Avaya seeing rebound in business for Canadian channel

Avaya’s restructuring issues in 2017 had an impact in the midmarket in Canada which is served by the channel. Those problems have disappeared, and Avaya is bullish about its Canadian channel business moving forward.

Corey Mindel,Channel Leader at Avaya Canada

NEW ORLEANS – For Avaya, 2017 was a year of significant turmoil, with the company spending most of it in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In Canada, the Chapter 11 was more of a distraction, since the Canadian business was not directly impacted by the bankruptcy. In practical terms, the reality was rather different, however, although the impact was primarily in the midmarket.

“In Canada we were fortunate,” said Corey Mindel,Channel Leader at Avaya Canada. “The lower mid-market didn’t even know that Avaya was restructuring. The large enterprises did, but those who are Avaya customers were very invested in us. These large customers continued to invest in us, because it would have taken them several years to move off our platforms. In the midmarket, however, we saw some stall. We did not see many customer losses, but we did see stall.”

Now, with the company’s emergence from Chapter 11, and having gone public with a listing on the NYSE, Mindel said that the stall has ended and dialogues have resumed.

“We are now getting calls from customers, as opposed to us making the calls to them,” he said.  “Both customers and partners are incredibly energized. The tide has completely turned.  But I have to thank our partners for their loyalty. We couldn’t have had the success we did have last year without the loyalty of our partners.”

The restructuring process resulted in Avaya selling off one of their three business units, the networking business, to Extreme Networks. Mindel said that this had a comparatively small impact on their channel business in Canada, however.

“Of our top 50 to 100 partners, the divestiture of that business resulted in the loss of only two partners, who were networking-only partners,” he said. “The impact on our business really was minimal. We had actually been putting more emphasis on getting voice partners to deliver networking services.”

While Avaya does not disclose the precise number of partners they have in Canada, Mindel said that the number could fairly be characterized as several hundred, which includes a presence in every single province.

“In November, we added the Cloud Specialization, and that badge provides partners with a number of back-end rebates,” Mindel said. “We are now going through the analysis, and are in the process of awarding them now.”

Mindel thinks that the creation of the new cloud business unit under Mercer Rowe will help the Canadian channel significantly, even partners whose customers aren’t likely to move to the cloud.

“It will truly differentiate us in the market,” he said. “We will be able to offer solutions across all four platforms –on-prem; public cloud; private cloud; and hybrid cloud. That will provide maximum flexibility. The more agile development process will be a huge asset as well. Mercer is pushing the team to provide six to eight-week releases of new features –  a completely new cadence for us. His goal is to get it to one week.”

Mindel said that some customers, and the channel partners who serve them, have made it clear that the cloud isn’t in their future, but stressed that the strategy going forward will allow Avaya to meet their needs.

“At one of the breakout sessions here, a customer told me that they have no intention at any time of ever changing from on-prem,” he said. But because we have those four distinct platform capabilities, we can align our product set with all four of them.”

While a big product announcement at this year’s ENGAGE was Avaya’s comprehensive refresh of its phones, rather than new or significantly enhanced platforms, Mindel said this was still a big deal for partners.

“Phones are a very important element of a total sale,” he said. “We now finally have a story to tell about the refreshed sets. We did a lot of work to make them open, which will allow them to penetrate broader markets and have them sit on other platforms – even competitor platforms.”

Mindel was also optimistic about the channel applicability of other solutions going forward, especially Zang, which has not been a huge channel play to date. Mercer Rowe told ChannelBuzz at the event that the messaging for the channel around Zang really needed to be improved, something that he is making a priority. Mindel said that this messaging problem for partners had really been an issue in Canada.

“Zang was always a partner play,” he said. “There was confusion over the different Zangs – Zang Spaces, Zang Cloud, Zang Office.”