Q&A: Avaya's Service Provider Chief, Joe Manuele, on Our Cloud Strategy, Momentum

Joe Manuele is Vice President of Global Service Providers, System Integrators, Alliances, and Cloud for Avaya. I spoke with Joe earlier this week about what’s the latest in Avaya’s cloud strategy, as well as about some major partnerships on the horizon.

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To most businesspeople and even mainstream IT, cloud is still synonymous with the public cloud. In reality, however, there are many flavors of cloud. What should businesses be considering?

I was just at a meeting with a CIO where we discussed this very question. For unified communications, contact centers, and video, these are real-time services that businesses can’t afford to go down. So while our competitors will argue for ripping and replacing everything with a new public cloud infrastructure, Avaya wants to help transform our customers’ infrastructures. So it’s more of an evolution to cloud services, rather than a revolution, so that you can maintain reliability and trust, and without any disruption to their business.

For customers with 2,000 or more users, we recommend a private cloud with a managed service wrap as the first step. With this model, our customers have a foundation so that enterprise messaging applications, for example, that don’t require governance or use sensitive data, can be hosted in a public cloud. This way, you can start getting flexible, utility-based pricing with a managed service wrap. Meanwhile, your core either remains on-premises or hosted by Avaya Operations Service (AOS) in a non-shared manner. AOS already has 700 organizations representing two million communication ports using its services. This would be a hybrid cloud. Of course, whatever particular flavor of cloud that people want, Avaya can offer. Some companies may be happy to add 50 IP telephony users using Avaya or one of our partners via the public cloud. Meanwhile, a multinational firm with 20,000 employees and contact center agents will take a different approach.

 

types of cloud

Source: “The Guide to Cloud Collaboration: Three Clouds. A Million Possibilities for Businesses and Service Providers,” Avaya’s latest installment in its series of guidebooks for Enterprises and Service Providers, will be available in April.

Cloud shouldn’t be an ideology, but simply a tool for businesses. So, it’s really less about cloud, and more about business transformation, which is typically a five-year journey. If you want to learn more of my thoughts about this, check out my article, “Which Cloud is Right for You?” in the new  Avaya, The Guide to Cloud Collaboration for Enterprises and Service Providers.

How has Avaya’s cloud strategy evolved in response to these needs?

The first step in Avaya’s own journey was to virtualize as many of our apps as possible. Today, 95% of our applications are available as virtual machines. . Virtualizing our software enable enterprises to consolidate and collapse their infrastructure. We have customers that have shrunk from 30 data centers down to just two. Or take Forest City Enterprises, the billion-dollar mall operator based in Cleveland. They’ve gone from 150 physical servers to just 50, while upgrading and adding new applications. Coincidentally, this isn’t just about Avaya becoming a cloud provider, but really about Avaya’s successful transformation to a software and services company.

How are our cloud offerings different from our competitors?

There are some vendors who merely create these appliances and call it cloud. You still have to use their proprietary hardware and commit to a bunch of licenses upfront. You’re basically moving from a CapEx financial model to a lease. That’s all it is. Our software can run on any 3rd-party hardware. We aren’t just selling you a piece of software running on our own tin.

Secondly, we don’t just offer you creative financing – we deliver a truly-elastic, consumption-based model. For example, say you work at a government agency that normally has 500 employees throughout the year, except during tax season, when you need to add 200 contact center agents. During those three months, you can pay for those additional 200 users and then go back to 500 users the rest of the year. All on any hardware you want. This is true shared-risk approach.

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Related: What is Avaya’s Aura Virtualization Roadmap?

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Finally, there is no other company out there that has the product and feature breadth that Avaya does, whether you are talking on-premise or cloud-based. All of our on-premise software is virtualized, and on the path to becoming cloud-based service offers. And while some of our competitors can only offer IP telephony in the cloud, the Avaya Aura® platform covers unified communications as well as contact center applications with the same contact center control manager.

For IT, there’s zero difference in the training you need. If you know how to run Avaya IP Office on-premise, then you know how to do it in the cloud.

How is Avaya going to market with its cloud solutions?

