How We Built Avaya's Own Version of Khan Academy

974 videos, 2,159 subscribers, 272,211 video views – all in just 17 months. Those are the key stats around the Avaya Mentor program, our fast-growing set of how-to YouTube videos for Avaya products that my team and I have been producing.

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at the semi-annual Technology Services World (TSW) Conference, hosted by the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) on the Avaya Mentor program, which I had also written about last August. This was a conference focused on services transformation and TSIA asked that I talk about how we at Avaya put together this video knowledge base, including challenges we faced. The breakout session was well attended and so I thought I would share this presentation with you here. Below is a YouTube video of me doing the presentation (not at TSW), which I’ve also summarized, along with more success metrics, for those who prefer to read.

As most of you have heard, the best example of using video to share knowledge is the Khan Academy. This non-profit’s website has a free collection of over 4,000 educational YouTube videos, surrounded by curriculum, quizzes, and incentives like points and badges. The topics range from simple addition, which has 1.7 million views, to the French Revolution with 400,000 views. 

Khan makes a point of having its contributors avoid a teacher-at-a-whiteboard approach, opting instead for a style that feels like you’re sitting at a table with a tutor, working through the topic on a piece of paper. This better aligns with the many of us for whom learning is a visual experience. Being able to see how to do something taps into something different in the brain than just reading about it. The intuitive simplicity of this approach has allowed the Khan Academy to eclipse MIT’s own online education system with a total of 260 million views. 

Another good example is Jove, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, which helps speed up academic research through online video. When an academic team publishes a research paper, they include instructions so that peers can reproduce their experimental results and thus verify the research. Even to experienced lab researchers, understanding exactly what the authors of the research were trying to convey can be difficult, sometimes delaying the peer review process by months. Jove allows them to more easily include videos to demonstrate the procedure.



By this point, I hope you are asking yourself why you aren’t already using video for your knowledge base. Wouldn’t your employees and customers benefit from your company’s own Khan Academy? At Avaya, we found ourselves facing this question in the fall of 2011.

The President of Services challenged those of us in his extended leadership team to make our organization not just be successful in the market, but to be an organization that the analysts would write about. Put another way, it was no longer good enough to be lean and efficient; we needed to take the lead. 

Going All In

My proposal was to put together an Avaya version of Khan Academy. We would use video to expand on the company’s existing knowledge-base-focused-support-model. We limited our scope to basic how-to videos designed to help those that install, maintain, and support Avaya products, be they customers, partners, or Avaya employees. These were to be short how-to videos, not anything that would replace the training that Avaya Learning develops. 

Like Khan, we would focus on videos that were more live screen capture than talking heads. Additionally, I proposed that unlike Avaya’s existing knowledge base which is only available to our customers with a maintenance agreement, we would make the vast majority of our videos available for free on YouTube. By doing so, search engines like Google would be aware of this content, making it much easier for an engineer to find the answer to an Avaya-related question.

As we got started, getting buy-in from leadership was obviously important. A big part of that was that my team of engineers would need to reprioritize some of our work in order to make time for generating 800 videos in only 9 months. We had great support from Mike Runda, the leader of Avaya Client Services, who gave us the green light to move forward.

The Gear We Got

We evaluated a number of video production software suites and settled on Camtasia Studio. Camtasia gave us great features like the ability to use templates, splice video and audio in, as well as special editing features to highlight or zoom to certain parts of the screen. These licenses ran ~$150. Adding Camtasia required that we upgrade a number of our engineers’ laptops to meet the minimum specs, an upgrade that everyone was excited to have a good reason for.

We also went with a high-quality $80 USB microphone called the Blue Yeti. All in all, that’s about $230 per engineer. We felt it was important to maintain a common look and feel to these videos, so we built a template for Camtasia with legal and branding-approved intros and outros as well as standardizing on things like transitions. Due to our high quality standards, after reviewing the first handful of videos, Avaya’s branding team gave us carte blanche to publish to YouTube without further oversight.

Getting Started

For topic selection, I was lucky to be starting with an amazing team of subject matter experts. Most had no trouble coming up with topics for videos. For those that did get stuck, the engineer would talk with the support engineers to determine the most common repeat scenarios that they encounter and find a way to use these videos to speed up resolution and/or prevent the tickets from being opened in the first place. 

