Avaya direct approach miffs channel

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IP telephony vendor Avaya has upset its new Australian channel, publicising a strengthened focus on direct services sales at recent business briefings.

The vendor has worked for two years to cultivate an indirect channel in Australia, but some local resellers have perceived an about-face.

One Avaya reseller--who refused to be named--said Avaya had lately been “pushing” its direct sales message at recent breakfast briefings in a way that left its partners wary.

The reseller attended a briefing where the vendor avoided mentioning the prominent role of Australian channel partners in negotiating and implementing complex contact centre-related deals using Avaya products, he said.

Further, Avaya's marketing message seemed to be US-driven, a strategy that could disempower local partners seeking to tailor the best Australian implementations, the reseller said.

The reseller would not confirm whether his company was exploring opportunities with rival vendors.

Anandh Maistry, vice-president of the Asia-Pacific channel at rival vendor Genesys, has confirmed that “a couple of” companies that have been speaking to him about exploring opportunities with Genesys are current partners of Avaya.

Maistry would not be drawn on further details, but said the companies seemed ready to “switch shops” in light of Genesys' ongoing channel restructure.

Vivek Krishan, marketing director at Sydney-based Avaya partner ServionT--the Australian arm of an Indian company--admitted Avaya's recent focus on direct services sales could “to an extent” reduce opportunities for the niche integrator.

“What we understand of Avaya is they've subtly changed their business model so services are a bigger component of their business,” he said.

Krishan said that change meant a stronger focus on direct sales.

“They [Avaya] now have their own professional services team to serve some of their clients,” he said.

However, ServionT instead hoped to fill the niche left by the resultant “glitch” in Avaya's services delivery, he said.

“In the long term, we certainly hope so,” Krishan said. “Our non-Avaya business has increased, and will increase further.”

Peter Dillon, area sales vice-president at Avaya South Pacific, confirmed the vendor was increasing its focus on managed services, which involved a direct sales push.

The change was partly a response to a perceived threat from rival vendors moving into the managed contact centre services space, he added. “Avaya should be in a position to promote these opportunities, particularly with [government] panel contracts,” Dillon said.

Citing the company's recent $5 million IP telephony implementation at the Australian National University--which also involved Avaya reseller NSC--Dillon said: “Deals to support these networks are getting very very complex and we wouldn't expect a business partner to provide what's needed”.

However, he did not believe that meant less focus on indirect sales via channel partners, claiming the vendor's channel strategy would “remain the same”.

“Pretty much our channel still does the balance of our activity,” Dillon said. “We're still working very closely with partners.”

He said there had been “no significant change” to Avaya's go-to-market strategy in Australia, despite what some resellers might think.

Pablo Munoz, marketing manager at Avaya integrator IPL Communications, said Avaya seemed to be staying on track with its two-year-old channel program, rather than moving back towards a more direct sales model.

“As far as I am aware, and certainly from conversations with Avaya this week...it is very much a channel approach,” Munoz said.

Another Avaya partner, broad-based distributor Ingram Micro, said the contact centre technology vendor was positive in its channel relationships.

“We have had no conflict with Avaya direct selling and have if anything been impressed by the willingness of Avaya to involve its channel in any selling activity,” said Steve Rust, managing director of Ingram Micro in Australia.

He said Avaya has continued to support Ingram Micro in data, virtual private network and wireless markets. No evidence had been seen to suggest the company focus was moving away from the carefully cultivated channel built up in recent years.

“We believe that Avaya understands the need for local partners to sell effectively into the Australian market,” Rust said. “In particular, Avaya has benefited from Ingram Micro stocking its products and backing up any logistical needs.”

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