Plotting a course for IP telephony

Avaya channel director for South Pacific, Grant Howe, didn't always have an interest in IT but developed one while working in the UK. During an 18-month backpacker pilgrimage, which included a brief stint at a pub, the Kiwi landed a post at a photocopier reseller. This encouraged him to hatch his own photocopy franchise in New Zealand.

Today, with a good dose of reseller know-how, he wants to help Avaya take IP telephony into the mainstream. The company recently reported 22 per cent year-on-year growth in the A/NZ market, and continues to see increased uptake. Globally, this year saw the first rollout of its fixed mobile convergence applications, and the introduction of IP-based self service solutions, including the Avaya Voice Portal.

How did you get involved with Avaya?

Grant Howe (GH): I moved to Australia in 1998. At the time, I joined a company called PhoneWare, a reseller of Lucent voicemail systems. I was the account rep for 18 months.

Then an opportunity came up within Lucent's channels program. Lucent was split into two divisions: one stayed as Lucent, while the other became the enterprise voice division, which was spun out into Avaya.

How is the company structured and what are the main product categories?

GH: Avaya has three core divisions: enterprise communication, SMBS and the global services. I run the enterprise channel, which includes five tier-one business partners and a number of second tier resellers. SMBS primarily has two distributors and about 70 resellers. Product categories include IP telephony, IP networks, contact centres, mobility and services.

What are some of the significant changes on the enterprise front?

GH: There's not much change in terms of the channel structure.

The big news is the introduction of Avaya Global Connect into the Australian marketplace. This involves improving our market coverage. We have recruited sales teams in the purchasing and implementation divisions.

The other big change is that our business partners are now focusing on the mid-market, which is starting to get into IP telephony. Enterprises have either already gone down the path or are in the process of doing so.

What are mid-market players looking for in the communication network market?

GH: The bigger players tend to have an IT department team that focuses on integration through to the desktop and all aspects of the IT solution.

The mid-market tends to have maybe one person running all aspects of it. And they tend to outsource. It's a different model and mindset when selling into that market.

A lot of the push into the mid-market is coming from the fact that the historical install base of technology is now ageing. Business partners are focused on delivering business transformation for those organisations. It's about helping them grow revenue, reduce costs and get a better return on investment.

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Are there other market segments on the company's radar?

GH: Another key area for us is the carrier space. We're seeing the carriers push to add value, bringing together the whole voice and data suites to supply a single solution. The push in the carrier market will be driven through hosted solutions.

Essentially, smaller organisations will be able to have access to advanced technologies on a rental basis. The technology will sit within the carrier, which will deliver the service out to businesses.

What are Avaya's key differentiators?

GH: We offer customers and resellers a choice. It doesn't have to be all IP - it can be a mixture of IP, digital and analogue solutions. We also allow the ability to migrate at the client's pace rather than pushing a forced migration. We're also heavily focusing on mobility. This will be a big part of how people use communication systems in the future.

What do you see as the next step in IP telephony?

GH: IP telephony delivers application benefits rather than merely cutting communication costs. Tailoring applications to specific business needs is a strong market focus. On the mobility front, the Avaya Nokia solution is an example of a specific application. We now have a mobile phone which is hooked up to the IP network, offering the same functionality as your desk phone. Users are able to transfer calls and conference people in.

What have been some of your company milestones?

GH: I was involved in the introduction of Touchbase, one of our gold business partners in the UK, into the Australian marketplace. They offer contact centre solutions. I helped set up the relationship between the two companies, which was a big win for Avaya.

Additionally, I've been involved in rolling out the global business partner program, which was fine-tuned for the Australian market. The program includes certification and training, as well as business partner remediation packages.

If you weren't in IT, what would be your second career choice?

GH: An American Cup yachtsman, maybe. No, in all seriousness, I really enjoyed owning a business. I'd be looking at a reseller type role.