As word got out about our videos, we also started receiving requests from internal and external users. We set a limit of 15 minutes for all the videos and encouraged them to be under the 5 minute mark. The length would really depend on the topic, and I would challenge the author of anything over 10 minutes to see if they could break it into more than one smaller video. To give you a feel for our topics, here are six that show off the variety covering hardware, software, different product portfolios, even our own customer-facing tools.

Quality Control

As the lead for this effort, the most time-consuming part for me was the review and approval process. It was very important to me that we has a very high quality product and thus I personally reviewed each and every one, sending back to the author a list of changes that I wanted to see. The bar was set high and a single review could easily take me half an hour

To help reduce the number of errors, I would frequently share an updated list of common problems I was encountering. This was important as some had a harder time with the learning curve than others, encountering more than 20 issues per submittal, and multiple submittals of the same video. It is worth noting though that while everyone got much better at it with time; some were submitting perfect videos on day 1 while others never quite got there. Some of my engineers were frustrated with me as they felt the bar was set too high for quality. If I heard any extra noise in the background, or if a transition wasn’t crisp, I’d send it back. 

But our users noticed that quality and complimented us on it. I feel it was important to our success. After three months, I delegated the approval process to one of my top engineers, Bhavya Reddy. She was one of the best at producing error-free videos and thus I knew she could maintain our quality. Here’s her video on setting up Avaya Aura Session Manager, which has garnered more than 6,200 views.

After six more months, Bhavya transitioned this role to the company’s formal knowledge management team where it could be better integrated into the other KM processes. This is important as we made sure we always dual-published all YouTube videos to the standard knowledge base by embedding the YouTube video in an article. This helped us ensure that our users could trust that a search of would return everything. The videos that were deemed proprietary were uploaded to an internal server instead of YouTube and published as internal-only articles in the existing knowledgebase.

Getting the Word Out

Building a knowledge base, or any tools, is pointless if you can’t get user adoption. I felt it important to delay the initial announcement until we had the first 100 videos published. I was concerned if someone came to the site and only saw 5 videos, they might never return. 

So once we reached 100 videos, I had the President of Services announce the program internally, followed by similar announcements in external communications to our partners and customers. To reinforce this in a more detailed way, I blogged about it on our corporate site wrote as well as created a Twitter account for Avaya Mentor, allowing people to receive tweets when new videos are uploaded. 

At last year’s Avaya’s User’s Conference in Boston, myself and others passed out materials to all the customers and partners we met with, be it at the conference center itself, or in a bar later in the evening. The IAUG group was actually so impressed with the program that they helped with advertising on all the plasma screens throughout the conference center. We’ve also partnered with the product documentation teams to include references to our program directly in the product documentation.

Our Results

With 16 months now under our belt, I thought I would share with you some of the measurable success we have had with the program. As I mentioned earlier, we have published nearly 1,000 videos on YouTube which have been watched more than 270,000 times.

While the U.S. provides our largest set of viewers, I’m happy to say that we are in 196 distinct geographies. What our support folks are most excited about is that we’re at 1,100 hours of video viewing per month which equates to about 10 full-time equivalents of people, which we figure equates to at least 3 FTE of labor avoidance. 

But perhaps the most interesting metric is that we are seeing significantly more views per article than Avaya’s text-based articles. Now, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison given that we used some of the company’s most knowledgeable resources and posted our content publicly. However, I still think it is clear that video-enabled content is that much more compelling than text alone. 

Three Unexpected Benefits

There are many surprising results from the Avaya Mentor project. The most exciting one for me as a manager was the impact to my employees. At first, I had some resistance from some of my engineers. They were not yet convinced of the value of these videos and combined with the steep learning curve and high quality expectations, some folks just weren’t interested. However, after the good press started, with people directly contacting these authors thanking them for their videos, they came around to its value.

I also saw increase in their self-confidence, which is typical after demonstrating how-to do something to others.  Having those people publicly thank you helps a ton, too. Our most popular video is actually about setting up an interface on an HP server – it has gotten more than 19,000 views! This video was created because many of our applications are sold with this server and this configuration is important. What we didn’t expect is that non-Avaya people would find it valuable to their usage of the same HP servers. I’ve found our video embedded in a variety of websites out there, having nothing to do with Avaya. 

The last surprise was discovering that a business partner pirated a few of our videos and re-uploaded them to YouTube and other sites, touting them as their own. This is something Avaya typically doesn’t care about as our videos tend to be marketing-based. The upside of this is that the message is getting out to more and more people. What makes me nervous is that if we find a problem with a video and need to take it down and re-release it, this partner likely won’t see that and bad information will continue to float around.

