The company’s restructuring have not affected its customer base strength
GITEX Global 2023: Five Thoughts On Avaya
The world’s largest technology show, GITEX Global, was recently held in Dubai. As was the previous case, Avaya invited a handful of analysts to be part of the 200,000 attendees to see the nearly 200 exhibitors from 170 countries. The event has always been a great opportunity to meet with Avaya executives, particularly on the international side, and the company’s customers and partners. This was also the first GITEX for several Avaya executives, including CEO Alan Masarek, CPO Omar Javaid, and CMO Josh Mueller, and I was curious to see their thoughts on the event and what that meant for the company.
As has been the case with past GITEX events, the show and the Avaya interactions more than met my expectations. Below are my thoughts on the company coming out of GITEX 2023.
- Artificial Intelligence is embedded throughout Avaya products. Several stations in the Avaya stand featured were titled “AI in CX.” Given the momentum around generative AI, it would make sense that Avaya would make this front and center. Avaya highlighted several use cases at these stations, including agent recommendations, AI-powered chatbots, virtual agents, AI-inferred customer satisfaction, and agent monitoring to avoid burnout. Like most vendors, Avaya has taken an open approach to AI where it can use whichever LLM suits its use case best. For a company Avaya’s size, this does appear to be a much better approach than trying to build the models in-house. Competitive differentiation would come from implementing the LLMs and tuning it for specific environments.
- Avaya’s customer base is its strength. With many tech vendors, the company’s strength comes from something product related. This could be product quality, partnerships, or even license bundles. With Avaya, although the company does have good products, its core differentiator is its customer base. The company serves the biggest of the big, the most complex of the complicated, and the most regulated companies worldwide. In its stand at GITEX, it had a scrolling marquee that highlighted 19 of the top 20 banks, top 10 airlines, and so on are all Avaya customers. Over the years, I have talked to many regional and global companies that rely on Avaya and, despite its financial issues, trust the company to deliver continuous innovation. This year was no exception, as the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and the City of Johannesburg are committed to Avaya now and for the long term. Avaya has shed some of its customers but still has one of the largest contact centers and collaboration install bases of all vendors.
- Avaya is co-innovating with its customers. Because Avaya deals with large, complicated enterprises, a cookie-cutter approach does not work. Historically, the Avaya stand at GITEX features customers that have co-innovated solutions with the company. This year, the highlight of the stand was DEWA using the metaverse to create a virtual customer “happiness” center, which is its version of a service center. Customers can pay bills through the metaverse, check their carbon footprint, and even get energy-saving recommendations. At the event, I also met with the City of Johannesburg, which uses Avaya’s contact center solution to act as a BPO to other government entities, turning a historical cost center into a profit center. In both cases, Avaya’s understanding of complex workflows enables them to remain a key technology supplier and an actual partner in the technology rollout.
Previous years have highlighted co-innovation with real estate development company EMAAR, showcasing the use of digital twins and another metaverse example with Dubai for a broad range of business services.
- Avaya services come up ACES. Avaya has retooled its services business. Historically, the services group focused on maintenance and break-fix types of engagements to support its products. Much of that business has been moved to its partners, and Avaya Customer Experiences Services (ACES) is now focused on helping customers transform customer and employee experiences. At GITEX, I had a chance to catch up with Avaya VP of Professional Services, Savio Tovar Dias, and he told me, “Creating a great experience is about more than technology. It requires taking a lifecycle approach to customer engagement. ACES addresses every aspect of that lifecycle. From ideation to analysis, planning, design, and delivery – we help our customers be successful at every step along the way.” Typically, services like this are hard to scale, and he explained that Avaya has over 300 “packaged” engagements, but they are customizable. About 80% of the engagement is the packaged offering, with the remaining 20% being unique to the customer.
- The Avaya Experience Platform (AXP) gives customers options to move to the cloud. Avaya enables customers to choose their innovation journey, whether it is a cloud journey or AI and customer experience innovation; Avaya enables customers to keep their on-premises solution, such as Elite, in place and use its multi-tenant, cloud-native solution, AXP, to extend their CX capabilities, keeping a unified agent desktop experience. This is part of Avaya’s “Innovation without Disruption” go-to-market model.
The only hiccup with this approach is with Oceana, Avaya’s private cloud solution. Customers of Oceana have access to a full suite of digital channels, but the migration to AXP is not cookie-cutter. Migrating from Oceana to AXP would be ACES led due to the custom nature of most Oceana deployments.
I came to GITEX with questions about Avaya, specifically whether there were any remaining real or perceived issues from the recent financial restructuring. I left with a positive opinion of the outlook for Avaya. The customer momentum was evident, and I believe the newly appointed Chief Product Officer (CPO) Omar Javaid will take care of the remaining product issues.
Although the customer momentum on display was local to the Middle East region, the company is seeing traction globally. During the event, Mueller shared Avaya’s first Annual Report to Customers, which is part of Avaya’s promise to be transparent in sharing its progress to the market as a private company. Also, moving Nidal Abou-Ltaif into overseeing Global Sales is excellent for the company and should have happened years ago. Abou-Ltaif instills a culture of being customer first, which is why many of Avaya’s most innovative customers come from outside the US. I expect to see more co-innovation domestically as Abou-Ltaif shapes the US sales team.