Avaya Evolutions Toronto 2014

Avaya mustered a mass of trending stats in plenary sessions at its fifth annual Toronto user conference to sketch out key challenges in the collaboration space and how these may be addressed though "The Power of We." This tagline encapsulates Avaya messaging for the Avaya Evolutions 2014 event, and in broader strokes: the company is looking to engage its professionals, products and services in the implementation of technology that enables customers to work with others in a synchronized, collaborative fashion. But significant shifts now underway in how people work and communicate are obliging one member of this team to step up and provide the leadership needed to address growing user expectations for the instant on, integrated exchange of ideas, data and services. At the Toronto event, Avaya worked hard to assume this role through outline of innovation across IP telephony categories that the company is well known for - and across areas where Avaya is hoping to build greater market awareness.

Brett Shockley, SVP & CTO, AvayaTo kickoff formal presentations at the event, Avaya SVP and CTO Brett Shockley described five trends that are driving the need for innovation in communications platforms. The first is workforce mobility, a challenge to sustain and manage that has been compounded by user predilection for using many devices and media. According to Shockley, 40% of employees now spend more than 20% of their time away from desks, and the mobile worker now carries an average of 3.5 devices. One result has been increased use of video, a media that places additional strain on networks - and on IT departments tasked with supporting multiple devices. A goal in new collaboration solutions is to "make it easy to go from one device to another," which Shockley claimed, Avaya has achieved in the Aura communications platform. By allowing registration of up to ten devices or apps to a single user, Aura helps to resolve issues around support of a differentiated user experience.

Other trends that Shockley pointed to include an increase in threats on the security and privacy fronts - which Avaya is addressing in its applications - that interesting, often hail from inside corporate walls. A full 67% of data breeches originate with insiders, he noted. And to address growing adoption of cloud (70% of businesses state they will move new apps to cloud; and by 2014, 60% of server workloads will be virtualized), Avaya has made its entire collaboration portfolio cloud ready.

A final trend in Shockley’s arsenal also involves user behaviours - the increasing expectation that in their in interactions with businesses, individuals can use a variety of communications media. On the desire for a multichannel experience, Shockley noted that: 50% of users currently use multichannels to communicate with companies; 78% would like to do so; only 17% said that companies do this well; and 85% said they would buy more from companies that were capable in managing multichannel interactions. But how does one create a consistent customer experience? In Shockley’s view, the answer lies the integration of communications channels, and in the deployment of intelligent call centre solutions that can make use of the massive amount of customer data that is generated on a daily basis (a typical contact centre generates a million events daily, and a large centre a billion) to build good customer experience, rather than rely on post facto point of sale information. Recognition of the value in Big Data and analytics is growing, he added: while 30% of IT departments see this as a challenge, 70% define it as opportunity.

Linda Dotts, VP contact centre product manager, AvayaIn terms of Avaya opportunity, call centre has historically served as a strong business for the company. Citing T3i research, Shockley noted that Avaya accounted for 63.5% of the Canadian call centre market for 2012. To discuss potential going forward, Avaya VP contact centre product manager Linda Dotts introduced the capabilities that Avaya is developing to create an "aware" customer experience - defined as one where the contact centre agent is informed by lots of information to better engage in a personalized, two-way conversation with the mobile, multichannel "empowered consumer."

At the outset, Dotts noted that currently the vast majority of customer interaction is voice-based; however, Avaya is working to link this with access via mobile apps or the company website to simplify information sharing between these different channels. The next step, she added, is automating functions such as chat. In terms of experience management, Dotts explained that traditional routing of calls was based solely on agent skills. In future, she expects to see the mining of customer data for "prospecting" and for the creation of customer "personas" that can be better matched with service and product needs. Data can also help with the development and incorporation of strategy-based business rules into call routing. And finally, Dotts described the evolution of performance management in call centre from traditional reporting on past activity, to analytics that can help operators understand "why" a particular outcome occurred: "contact flow analytics" and "speech analytics," for example, would help a manager understand if the agent was following business rules. Information accessed in analytics databases serve as "the ''holy grail of performance management,'' she concluded.

Another focus for Avaya is collaboration solutions, which Enzo Signore, VP marketing at Avaya, argued have to encompass more than "more than a UC platform with a neat interface." In order to achieve multimodal conversations which extend beyond company firewalls that customers now demand, new, flexible solutions have to incorporate mobility, video, security and cloud. In his presentation, and in the accompanying video below, Signore outlined significant financial and productivity benefits that can be realized through the deployment of integrated collaboration platforms - in the reduction of cell communication costs for sales teams that rely on IP telephony, for example, or in the reduction of time needed for business negotiations that a single number for all employees can deliver.

Interestingly, video has not yet realized its potential as a collaboration tool, largely because most video spend has been dedicated to deployment of video rooms in fixed locations. According to Signore, Gartner has found that while 48% of enterprises have deployed video, but only 28% of employees are currently using it, but with the Avaya Scopia desktop and mobile video solution, we ''now have the opportunity to make video pervasive.'' Signore pointed to several advantages of the Scopia platform, highlighting the fact that users are able to deploy the solution without expert assistance and can run it without support, and to low bandwidth requirements that are especially useful in the case of home office workers. For IT, Signore noted security provisions built into Avaya collaboration solutions designed to protect against DDOS or mobile hacking, including Avaya session border controllers that use encryption, and the Aura SIP application firewall, as well as two cloud options - a virtualized private cloud solution or hosted solution available through Avaya SI partners. Ultimately, he argued Avaya differentiation through the company’s open strategy, which enables rapid integration of Avaya telephony and collaboration solutions with other enterprise application work flows, and which encompasses tools like the "Avaya Client Application" that allows customers to simultaneously deploy other apps, Lync, for example, if the customer is running other Microsoft applications.

Shockley intends that Avaya become the "preferred provider of open, mobile enterprise collaboration platforms," by "really thinking about [the company’s] relevance in a new world" - i.e. by helping customers engage in business transformation. Efforts will be made over the next year to initiate Avaya’s own transformation through a "core plus 4 strategy" that focuses on applications, cloud, video and networking (an area that is receiving a lot of attention due to Avaya status as the official network supplier for the Sochi Olympics). To execute on this strategy, the company is aiming at more segment focus in marketing, greater integration in an open technology stack, expanded sales coverage, development of customer experience capabilities, and expansion of strategic alliances, including integration with other OEMS. Will this be enough? Much depends on the shift of SIP and video from the realm of technology disruption to pervasive adoption and on the power of the empowered consumer to drive consumerization within the enterprise. Stay tuned...

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