We’ve received great feedback from our users of the program. We get these comments on YouTube, Twitter, and via email. Sometimes we get suggestions for new videos to create, product support questions, or just encouraging statements like the ones shown here. As mentioned previously, feedback like this is very encouraging to our engineers.

I want to thank my team who helped make this program a success. We dedicated at least a third of our time for nine months building this program up and it was no small feat. I’m proud to say that Avaya has recognized all of them with well-deserved awards.

Contact or follow me on Twitter @CarlKnerr.

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IP Office Leads the Way: How Doubling Down in One Product Area Can Drive Best Practices

Just over a month ago, we released the latest version of Avaya IP Office, one of the most popular SMB/MM UC systems on the market today. Over the past year, we’ve doubled the number of partners who are offering IP Office as a cloud deployment and have now shipped more than half a million systems globally—but this kind of success didn’t come overnight.

We’ve evolved Avaya IP Office a long way over the years, growing the product from something geared towards the SMB space (typically 100 users and below) to something that can scale all the way up to the midmarket, serving up to 3,000 users. Adding this scale to the product was extremely important because as our customers and partners grow, we can now grow right along with them. It also opens up the potential market served by the product.

Evolving with Our Customers and Partners

At Avaya, we have two groups of people to keep happy—our end users and our channel partners—and both want to make long-term investments in a communications solution and trusted business partner. That’s why, instead of concentrating on multiple product lines, we’re focused on continually enhancing Avaya IP Office with new features and capabilities, such as the new release 10, which adds a number benefits for businesses in terms of security, resiliency and end-user experience.

Our partners are happy with this approach because their salespeople now only need to know one single product, making it easier to sell, manage and configure the technology for a wide range of businesses (anywhere from a 10-person to 3,000-person company). And our customers are thrilled because as they expand and evolve, they have a flexible, scalable communications solution that can still meet their every need.

Businesses can even expand the solution into a simple and robust multi-channel call center. With IP Office Contact Center or Avaya Contact Center Select, companies can integrate voice, e-mail, and web chat channels, and proactively manage the entire customer interaction lifecycle. They can start at their own pace with one channel such as voice, for example, and add other channels such as e-mail as business objectives evolve. In June, Avaya also announced a highly affordable, simple-to-deploy workforce optimization solution that enables a wide range of insights into the customer experience, allowing midsize businesses to create the most value through every customer interaction.

Providing Investment Protection

While many businesses are aware of cloud, not everyone wants it right now. Because Avaya IP Office is offered as a cloud, hybrid cloud, or premises based deployment, businesses can move to the cloud at a more measured pace—adding new features and capabilities from the cloud as they become available or needed, and leveraging the investment they have in a premises deployment.

For instance, a business could start with an IP Office solution today on premises, and then migrate to cloud or hybrid cloud in a year or even five years from now—and all the features and training they’ve given to employees will stay exactly the same because the end-user experience will be the same.

Providing further investment protection, Avaya even allows customers running on old Nortel technology to seamlessly move their user licenses to IP Office at minimal cost.

A Relentless Focus on Quality

Doubling down in one product area has also allowed Avaya to put a premium on quality. Today, Avaya’s Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a measure of the willingness of a customer to recommend a company’s products or services to others—hovers around 58, which is considered excellent in almost any industry. The Net Promoter Score for IP Office has been over 70 for the last several quarters.

This sky-high NPS is all the more impressive when you consider Avaya IP Office is for small 10-user customers and larger 3,000-user customers. This ability to meet high- and low-end needs is pretty unique in the industry, and is only achievable because of the company’s relentless focus on quality and features.

Always striving to understand the needs of our customers, we’re constantly adding new enhancements to IP Office. Leveraging much of the knowledge and experience we learned at the enterprise-level with Avaya Aura, we continue to add usability and resiliency to IP Office. In fact, the latest version of the platform features built-in signaling and media encryption for endpoints and UC clients, helping preserve privacy and data integrity. This increase in security is especially significant to the midmarket, where the number of attacks reported by midsize companies increased 64% between 2013 and 2014, according to the 2015 global survey report.

Beyond other pure cloud deployments, the latest version of IP Office also takes a unique approach to resilience, providing system failover cloud to cloud, cloud to premises, premises to cloud, and premises to premises, keeping your system active and users connected through any outage.

Moving forward, we’ll continue to add enhancements to Avaya IP Office, relentlessly driving quality and features for our growing list of customers and partners.

