Avaya Tells the World – “We’re Back”
At Avaya Engage, Avaya’s customer and partner event recently held in Orlando, CEO Alan Masarek had one key message: Avaya is back. After its second bankruptcy, many people wondered if there was a third (or fourth?) act for the company. Based on what I saw and heard at Avaya Engage, I’d say the answer is yes.
Avaya stayed true to the messaging we’ve been hearing since Masarek took the reins –“Innovation without Disruption,” with a renewed focus on customer experience (CX). Masarek told a group of industry analysts and influencers attending the event that Avaya wants to be the partner that customers choose to help them on their journey towards maximizing CX, adding that customers choose their journey – it’s not for vendors to choose the journey. In fact, “choose your journey” is the key message of Avaya’s new branding.
The “innovation without disruption” mantra means that Avaya will deliver the products that will bring customers forward in their CX journeys, helping them to innovate while avoiding the disruption that comes from having to rip out what they already have.
Noting that Avaya has “the largest installed base in the world, our customer base is the envy of the world,” Masarek told the analysts that the financial restructuring is completed, and the company has gone from financial weakness to financial strength. Avaya’s current focus is on resetting the product strategy and revitalizing the company culture. Masarek explained, “Culture is incredibly important. I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm among partners, customers, media, analysts, etc. Our culture is turning around.” Based on the customers and partners I spoke with at the Engage event, I would have to agree. The sense of doom and gloom among employees is gone, replaced with optimism and enthusiasm.
As Masarek and others noted throughout the event, Avaya has reset its north star toward the Avaya Experience Platform (AXP), while still selling and supporting on-premises solutions, notably Avaya Aura and Elite, as well as IP Office. When asked about Avaya’s commitment to unified communications, Masarek noted that fundamentally UC and contact center need to be on a common platform, but that the holy grail is CX. Based on the commoditization of UC, Avaya is working with RingCentral to provide the UCaaS capabilities, rather than investing engineering resources in UCaaS. Avaya recently made changes to its RingCentral partnership, as partners can now choose between an agency or a wholesale model.
During a strategic update session with the analysts, Todd Zerbe, Senior Vice President, Engineering, and Tim Sherwood, Global Vice President, Product Management, reiterated that Avaya remains committed to premises-based solutions, focusing on the innovation without disruption approach. During the event, Avaya introduced Avaya Experience Platform Connect, which lets organizations “leverage their existing on-premises infrastructure for voice routing, call handling, and more, while accessing omnichannel voice and digital channels from the cloud.” This lets Call Center Elite voice agents access and leverage advanced functionalities such as WebRTC voice and AI Noise Removal, for example.
Zerbe and Sherwood also discussed the Avaya Enterprise Cloud, supporting hybrid cloud models. Avaya Enterprise Cloud is a dedicated software instance hosted on Microsoft Azure that lets customers host parts of their communications infrastructure in a dedicated cloud instance, while integrating seamlessly with their on-prem solutions. Essentially, Avaya Aura and Elite can be deployed in Azure in cloud-friendly way.
Of course, no industry event would be complete without a discussion of AI and generative AI. Avaya is working with several AI partners, including Google, Microsoft, Cognigy, Afiniti, Journey, and others. Avaya announced that Avaya Experience Platform offers Virtual Agent and Agent Assist based on Google Cloud’s Dialogflow-CX chat and voice-based bot framework. Using generative AI, Avaya will be introducing real-time Agent Assist with Call Summarization. Other Conversational AI features and tools that will be available soon include Custom Voice, Google Cloud real-time translation for Virtual Agent Chat, SpeakerID biometrics, and CCAI Insights.
According to Ahmed Helmy, Global Vice President and General Manager of Avaya Experience Platform, key AI initiatives include capabilities to augment agents and provide suggested responses, interaction summarization, behavioral and sentiment analysis, intent matching, and more.
There was a fascinating demo of the yet-to-be-released Agent Wellness Indicator, showing how Avaya can help reduce agent anxiety by determining agent health and well-being, and intervening when appropriate based on the agent profile, emotional state, changes in responses, and more. I’m looking forward to seeing the final product when it’s released and generally available.
Agent Wellness Indicator
In this video interview, Helmy discusses the Avaya Experience Platform, how it fits in with the innovation without disruption strategy, and key initiatives for the future roadmap.
Partner and Channel Driven
Avaya is a channel-driven company, and partnerships are crucial. Avaya also held its Partner Forum during the Engage event, focusing on helping Avaya partners provide sales excellence.
I spoke with John Colvin, Head of Global Partner Marketing, to discuss the key takeaways for Avaya partners.
Avaya also introduced Avaya Customer Experience Services (ACES), formerly known as Avaya Professional Services. ACES enhanced Avaya channel partners and systems integrators by providing a cross-functional team for building migration paths to the cloud. According to Emir Susic, Global VP, Avaya Customer Experience Services, ACES is about moving from installation to APIs, providing a single platform to let partners consume the APIs. ACES will help accelerate cloud transformation and empower seamless migration to AXP. According to Susic, “We don’t want to sell our people – we want to sell our capabilities.” As I noted in the ACES press release, "With its reimagined ACES division, Avaya professional services offers more than just advanced AI, cloud, and digital solutions, but also the promise of tangible result s— enhanced customer experiences, improved operational efficiency, and ultimately, greater business success."
Wrapping it Up
To wrap up and provide the key messages of the event, I spoke with Mike Kuch, Senior Director Solutions Marketing, who provided a recap of Engage and discussed where Avaya is driving innovation.
Clearly, Avaya is back. There’s more energy and more optimism, and more confidence in a company that many had thought was on its last legs. Of course, Avaya still has many challenges and needs to continue convincing existing customers (and partners) to stay with Avaya as they continue their CX journey. Even more challenging, Avaya needs to attract new customers. Much of this comes down to execution, and as Masarek noted, “We have a ton of execution stuff to do; every company has to execute. I’ll take execution risk any day of the week.”
Thanks to Masarek and his vision for Avaya, as well as a loyal customer base and strong partnerships, Avaya is back.
On a side note, several members of the BCStrategies team were at the event – discussing all things business communications-related at the hotel bar.
BCStrategies' Jim Burton, Blair Pleasant, Melissa Swartz, Jon Arnold and Chuck Vondra