Nortel’s Nick Avakian, general manager of enterprise for A/NZ, comes to the table.
How did you come to join the Nortel channel team?
Nick Avakian (NA): I’ve been working at Nortel for 13 years in a variety of roles. I was primarily in the carrier side of the business because that’s where our strengths were, particularly in Australia.
I moved into the enterprise side about 15 months ago, and that’s looking after our channel side of the business: the channel account managers are part of my team, as well as a direct touch team. All of our business is done through the channel in terms of purchasing and implementation, but we have a direct touch team in terms of going out to market to promote the Nortel solution set, the Nortel brand and engage customers to partner up with the appropriate channel to get the sale and do the fulfilment and implementation.
What product lines does the company focus on?
NA: We have four lines of business: enterprise products, wireless, WLAN, and optical. The five big business leaders [from the carrier and enterprise side] consult with the product lines.
The carrier business is direct: the Telstra team, the Optus team and other customers we do direct business with us. The enterprise products are fulfilled through the channel. It is predominantly a two-tiered model with our distributors such as Lan Systems and Express Data. Then we have the reseller base selling, supporting, servicing end-users.
Are the telcos a partner as well as a customer?
NA: Correct. And that’s part of the business: we partner to sell through. To sell to, you go through the carrier side; to sell through, you go through my enterprise team on product sales.
How does the direct touch model work on the enterprise side?
NA: They just do business development. All the actual transactions are going through the reseller base. Ninety-nine per cent of the contracts — with a few exceptions because of the products and customers who want a direct relationship with Nortel (like the Department of Defence) — are done through the reseller who does the servicing and implementation.
What channel programs does the company have in place?
NA: We have an overall partner program called nPower. We have another grouping called GSP for our global solution providers — these are the big players like CSC and IBM.
What are the latest channel initiatives?
NA: One of the most recent things was hosting our annual CXO Forum for channel partners. This year it was in Phuket for three days. We provided a vision of where we’re going with the business, gave product updates and used Gartner analysts to give an overview of where the market is going. This year, for the first time, we did direct dialogues with channel partners from which we got feedback. It was facilitated by the country leaders and peers and we got feedback from partners on what we’re doing in each country and some of the initiatives and campaigns.
It was very interactive. In the Australian one, partners said they wanted a quarterly forum hosted in Sydney.
It was very open and interesting. I didn’t think partners would want to share information and ideas in a competitive environment, but they were very open and saw value in it. There were several issues raised that they wanted us to address.
What action do resellers want to see from Nortel?
NA: Resellers want us to help them in the initial implementation and product introduction with some of the newer technologies that we’re bringing out. They want help ramping up their skills. The message I took away from the forum is the market is evolving much more around convergence. It’s a word that’s been used for a long time, but I think a lot of the resellers now see it’s a reality and their customers want it. It has now gone beyond the hype and the fluffy talk and there have been some real implementations.
Do you have examples of where convergence is in use?
NA: Late last year we began offering converged solutions for the CSC office in North Ryde. They have a full voice/data implementation of Nortel products. They are synchronised with our vision on the enterprise. That is around the mobility aspect (with security) and also around the hot multimedia activity. One of the things they are doing is having people work from home but being seen to be at work, carrying the extension number with them. We’ve introduced it ourselves in our workplace. We’ve seen a lot of benefits in productivity, availability of people to fulfil customer needs.
What new technologies is Nortel introducing?
NA: We’re bringing out voice over wireless LAN, which plugs into our whole architecture and allows people to use their computers or handsets over the wireless LAN infrastructure to make calls. We’ve implemented that at several sites and those companies are already seeing a huge reduction in mobile costs because people can walk away from their desks and still take their calls. And they don’t need to carry a mobile phone.
Multimedia communications is another area of focus. What we’ve introduced is functionality that allows you to have point-to-point video, white boarding and secure instant messaging on private networks.
What are the main focal points this year?
NA: We’re working at building security into all of our products to ensure the network is protected; we’re looking at mobility and wireless, which is not just around mobile phones, but how you enable people to do whatever they want from anywhere; the multimedia area; and IP telephony.