Our strategy is to enable targeted global service providers to launch Avaya services in the cloud. We have some very big, respected names in the service provider industry – global providers and system integrators – who we are close to announcing as partners. We are also taking vertical solutions that we are being used by large customers today and extending them to commercial service providers. Stay tuned for announcements.

Besides the Avaya book mentioned above, how else can I learn more?

Talk to us at the Enterprise Connect show next week in Orlando! Avaya will have Booth 1005. For cloud solutions, visit the Avaya Cloud Marketplace inside our booth and meet our experienced team of cloud services professionals.

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Service while you wait – eGain innovates to turn hold to gold

My first exposure to self-service IVR application development was back in the early 1990s. Over the years, I’ve participated in the evolution from simple menu-based interfaces (“Press 1 for sales, 2 for service…”), to full-blown natural-language interactions driven by intelligent, automated back-end capabilities (“Open the pod bay doors, Hal…”).

It’s still not perfect, and I find myself having to opt out and wait for a human agent more often than I care to. In fact, a study by Marchex released earlier this year estimated that I and my fellow Americans will be on hold in 2016 for more than 900 million hours. That’s a lot of wasted time.

So what do I end up doing? Mostly checking Facebook, responding to emails, and playing solitaire on my phone. Seems like my smartphone isn’t being used very smartly, and it’s certainly not making me happy when I’m sitting on hold and waiting for an available agent.

Since the launch of the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, we have been advocating the value of the Breeze platform to solve problems. Give us a use case (problem) and with Breeze, an innovative, scalable, secure solution can be developed in days to weeks. On hold time appears to be a major use case in need of an innovative solution.

In January, Forrester reported that 73% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that companies can do to provide them with good customer service. So why make them waste time on hold (even if they are keeping up with their Instagram and Pintrest feeds) instead of actually helping them during that transition time from self-service to agent-assisted?

This is why I think eGain Corporation, one of our 2016 DevConnect Innovation Award winners, is onto something really big.

By creating the eGain Knowledge Snap-in for Avaya Breeze, Avaya customers can improve the overall experience and satisfaction of their own customers by making relevant information quickly available in a self-directed manner. In other words, eGain has innovated on Avaya a solution to the on hold problem.

How? By recognizing that an IVR user is calling with a smartphone, the Breeze-based workflow will work with eGain’s cloud-based knowledge base whenever the caller is queued between an IVR interaction and a contact center agent, presenting relevant content to the caller’s smartphone via SMS, based on the context of the information already collected via the IVR interactions, and allowing the user to self-select additional materials that are more visual in nature (such as basic repair-and-troubleshooting instructions, documents, or even video clips).

As a result, users can more often find their own answers before the agent becomes available. At a minimum, the customer will likely be better informed when talking to the agent, creating the opportunity for a shorter call overall.

Smartphone users have lots of ways to keep themselves busy while on hold. And while there is a certain enjoyable aspect to completing another level in whatever newest game you’ve loaded, nothing beats actually being productive when you have an issue you’re trying to solve. eGain’s Knowledge Snap-in and Avaya Breeze don’t just let end users mine for virtual coins in their spare time, they actually help turn those on-hold moments to gold for everyone.

Avaya Named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure

Avaya is honored to be recognized as a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Infrastructure worldwide. Avaya has been the only vendor having the distinction of being named a Leader for 16 consecutive years. Each year the research organization creates a market view of key players for business users, reflecting business goals, needs, and priorities.

Contact centers have gone beyond phone calls with customers now expecting to communicate on their terms via text, IM, email, chat or video. For the past 16 years Avaya has created seamless and highly personalized experiences, building brand loyalty for companies all around the world.

According to Deloitte, 85% of organizations view customer experience provided through contact centers as a competitive differentiator. Todays companies must remain relevant by creating a single interface to connect customers with the correct resource each time, supporting their preferences. Supervisors and managers need real-time performance information to adapt immediately to situations to ensure optimized customer experience.

Avaya has focused its efforts on creating next-generation contact center solutions, creating communication strategies enabling a continuous transition between channels during customer interactions.

