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Switching on a new channel

Switching on a new channel

Avaya is putting the wheels in motion to turn into a more channel-centric business. Jeremy Butt joined as the vendor’s first vice-president of worldwide channels in June last year to lead the charge. He met with ARN to talk about adopting a more comprehensive channel model and implementing a global partner program.

Why is Avaya adopting more of an indirect model now?

The aggressive move to channel that we’ve been making worldwide is not in response to the climate, it’s something we were doing anyway. Around the world, less than 50 per cent of our business goes through the channel and it’s just not the right mix. We would like it to be 85 per cent, which should be a reasonable target to achieve over the next three or four years. The Australian office has been moving aggressively and earlier than the rest of the world. We’ve never had a channel person worldwide before, so my role was created with a goal to drive much more of the business indirect. We sell a lot of things directly today and it’s the most inefficient way of getting the product to market, there’s no two ways about it. We’re much better off using the channel – they can offer more interesting and comprehensive solutions to the user than what a vendor can do. And with this economic climate, we couldn’t hire enough direct sales people to cover the space we wanted to anyway.

What does your channel strategy involve this year?

We’re reworking our framework. The one we have today has solid foundations, but needs a refresh. For any channel program to work comprehensively, all the foundations need to be in place. There’s absolutely no point in having a program unless you actually hold people and make sure they’re compliant to it. We’ve got to improve the foundations so we understand what are the competencies of the partner, where do they sell, what are they buying and how successful are they in their space, and how do we communicate with them. We call that Partner Relationship Management (PRM). We’ve got different program efforts around the world and we’re pulling the whole lot together so it’s cohesively the same everywhere. We’re also going to bring up a comprehensive PRM system in a software-as-a-service [SaaS] environment globally.

Another piece of foundational work we’re doing is a better job of analysing the business we aren’t doing. We haven’t done a tremendously good job at analytics, looking at what is the channel selling, whether we’re being successful, were they growing or shrinking. If you can pull the correct information on who’s buying what and where they’re selling it to, it gives you a much more effective marketing and sales engagement with your resellers. It’s very inconvenient being blind to your channel, you can never have enough visibility.

When will the global program be released?

We’ll be looking at the end of the year. What we really want is a sensible but interesting evolution. We have SMB, enterprise, service integrator and regular reseller programs and it’s got too convoluted and confused. We used to have 27 business units at Avaya from a product perspective, and that gave rise to people coming up with their little programs here and there, which they would try and bolt onto other things. From a product perspective, it makes it easier to have one channel program. We’ve now got three product areas that are unified communications, contact centre and IP telephony. We have many global customers and they want the same experience around the world.


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