Heads in the Cloud: Digital Natives and Unified Communications

Millennial—a four-syllable word that may as well be a four-letter one. Millennials are polarizing, and everyone seems to have an opinion about Gen Y, especially when it comes to the workplace.

For many 20- and 30-somethings in the workforce, an unfortunate reality is a stigma around their generation—a disdain for their unwillingness to cope with the status quo of conventional workplace policies. But with that comes the realization that the guard has changed, and they now make up a majority of the workforce, driving the future of their chosen industries.

Young workers are driving a paradigm shift in the working world, putting a greater emphasis on work-life balance and striving for career advancement, with an unprecedented willingness to jump ship from a current position to find something that better suits their needs and goals. Companies need to be able to court and retain the best of the digital native generation, making adjustments to suit the employees of the future.

As a proud member of Gen Y, I can say that the technology and services available in the workplace are some of the most important factors to me, and I’m not alone. I’m part of a contingent of employees that have more than just our heads in the cloud and having access to our work anywhere and everywhere is vital. In a survey conducted by, 84% of Gen Y-ers polled said they would prefer to work remotely full time. While that may not be realistic in every situation, there’s no doubt that the workplace is becoming more mobile, and productivity is not limited to a desk in an office building. Cloud-enabled unified communications and collaboration tools are the new wave, and something that Avaya excels at.

It’s for this reason that I’m happy—even proud—to work for Avaya. They see the way technology in the workplace is moving, and continue to make it easier for companies to go through digital transformations, moving smoothly into the future. And I, like many Avayans, can speak to the quality of our products and solutions first hand.

I use Avaya solutions just about every day of my life to collaborate and get my work done, from wherever and whenever I need to. I’m still amazed at how fluidly and effortlessly I can communicate with colleagues from around the world, from any device. While it’s nice to disconnect from the working world temporarily, it’s also immensely comforting to know that through Avaya technology, I can be face to face with anyone I need to talk to in a matter of minutes.

Effective communication is important in our mobile world. My generation of digital natives comes predisposed to being connected with one another effortlessly and near constantly. Having the right unified communications technology in place to facilitate fully formed and engaging collaboration experiences is vital, and something that Avaya can do for a business of any size in any industry.

This generation of employees does not want work to be easy; rather we want it to be easier to get work done. Having technology in place that allows people to maintain flexibility in their lives while still producing quality work is a necessary step for any business that wants to retain young talent and maximize results.

Avaya and IAUG: Coming Together for a Better User Group Experience

Marilyn ShuckMarilyn Shuck serves as a Director on the IAUG Board, president of the Puget Sound Avaya Users Group, and as a UC Engineer at the University of Washington.



The combination of the Avaya Technology Forum (ATF) and the International Avaya Users Group (IAUG) flagship event, Avaya ENGAGE, is generating a lot of buzz. As IAUG members, it’s exciting for us because we’ll be there as Avaya is announcing new products and have better access to Avaya. We’re also looking forward to bringing in more technical expertise, session choice, and potential new members to IAUG.

In the past, ATF was held in February or March, and Avaya ENGAGE was in June. By the time we assembled for Avaya ENGAGE, new product lines would have been out for several months. Now, we’ll get to hear the latest announcements. Since we’re partnering with Avaya, we’ll have much more access to them, getting our questions answered, getting trained, and seeing the new products in action.

We’re also able to offer so many more sessions, some with more technical expertise. ATF has historically been a technical conference, and our IAUG attendees will have a choice of breakout sessions that will add a new dimension to the education they’ll already be receiving.

It also makes sense to hold both of these events under one umbrella. There’s some overlap between ATF attendees and Avaya ENGAGE attendees, and in organizations where travel budgets are tight or where the same person is a technical support specialist and a user, you no longer have to choose which event to attend.

Additionally, we’re excited about the possibility of introducing new members to IAUG. Some ATF attendees may not have known about our existence, but now not only will they have the chance to learn more about us but they can network with us. We can continue to share learning opportunities and even bring a whole new quality of technical users to IAUG.

Make no mistake, the foundation of the event has not changed. This is still planned with the Avaya customer in mind. However, it signals our deepening relationship by aligning all customer events.

This is going to be one of those cases where what happens in Las Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. Avaya and IAUG are aligning, and it’s going to provide valuable education and opportunities for customers, IAUG members, partners, and Avaya. The benefits of attending will resonate throughout your organization, so plan to join us in February to learn, network, and return full of ways to make the most of your Avaya implementations. You can learn more at