Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Avaya Night in Canada - IP Office 8.0 Update

I was invited to attend an update here in Toronto yesterday on Avaya's IP Office, which inluded a preview for Release 8.0, scheduled to launch on December 12. Lots of Avaya folks on hand, along with the sponsors, Smart IP. They're one of Avaya's top 10 Canadian reseller partners, and having started out as a Nortel shop, they know the territory pretty well.

Oh - Canadians will clue into the title of this post right away - more on that later.

This was a pitch event to prospective IP Office customers, and being the only analyst, it gave me a pretty interesting perspective on how the story is told and how the value proposition is communicated. Release 8.0 is targeted at the SME market, and serves up to 384 lines. So, there will be some small business here, but it's really mid-sized customers, meaning that they'll have some IT competence. In other words, this is strictly about premise-based systems - there was absolutely no mention here of cloud, hosted or virtual solutions.

If you didn't pay close attention, you would think the focus was 100% about telecom. In many ways it was, as most of the presentation materials covered the feature set of the phones, and how Release 8.0 has full backwards compatibility with Nortel BCM. Fair enough - that's a very important message to communicate, given the huge installed base of Nortel in Canada, and the need for Avaya to retain that business as they transition away from BCM. To that point, a key takeaway was an EOS date of March 1, 2012 (end of support)for Norstar/BCM - at that point, only Avaya products will be supported.

Getting beyond that, yes, there was talk about SIP trunking and unified communications, but not in a huge way. It was good to hear about advanced IP-based features such as built-in ACD, built-in conference bridges, and how modular and scalable the systems are. All good, but most of the talk was about how the BCM features are fully migrated to the Avaya phones. This is really important for long-time Nortel users, who don't have to think about the codes they use for routine things like call transfer, call forwarding, last number redial, DND, etc. They'll use the same codes with Avaya, which translates into faster/easier adoption, lower install costs and less need for retraining. I'd say they've done a great job here, and that speaks to the broader, more strategic message they have about investment protection for this migration.

Wearing my UC hat, this seems a bit dull, but it's a clear reminder that telephones still matter big time, and the phone system is still very much the heart and soul of most communications systems - certainly among this customer set. Most VARs still have telecom as the core offering, but we all know how things are changing.

This brings me to the fun stuff - one-X, and what 8.0 supports at the desktop and for mobility. Now we're getting closer to UC, and Smart IP has the right idea to help move their customers along with Avaya as a solution for both today and tomorrow. I'll be short here, but basically, one-X has an Outlook plug-in that brings all the web-based UC features - presence, IM, conferencing, federated contact lists, voicemail, etc. - into that interface. Avaya knows this is where end users spend most of their on-screen time, so this way they don't have to leave the Outlook page to do all these things. It's a great ease-of-use example, and speaks to the end user experience as a key value driver.

The other interesting one-X update is mobility integration. It's only available on the higher-end IP Office solutions, but it does all the things you'd expect when extending the deskphone/desktop UC feature set out to the mobile environment. This definitely plays well for a UC solution, but what really stood out for me is their choice of devices supported by one-X. They're launching with Android first, and that's what the demo was based on. Early next year, iPhone will added, but no firm plan is in place yet for RIM. Wow. I think that speak volumes, not just about mobility, but how handset trends are driving things. Two years ago, it would have been RIM and only RIM - and now, they're not even on the table. Incredible.

It was also nice to see them talk about DevConnect and their partner ecosystem who have developed a range of vertical applications - fax servers, appointment reminders, enhanced IVR, call reporting, call recording, CRM integration, etc. This isn't a leading value driver for IP Office, but it really helps prime customers to think beyond everyday telecom.

I could go on, but on the whole, I think Avaya is on the right track with 8.0, especially for the Nortel base. You also need to keep the audience in mind. You can only throw so many ideas out there, but the sale will ultimately be based on how comfortable the customer is in transitioning Nortel BCM over to Avaya IP Office. Collaboration was discussed a bit, and I don't think video was mentioned - same for Aura, social media or Flare - but that's totally fine. These things will come - and can only come once the customer buys into the IP Office story - and of course, Smart IP's competence to get them there.

Ok, now the title of this post starts to make sense. This is Joe Bowen - the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was very engaging and funny - thought he was great. Joe speaks from the heart and what I enjoyed most were his feelings about how hockey and its culture are rooted in the character that makes Canada special. I've played and avidly followed the game long enough to know where he's coming from. I may not be a Leafs fan, but I found it a bit ironic to hear Joe extol the Canadian virtues that make hockey great, yet here we were listening to how Avaya is transitioning customers away from Nortel, Canada's greatest tech icon. Ouch.

Here we are - Avaya Night in Canada - cool, huh? Gondola seats - can't get up any higher than this at the ACC. Thanks Avaya and Smart IP!

Love seeing these Cup banners right in your face sitting up so high. Oh, y'know, there once was a time when this happened regularly around here (I'll keep my reigning-Cup-champs-Bruins gloating to myself), but I think the wait will go on for a while yet...


Anonymous said...

With this, those who work within the field of customer support as well as other related fields would definitely benefit from the latest developments with Avaya call recording.

Serge said...

Avaya call recording is definitely a must especially for call center agencies so that they could not only hear great voice quality within a call, they could also use this for documentation purposes.

inlinecom said...

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