It’s go time for Avaya

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala – SiliconANGLE.

Avaya LLC‘s and the International Avaya Users Group‘s annual Engage user conference in Orlando this week is the first major event for the business communications provider since it completed its financial restructuring.

The company, once saddled with a massive debt load, is now in a strong position financially to execute its product roadmap and return to growth. This has been the plan since Alan Masarek (pictured) took the chief executive position about a year ago. In the 11 months he has been CEO, he has rationalized the workforce, changed the culture, reprioritized the product roadmap and fixed the cost structure.

The vision Masarek laid out is to enable “innovation without disruption,” which allows customers to modernize without having to forklift-upgrade the existing infrastructure. Small and midsized businesses can upgrade from an on-premises system to the cloud without incurring too much risk since the user base is manageable, as is the technology investment.

But much of Avaya’s base is the biggest of the big, which includes government agencies, banks, airlines, universities and others. These types of massive organizations need a transition plan to modernize.

For example, I recently moderated a panel with one of the federal chief information officers, and he told me the total technical debt for the U.S. government is about $10 billion. Although there is a strong desire to move the cloud, it is impossible just to toss out the old and move to the cloud. That requires more of a planned evolution where the existing infrastructure can be gradually phased out while newer technology is brought in.

This is a challenge that all large organizations have, which is why there are still mainframes, physical servers, hubs, traditional phones and other technology considered “legacy” in the workplace today. The reality is that it will take decades for most communication technology, such as the stuff Avaya makes, to migrate to the cloud.

The news from Engage revolved around this theme of innovation without disruption. A few months ago, at Enterprise Connect, I talked with Masarek about this, and he explained that Avaya’s goal was to let its call center customers keep their existing on-premises voice infrastructure and bring in digital channels from the cloud.

“Our installed base needs to upgrade but without triggering a level of disruption that’s going to interrupt the business,” Masarek said during his keynote. He then invited up customers Wynn Hotel, Southwest Airlines and Liberty Mutual Insurance, which all echoed this sentiment.

At the event, the company announced Avaya Experience Platform Connect or AXP, which is a suite of hybrid services that enable companies to leverage their existing on-premises system, Elite, for voice routing, call handling and other capabilities, while accessing Avaya’s call center-as-a-service or CCaaS offering for digital channels. Cloud-delivered features include WebRTC voice, AI noise removal and a personalized unified agent desktop through the Avaya Experience Platform Workspaces.

Integrating Elite and CCaaS helps Avaya customers bring digital touchpoints throughout the customer journey while maintaining that rock-solid voice infrastructure. During the customer Q&A, Sherrie Mullikan of Southwest Airlines said voice is still its dominant channel. Still, more and more customers want to interact through other methods, and they must provide the technology to do so.

Also at Engage, the company announced Avaya Enterprise Cloud, which runs a private-cloud version of Avaya’s cloud stack for unified communications and contact centers in Microsoft Azure. The offering enables customers to leverage a hybrid cloud model by hosting some of their communications infrastructure in a dedicated cloud instance while integrating with on-premises systems. This is ideally suited for regulated industries, such as Liberty Mutual, that need to be concerned with privacy and data sovereignty.

Lastly, the company announced its revamped services — Avaya Customer Experience Services or ACES, formerly Avaya Professional Services or APS. The updated offering focuses more on artificial intelligence, cloud and digital technologies to drive better business outcomes.

Liberty Mutual provided an example of how advanced technology can benefit an organization. Rick Belsky, its vice president of innovations, said that bringing in digital channels boosted contact center key performance indicators by an average of 26%. ACES starts with consulting services that focus on business outcomes to ensure the customer is deploying the right technology at a pace they are comfortable with.

In related news, late last week, Avaya announced new C-Suite executives. Joining the company will be:

  • Chief Financial Officer Amy O’Keefe, who has over 30 years of financial experience and last served as CFO of WW International Inc., formerly Weight Watchers International, where she played a key role in the company’s restructuring and realignment, like the Avaya journey.
  • Chief Product Officer Omar Javaid joins Avaya from his most recent role as senior vice president and general manager at Qualcomm Inc. Before that, he served as president of the Nexmo Inc.’s API business unit and chief product officer at Vonage, where he worked with Masarek.
  • Chief Marketing Officer and GM of Hardware Josh Mueller comes to Avaya from serving as senior vice president and general manager of the Portfolio Business Unit at National Instruments Corp.. He also held a key role at Vonage, where he was its chief digital officer.

Looking ahead, the restructuring of Avaya is done, and now it’s time for the company to execute “innovation without disruption.”We have a brand that can only be defined as iconic,” Masarek told the Engage audience. “We have global distribution, over 90,000 customers, and we serve them globally in 170 countries.”

He then reaffirmed that when he said, “Unequivocally, Avaya is back.” New balance sheet, product strategy, service framework and C-suite.

It’s now go time.

Author: 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.