Reflections on Avaya

by Dave Michels

I recently attended two Avaya International events and wanted to share some thoughts. First the positives:

  1. It’s so easy to forget about the rest of the world. A week with Avaya International is a big reminder that there’s a whole world out there with unique requirements and conditions including state-run telcos, language and character sets, regulations, and workflows. As a result, Avaya operates very differently in different markets. It even acts a BPO in at least one situation.  
  2. Avaya does huge deals with enormous customers. It’s like a different universe of numbers because relatively small cloud deals in the US get so much attention.
  3. Avaya is winning back deals it lost. Avaya did lose a lot of customers during its 2017 restructuring. Genesys alone claims that it won over 700 accounts from Avaya in 2017 and 2018. I don’t know if that claim is accurate (no evidence or verification offered), but I do know some of them are heading back.
  4. There’s some interesting new products coming out of Avaya. The biggest surprise was the new CU360 all-in-one video room Android-powered device. It is priced like a USB device, but includes full compute and supports co-inking. Another example is the new Digital Workspaces solution which provides a communications and workflow dashboard.
  5. Actually, the entire hardware portfolio is refreshed and strong. Avaya refreshed its IP phones, has a new line of headsets with a clever/universal quick release, and expanded its speaker saucers including a wireless model. I also like they offer hardware optimized for verticals.
  6. Avaya may be the only major vendor talking about private cloud. Public cloud is cool, and private cloud feels passé, even though it’s a growing sector. Cisco and Microsoft mostly defer their partners market their HCS and SfB private cloud offers. Also, no one really knows what private cloud even means really any more. Is it on prem, in a data center, or on public cloud infrastructure. Who owns the licenses, the customer or the provider? Who provides the circuits? Private cloud requires a conversation. Avaya is attempting to productize private cloud with the goal of quicker configurations and implementations.
  7. Avaya Mobile Experience is one of the most innovative ideas I have seen in the contact center space. It remains in closed pilots, but the implementations are growing as are the number of customers and use cases.
  8. Avaya’s move to embrace Google’s AI for CC is part of a larger sea-change around its transition from build-it to partnering in AI. Expect more in this space. There’s more from unicorn Afiniti coming soon.

There are a few areas of concern:

On top of my list is management turnover. Most of the senior executives Chirico initially placed have left. I’ve heard multiple theories why. Some of it can be attributed to a first-time CEO, but the company is also undergoing rapid and significant change. It can be argued that the team it needed is not the team it needs. I will say that what Avaya needs now is stability in leadership.

Another concern is the lack of a public cloud offer. I honestly expected this to have been solved by now through acquisition. When Avaya acquired Spoken in January 2018, it hinted that more acquisitions were expected to follow. I know for certain that Avaya has gone as far as due diligence with some providers, but there’s been no (known) acquisitions. Maybe it’s due to the aforementioned turnover, or perhaps it’s a result of the encountered complexities with Spoken. Whatever the cause, it’s a blemish.

I will point out that Cisco didn’t really have public UCaaS or CCaaS offers until its recent acquisition of BroadSoft. Also, that the vast majority of UCaaS/CCaaS providers aren’t exactly racking up profits.

As a result, Avaya’s small and medium customers that want a public cloud service are heading to competitors. While that has to hurt, it’s also shifted Avaya’s focus to larger, enterprise accounts for both UC and CC. That may have been necessary as it’s very difficult for any company to be all things to all companies. On the bright side, this large customer business is profitable today for Avaya and only has a few competitors (unlike mid market cloud). Also, large accounts are generally not migrating to public cloud services. Perhaps Avaya’s priorities regarding public cloud are correct.