French telecommunications specialist Alcatel is bracing itself for a major market battle that will see the company embark on a worldwide brand recognition campaign and channel restructure in the converging voice and data enterprise market.
This was one of the messages of Alcatel Forum 2000, held in Paris last week, where almost 2500 delegates, some from as far as Brazil and Aust-ralia, came to see the best of Alcatel's enterprise offering.
Focusing on North America, the campaign comes in the wake of Alcatel's recently completed acquisition of the US-based computer and telephony integration (CTI) vendor Genesys. Genesys' expertise in the data space will be used to position the French giant closely behind predominantly North American voice and data network integration market leaders.
`In 1998, we were a European player in the voice market, integrating voice products, but we were essentially a reseller of our competitors' products in the data space,' commented Alcatel Telecom executive vice president Olivier Houssin. `We are yet to become a market leader in the US or in the Asia-Pacific. North America represents half of the global telecommunications market and this is where we have to make a mark,' he said.
Despite being widely recognised as a telephony company, Alcatel currently realises as much as 40 per cent of its sales in the enterprise space. The company hopes to increase this figure following the introduction of its new product and services range for enterprises, as well as a new business partner and certification program announced at the conference.
Touted as `a complete communication architecture for the Internet-age corporation', the new portfolio, OmniSolutions for Enterprise, consists of medium and high end-aimed IP-based voice communication platform OmniPCX 4400 and OmniOffice enterprise voice system for SMEs.
The global rollout of these products will be accompanied by a whole new services offering called all-in-One, which will cover design, project deployment, facility management and support of voice and data integrated network solutions at the high end.
`Today, we are considered to have the most complete product offering in the convergence market, and the other biggest challenge in the voice and data convergence market will be to provide services to go with it,' Houssin said.
`[Therefore] we are starting to make a significant investment in services to better support our customers and sell our products,' he added.
But while Alcatel's new market push requires a significant investment into its reseller base, the all-in-One services range will initially be offered only through a direct sales model.
However, Alcatel resellers have an opportunity to support the converging market and the company's new product offering by undergoing the vendor's first ever structured business partner certification program, which is currently being rolled out globally as part of Alcatel's channel restructuring plans.
`We need to restructure our channels for the convergence of voice and data markets to be able to cover efficiently all market segments,' explained Jean-Luc Fourniou, Alcatel's chief operating officer of Enterprise Indirect Sales.
`[The aim of the program is to] develop channel expertise and offer best in class channel support to our partners,' he said.
The Alcatel Business Partner Program will offer three levels of cert-ification - Certified, Expert and Premium - that will require anything from two hours of study to 28 week training courses with varying levels of self reliance.
The first level (Certified Business Partner) will target resellers of `plug'n'phone' solutions, the second (Expert Business Partner) will involve resellers offering value-added solutions at the medium level of complexity, and the third and the highest (Premium Business Partner), will be offered to resellers delivering highly integrated OmniPCX solutions that require a full level of support.
According to Carmelo San Gil, Alcatel's area director, Australia and New Zealand SME Business Unit, the channel restructuring initiative will also include the recruitment of new resellers targeting SMEs mainly in Western Australia and Queensland.
`We finally have a process in place to verify that our business partners can deliver the Alcatel promise,' San Gil asserted. `We are pretty keen to hear from people who are willing to provide excellent solutions in the voice and data space,' he said.
Though he couldn't specify when the program will officially kick off or who the company that will be providing the certification services will be, San Gil said Alcatel Australia would start implementing the program `as soon as possible'.
Tamara Plakalo travelled to Alcatel Forum 2000 as a guest of Alcatel.