Canada continues to be strong market for Avaya as company transforms itself

Avaya’s Canadian country manager Dave Robertson provides an update on Avaya’s business and channel in Canada, including why they are confident that legacy Nortel customers will modernize with them and not with competitors.

Dave Robertson, Managing Director and President of Sales at Avaya Canada

Canada has always been a strong market for Avaya – in no small part because of all the legacy business they acquired with Canadian-based Nortel. The end is in sight, albeit a distant sight, for those durable Nortel systems, as Avaya pivots its business to the cloud and to newer on-prem systems. The company is, however, extremely bullish on its prospects in Canada, in no small part because they believe they are well-positioned to capture that install base as it modernizes.

“As Avaya transforms, Canada continues to be extremely important to the company,” said Galib Karim Rivas, Vice President, Americas International Region at Avaya. “Canada is the fourth largest market in the world for Avaya.”

Avaya recently announced it will end-of-life the old Nortel CS1000 PBX systems, which it and its partners have been valiantly trying to get partners to migrate off for years, to embrace the modern channels and other advantages of Avaya’s newer offerings. They had been having more success at this over the last year. Now with the end of life announcement, Avaya is confident that they enjoy key advantages that will ensure that install base migrates to the cloud with them, and not with a competitor.

“The Canadian market still has a lot of Nortel product, and it’s distributed across the enterprise, midmarket, and SMB,” said Dave Robertson, Managing Director and President of Sales at Avaya Canada. “Large numbers of schools and hospitals still have this legacy equipment. They would like to get the next-generation features, but thought they would have to rip and replace.”

Robertson said that Avaya’s introduction last May of the Avaya Device Adapter removes that issue, and gives them a huge advantage that competitors won’t have. Deployed on the Avaya Breeze collaboration platform, the Adapter lets phones working with the CS1000  migrate to Avaya Aura without much investment on existing infrastructure, minimizing expenses on the cables and hardware.

“Any competitive offering has to deal with the wiring in the closets from the old system,” he stated. “With Avaya Adapter, we don’t have to deal with that. It is a massive opportunity to show customers how they can migrate, and not have to do a rip and replace. If its an RFP, we don’t have to touch a lot of stuff. It fits really well in the government space. It also allows for flexibility. A hospital might want something new in a nurse station, but not in a courtesy station, for example.”

Robertson noted that Avaya will soon be making a big customer win announcement on a major win in the hospital space, which is part of this trend.

“While we still have a lot of Nortel customers in Canada, those customers will eventually move,” he said. “Our job is to be there when they are ready, and tell them how easy it is to migrate with us. We have a nice migration story with the Device Adapter.”

Robertson also indicated that Avaya was doing well in Canada with their Loyalty2gether program, which is designed to give customers options in moving to the latest releases of Aura or IP Office.

“We did extremely well in Canada in Fiscal 2018 with the Loyalty2gether program, because we still have a lot of CS1000s.” he said.

Avaya’s hybrid strategy, articulated in their just-announced OneCloud branding strategy, gives the company an advantage in Canada, Robertson added.

“Every customer is on a bit of a different journey, but the advantage we have at Avaya in the cloud is that we can go hybrid,” he stated. “A lot of entrants we encounter in the market are born-in-the-cloud offerings, who can’t.”

Robertson said that the new OneCloud ReadyNow offering Avaya announced at Engage should be big in the Canadian market.

“These new private cloud offerings will give enterprise customers full stack CC and UC solutions in their data centres,” he said. “Enterprise customers like the security of the private cloud.”

Robertson also provided a channel update.

“In addition to our service provider partners, we have about 200 VARs in Canada,” he indicated. “Most of them take on the Powered by Avaya Cloud Portfolio, which is in the smaller space, typically 50 seats or below. On the CP side, we have a lot of partners committed to that, but it’s more 50 seats and above. I haven’t seen any shrink in the number of partners. The numbers are growing because there are a lot of organizations out there who want to get into our cloud. We are seeing growth in that cloud space. We are also seeing significant investment in the government market around Smart Cities, particularly in public safety, although there is a heavy skillset requirement and a need for deep understanding of the next-gen technology.”

Robertson updated Avaya’s own presence in Canada as well. The company now has around 400 employees in Canada, about 200 of those in R&D in Belleville and Ottawa.

“Over the years, the R&D staff has been reduced because it is legacy, but there is now more investment coming into R&D in Canada, and we will keep Belleville open,” he indicated. “At the same time, we have doubled our front-line sales presence, and we have hired an additional five people in our Sales Academy program this year, to give us a fresh look from a talent pool perspective. We have also refreshed facilities in downtown Vancouver and downtown Calgary, moving from legacy facilities in Tier A space. We are actively looking for space in downtown Toronto.”

Dan Silverman, the President of Toronto-headquartered Avaya partner Telanet, which provides telecommunications services, thinks the company is generally on the right track in Canada.

“We leverage our relationship as a trusted advisor with Avaya, and are finding a good success rate,” he said. “We have a ready base of customers we can go to with newer solutions.”

At the same time, Silverman said that Avaya can still step up its game in some key areas.

“I think they need to accelerate messaging and accelerate their delivery times,” he stressed. “Whether through acquisition, or internally through R&D funding, they need to come to market faster.”