The last several years have been challenging ones for unified communications vendors, Rob Auld has only been in the role of Channel Leader for Avaya Canada for two weeks, and only with Avaya, and in the unified communications sector since July. Nonetheless, Auld has a clear strategy through which he intends to drive Avaya partner sales going forward, particularly in the midmarket.
Auld came to Avaya Canada from Purolator, where he was Director of Sales, but previous to that he was at Telus for eight years, half of that time spent as Director of Sales there . He was initially brought in as VP, Midmarket for Canada, but just moved to the channel role when Miles Davis was promoted to Eastern Canada VP of Sales.
“I chose to leave Telus to go into logistics, which is a fascinating industry,” Auld said. Helping Purolator turn a corner was a great opportunity. However when Walter Andri, [the President of Avaya Canada] called, who I knew from my days at Telus, I liked the turnaround story at Avaya. Avaya Canada has had a challenging environment for the last three or four years, but has had some significant headwind, and now has a tailwind as well.”
The core challenges which have confronted Avaya recently have been endemic to the unified communications sector as a whole, which has resulted in significant senior executive instability. Top line revenue has declined significantly with the relative decline of hardware sales, which has also impacted the maintenance revenues associated with the deals.
“Top line revenue decline has been a challenge for the whole industry, but for us specifically, the CS 1000 has a great big server, requiring enormous energy for the install. For most new sales, however, we’ve moved to VMware, which can sit on a very small server, so that a third or more of your deal, what used to be the server revenue, is now a VM that sits on existing hardware. The technology change does create significant ways to improve our customers’ business, which increases opportunities, but there has been that initial top line hit.”
Another issue – ironically – is that the old Nortel customers who bought legacy CS 1000s have hung onto them for years and years because the systems have worked well.
“A lot of these former Nortel customers have not migrated because these legacy systems are bulletproof,” Auld said. “They worked really well, and the customers haven’t seen the compelling event they need to upgrade to more modern systems. This has been the case even though customer experience, which we leverage with our newer solutions, has now moved up on the value chain so high. If you aren’t interacting with your customers on Twitter, Facebook, however they want to interact, you will be left behind.”
Avaya needs to do a better job of explaining this to customers, Auld said.
“We haven’t led with insight, explaining to the customer how transforming the customer experience will help them,” he said.
Auld also stressed that delivering on customer experience isn’t just a B2C thing any more.
“It is a generational thing now,” he said. “Millennials are starting to move from being purchasing agents to being director of purchasing, and they expect this kind of experience. Large telcos are trying to figure out how to better interact with customers. So is Purolator. It’s very much a B2B thing now. If you don’t figure that out in 2016, you will be left behind in 2017 and 2018.”
Auld laid out his four priorities for the new year: the midmarket; networking; the cloud; and video.
“Our first priority is midmarket, because that’s where we think we have the best priority to grow both in Canada and globally,” he said.
A critical role here will be played by the Avaya Midmarket Select Program, which recently launched in Canada. The Avaya Canada’s team’s key role in the development of this program has resulted in Canada getting a head start with the program, and having a disproportionately large number of partners. Six of the 40 partners in the global program are Canadian. 45 staff from the Canadian partners involved have already been trained at Select Training events, with the idea being to use the preferred pricing given through the program to sell solution sale packages and more professional services around them.
“We have the right products and services for the midmarket, which will be our growth engine in Canada for the next 3-5 years,” Auld said. “Historically IP Office only covered up to 384 seats, and then you had nothing until the enterprise space. Now the product hits the midmarket and can scale to the enterprise. We will keep that sub-100 run rate going, because for many partners, it makes a majority of their IP Office business, but the mid-market is the great opportunity. Not a lot of our competitors are in the midmarket space.”
The second priority going forward is networking.
“We saw good growth last year there,” he said. “Our Fabric Connect is helping SMBs and midmarket improve the TCO of network, and we are getting more and more stories here. 30 per cent of our commit is actually networking this month.”
The third priority this year is the cloud.
“Managed services is a key to driving margin today,” Auld said. “It’s not just about maintenance any more.” Cloud-based UC apps like Esna, the real-time collaboration and communications software acquired by Avaya earlier this year, but which very few partners are using today, also need to be quoted more.
“We should attach Esna to every single IP Office that we sell,” he said.
The fourth priority is video.
“We have a superb video product, and we need to quote and sell it more,” Auld stated. “Some partners build cloud practices around it, and we want to help more build practices around it.”
Auld said his role as Canadian channel chief is to ensure that all the policies here are successfully implemented.
“I view my role as execution,” he said. “How do we maximize the Midmarket Select Program right out of the gate? Part of it is also reading and reacting. If things aren’t working, change them. If they are, double down on them. We have some great channel partners, and my role can have a major impact on both them, and on our customers.”