that the big challenge around this strategy involves educating the market – which includes Avaya’s partners as well as customers. Zang is the bigger challenge here. A separate Avaya company, created after the 2015 acquisition of Richmond Hill ON-based Esna, and with the old Esna team still running that business, Zang’s main appeal is to a different type of customer than those who have traditionally bought Avaya.

“Our goal with Zang was to make sure that we had a play for the pure born-in the cloud customer,” Robertson said. “Zang allows us to go after these other logos without having to tell a migration story. A lot of our loyal base of customers and partners are more comfortable with the Powered By Avaya alternative. We expect the portfolio will balance out as time evolves.”

A key challenge with Zang is making it appealing to Avaya’s traditional channel. Their go-to-market model before acquisition was based largely around partnering with ISVs around vertically-specific solutions, and that remains a core part of their business model. Earlier this year they added two new solutions. Zang Office is a cloud-based phone service, with a focus on team collaboration, while Zang Spaces is a cloud-native collaboration and meeting tool designed to create a persistent collaboration space that is tied to teams. However, while Zang Spaces has some channel application, Zang Office is more of a direct play.

Concern about making money beyond referral compensation with Zang is compounded by the fact that some Avaya partners are still not all-in on cloud, despite the vendor’s past exhortations.

“Some partners love the on-premise world, built their book of business on it and have a nice ROI model,” Robertson said. “Some traditional PBX partners are struggling to adapt to cloud. Others are comfortable with the Powered By option. We are also bringing in new partners who specialize more in cloud. The Partner community can white label either option. The story is there. It’s about the education, and we are doing a lot of education with the partner community.”

Robertson also acknowledged that among traditional Avaya customers, enterprises have been more willing to migrate to the cloud than midmarket and SMB.

“The enterprise is more aggressive,” he said. “They tend to want the latest and greatest features, and are more concerned about security and governance, and are more into investigating new strategies. With voice, midmarket and SMB who have an older PBX that works fine are more inclined to let it continue to work. They know that at some point, they have to dive into it, but not necessarily now.”

Getting these customers to migrate from their durable Nortel PBX systems has been an Avaya challenge for years, and Robertson said that all they can really do here is educate, educate and educate, which is what this road show is all about.

“It’s all about education,” he stated. “Avaya has spent a lot of time and energy to provide options to consider. The challenge is getting this next-gen messaging out to customers, so that they know that we are there to help them when its time for them to convert.”