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This syndicated post originally appeared at Yankee Group Blog » Zeus Kerravala.

This week kicked off Alcatel-Lucent’s Dynamic Enterprise Tour in Barcelona, Spain. The keynote was given by ALU Enterprise President, Tom Burns, and introduced the tag line “Changing the conversation”.  Changing the conversation has many different meanings and includes having customers look at alternatives to the market leaders in voice communications and data networking, changing the way workers collaborate with one another, changing the tools we use to communicate and lastly, changing the way companies converse with customers.

The overall vision that Burns gave wasn’t all that much different from what you might see in an Avaya or Cisco keynote except for one exception — Burns dedicated much of the keynote to using unified communications (which now includes social media) to change the way companies interact with customers and improve the overall customer experience. In fact, the following two keynotes, one by ALU Enterprise Application Group chief, Paul Segre and then an outstanding presentation by Kevin Panozza, CEO of Engagement Mattes an Australian based call center firm focused on this theme. Panozza’s keynote was almost exclusively focused on how to build a better customer experience.

In my opinion, this is the right positioning for ALU Enterprise. In the areas of data networking and UC, ALU Enterprise is chasing the market leaders but the company, through Genesys, is the market leader in call centers which is where the customer experience all starts.

At Yankee Group, we’ve recently oriented our research into four main themes — three technology themes (devices, cloud content and network evolution) and one over arching theme of improving the overall connected user experience. Improving the customer’s experience with an organization is a significant part of this research stream. It’s our thesis that the vendors that are best able to directly improve the connected user experience will be the long term market winners.

So, if our thesis is correct, ALU’s focus on the customer experience is the right focus for its enterprise strategy given its Genesys install base. It puts ALU Enterprise in a position of strength instead of coming in as the challenger.

ALU made new product announcements in both the communications group with a solution called OpenTouch that acts “UC middeware” and the network group with the release of it’s OmniSwitch 6900 top of rack switch to support its data center fabric solution. Both announcements are important components of the overall end-to-end story to help “change he conversation”.

What ALU Enterprise needs now is to deliver the customer proof points, particularly in North America, to demonstrate the value of the vision fulfilled through an ALU solution. The company has historically marketed very passively but it needs to be more aggressive to compete with the likes of Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya. There are some signs that this might be changing with ALU executive Eric Penson calling Cisco and Avaya’s decision to make a tablet “stupid”. In the past, I’m not sure ALU would have wanted to get into a war of words with other vendors so it’s good to see ALU take a stand and bark it out. Lou D’Ambrosio put Avaya back on the map by taking shots at both Microsoft and Cisco, maybe it’s time ALU to leverage the strength they have in the area of customer service and do the same?

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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