Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What are Nortel Customers Doing? Henry Dortmans Knows.

Blogging tends to go in streaks with me, and when I'm busy with projects, it's hard to post regularly.

Got an interesting item about what's been happening with all those Nortel customers out there. Avaya's acquisition of their telecom business is old news, but I have some current insights from long-time local colleague, Henry Dortmans.

Henry knows the Canadian telecom/IT market as well as anyone, and his perspectives are always right on. Like many others in this space, Henry has been wondering what's really going on with the Nortel customer base. His concern was that depending where you look, the storyline is very different. Avaya will tell you they've kept most of the installed base, while Nortel's other competitors will happily crow about how they've taken most of those customers away. Uh huh. When in doubt, leave it to Henry.

So, here's what he did. Henry sent out a simple one question survey to his database, which covers the Canadian market very well. He just published the results today in his widely-read monthly e-newsletter, On the Line. You have to subscribe to get the online content, so I'm just cutting/pasting his writeup for you here. If this space if of interest to you, I strongly suggest you subscribe (it's free)- here's the link.

With that, I'll leave you to read this below, and following that are my brief thoughts...

My Survey on Nortel System Users

Over the past year I've asked many, "What % of organizations have kept their Nortel (now Avaya) systems?" I got different answers, depending on who I asked. So, I surveyed end-users directly.

Promising anonymity, the question posed last month was:

"If you have a significant investment in Nortel enterprise systems (or had in the past two years), have you:
• A - Upgraded?
• B - Replaced with Avaya systems?
• C - Replaced with non-Avaya systems?
• D - Decided to wait?"

Based on 146 responses*:
• A - 25%
• B - 10%
• C - 20%
• D - 45%

I know that this is not a statistically valid survey but it's better than rumours. The key items? Almost half are still waiting to decide what to do; some had more than one answer; many provided interesting insights into their situation.

My thoughts...

Wow. Henry has a lot qualitative feedback to add color to the numbers, and you'll have to tap him for that. While the data isn't totally scientific, I think it's a pretty good barometer about what people are doing. With almost half sitting pat, that tells you not a lot business has shifted hands. Only 20% said they've gone to another vendor, so this is where Cisco, Mitel, Siemens, etc. get all happy.

On the other hand, 70% have either held tight or upgraded, so clearly the Nortel installed base is holding its own. Waving the Canadian flag, that's a testament to their enduring reputation as a quality vendor, and hopefully, Avaya will allow that to continue.

The bigger picture takeaway for me - and Henry - is that if given a choice, most people don't change. If their telecom system is working fine, there's a lot of inertia around doing something else. This plays into the broader theme of choice and confusion that has washed over the telecom landscape in recent years. The technology has gotten ahead of a lot of people, and it's a real challenge for enterprise IT leaders to make an informed - and financially sound - decision about which way to go. It's a big issue, and I'll keep writing about in the usual places. I hope you keep tabs on me, and if you're not doing the same with Henry, maybe his latest insights will get you to follow him as well.


Jon Alperin said...

John - Always good to see qualitative data. And while I am Avaya associate, I'm not responding formally to these numbers but rather commenting on your observation that "if given a choice, most people don't change."

Avaya's strategy specific to the Nortel Enterprise Solutions acquisition was aligned explicitly towards protecting the customer base FROM THE NEED TO MAKE SUCH A CHOICE. We committed to protecting those investments for 12-18 months (and in some cases, longer), and have been providing and executing on a roadmap that allows NES customers to re-use some or all of their current investments even when migrating forward.

I think that 80% number is really a critical proof point of Avaya's strategy, and our demonstrated commitment thereof.

Jon Arnold said...

Thanks for the quick reply, Jon! Great to hear from the Avaya camp, and clarifying your strategy. That helps explain things, and am sure Henry will be glad to hear that too.

Henry Dortmans said...

Yes, lots could be written about the original Roadmap of January 2010 (other than 15 months seemed to go by quickly). Jon raises a good point.

Based on what I hear from buyers, Avaya has lived up to its commitments.

There are many 'whys' behind people wait to make major decisions. The next couple of years will be very interesting.