This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

The tone of the recent partner conference was much different than Avaya events of years past, as we saw a more aggressive, confident Avaya.

This week, Avaya held its annual Executive Partner Forum under the abnormally cloudy skies of Cancun, Mexico. I thought the tone of this event was much different than Avaya events of years past, as we saw a more aggressive, confident Avaya. Historically, Avaya execs spent much of the keynote time trying to legitimize the company and convince the audience that Avaya was financially sound–very defensive in posture. While I understand why they did that, I’ve always felt that when that’s done too much, it actually has a bit of a negative effect, where people wonder why so much explanation is needed.

This year’s event started off with a funny hockey-related montage of “Avaya” versus the competition such as Cisco, Microsoft and ShoreTel, where a number of players were dressed in Avaya uniforms and the other team was made up of the above-mentioned companies. The premise of the video was that it was Avaya versus everyone else and Avaya was going to take its competitive shots and beat them when given the opportunity.

The only “player” with a name I could recognize was Avaya’s SVP of Global Sales, Pierre-Paul Allard, who incidentally is an A level hockey player. I bring this up, one because I’m a hockey fan and more companies should do hockey-related stuff as part of their conferences, especially in Cancun–but more importantly because I think Allard has had a significant impact on this new Avaya.

If you’re not familiar with Pierre-Paul Allard, prior to his role at Avaya, he ran sales in Canada for the ultimate sales machine, Cisco. During his tenure at Cisco he also ran Enterprise Marketing for a period of time, so he has a good background in sales but also understands the value of marketing and should make a good partner to the new Avaya CMO, Mark Wilson.

I’ve known Pierre-Paul for over a decade and I’ve always liked him. Because he’s Canadian? That’s part of it, although he’s a Montreal Canadiens fan, so that’s a mark against him. More than anything though, he understands sales process, the value of cross-selling and the architectural story, which is exactly what Avaya needed. Allard is also the ultimate optimist, and sees no problem as too big to overcome.

That’s important because historically, I think, Avaya has been afraid to get into deals where they didn’t have a strong position. Not so now; the culture is: Go and figure out how to win. Avaya and the former Nortel company have always had good technology, but sales execution certainly wasn’t the companies’ strong suit.

The aforementioned Mark Wilson, who I referred to as “new”, is into the job about a year, and we’ve certainly seen a change there as well. Avaya’s keynote presentations had little to do with technical things such as “shortest path bridging” and “session management” and more to do with solving business problems and process change. Wilson admits there’s still more work to be done, particularly on the company’s website, but Avaya appears to be headed in a whole new direction with respect to marketing.

While I don’t know all the details of how they’ll market, I can say that the defensive posturing that Avaya has had in the past is gone. Between the data fabric technology, new collaboration environment, the video portfolio from Radvision and other new products, Avaya finally feels that they’re second to no one with respect to product.

I had breakfast on Thursday morning with JT Turgeon, who is now responsible for putting together Avaya “solutions,” and his feeling was that it’s rare that any company has this many products that have a technical edge over the large competitive landscape, so there’s an urgency at Avaya to move now. Moving into 2014, I’m expecting a louder, more aggressive Avaya that isn’t afraid to beat its chest much more than it has in the past.

The product areas in which I feel Avaya has the best opportunity to gain share and grow are networking, mobile video and UC applications. To “win” in networking, Avaya doesn’t have to grab great chunks of share. It simply needs to increase the attach rate of networking gear to its UC sales by a few percentage points. While Cisco has a lock on many large enterprises, Avaya’s ease of deployments and open standards create some opportunities in the mid- and small market.

With respect to mobile video, Avaya has a true diamond in the rough with Scopia video. If you’ve ever been on a Scopia call, the solution is easy to get deployed, even easier for workers to use and can be used across all mobile devices. I think another opportunity for Scopia is the emerging opportunity with “huddle rooms”. The 2-3 person huddle room (an informal gathering space that may be equipped with video) has become increasingly popular in many companies, and Scopia’s rapid deployment capabilities, ease of use and cross platform capabilities are ideal for this use case.

Lastly, Avaya has always been aggressive with UC applications, but its development platforms always required high levels of telephony and communications knowledge to leverage. The new Aura Collaboration Environment was built with the thesis that the toolkit needs to be usable by developers that have zero communication knowledge. I’ve interviewed a number of DevConnect partners and they all rave about how rapidly they can build communications-enabled apps and use their Web or mobile developers.

It certainly seems Avaya’s grown up a lot over the last 12 months. It’s more profitable, much of the product overhaul is done and a new management team is in place. Now its time for Avaya and its channel to get step on the gas for what the company has already started.

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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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