Please visit Gartner’s page to read the full report and see how Avaya’s Contact Center infrastructure continues to deliver best-of-breed Contact Center applications. We look forward to continuing innovation and leading business communications for the digital age.

 

How to Explain Cloud Projects to a CFO

As tensions continue to increase in cloud-related discussions at the executive level, so has the importance of effective communication. Much of the debate on cloud investments revolves around one topic: OpEx. It’s understandable why many financial experts seek to avoid OpEx, but the value of investing in cloud services lies beyond this range.

An effective method to bridge this gap is to build a strategic plan, so that you are prepared to let the facts speak for themselves. This method allows for pure business value to be presented, while also giving equal consideration to the weaknesses and challenges faced. Common ground may also be easier to establish when both parties enter the discussion with a clear understanding of the advantages and disadvantages. It’s too easy to let tensions and emotions direct the conversation, so instead present a case grounded in research and thoughtful consideration. The following five tips will assist you in establishing a tested, well-developed plan for cloud implementation.

  1. Gather Research and Data (Know Your Numbers)

    Start by researching case studies that contain TCO (total cost of ownership) and the cost of production for comparable applications. Also consider watching demonstrations to learn how functionality works and how workflows can be implemented—this is pure empirical evidence that companies can try to replicate or expand upon.

    To further pique the interest of your CFO, share data that enumerates how your company will gain a high ROI—this will have the greatest impact on the direction of your conversation.

  2. Consider Feasibility

    Gauge the necessity of the cloud products/services under consideration by analyzing the scale of the project. Develop your own internal criteria based on the particular delivery timeframes, budget, global accessibility, etc. Then compare how your research matches specific project requirements and identify any challenges upfront. Standard guidelines also help to objectively compare applications and ultimately identify the greatest potential benefits. An additional area of consideration is security. There are a number of controls in the area of access, encryption and legal compliance issues, both global and domestic that must be addressed. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, it is often forgotten in the complicated world of cloud considerations.

    In everyday life it’s easier to see the folly in taking on a big endeavor without a coordinated plan. Imagine preparing for a dinner party without knowing how many guests will attend, when they are coming, if they have any dietary restrictions or allergies, and then attempting to cook this meal without a recipe—failure and chaos are expected, if not unavoidable. Luckily, through careful preparation all these mistakes can be easily avoided and the same is true for cloud implementation.

  3. Adopt Standards
    Creating standards is an absolute prerequisite for implementing cloud services, especially when using an agile process. You won’t get the full benefit of cloud if you don’t have standards. Self-service capabilities can be dramatically expanded through the use of standards at all tiers of the infrastructure and application development landscape.

    Examples of these standards include operating systems, middleware, communication protocols, storage access, development tools, development processes, development coding standards, monitoring, alert plans, scaling practices, and even server hardening practices. Additionally, security controls and individual corporate business models are also standards that should be considered. If you are planning a private cloud, ideally you would already have standards in place for the server infrastructure, storage, and networking—in addition to the items listed above. The goal of standardization across an environment is to create simplicity and consistency, which drives automation—the foundation of cloud in an SP-based or private cloud environment.

  4. Create a Prototype Environment
    This experimental approach provides the opportunity to try before you buy and is certain to impress your CFO. A prototype environment serves as proof of concept, which tests if the service is technically and operationally feasible. There are two main considerations within this.

    First is your ability to create and leverage the basic infrastructure as a service, IaaS, offered in your own cloud or that of a service provider. It’s the best way to obtain computing infrastructure without the capital investment. You will be paying for usage on a monthly basis, but ensure it is properly managed so budgets are not exceeded. Again, preparation is key! Get ready to tackle this concern head on and create a plan for how you will manage any issues. IaaS can be a great way to start a development process or even set up a production application deployment.

    Next, determine how it will impact your development process. Two important metrics to track include increased development speed and improvement in the overall cycle of development and testing. This can be achieved by leveraging the standards you have adopted and deployed in your cloud environment, which can be further enhanced by adoption of a DevOps model within your development teams and process.

  5. Think Scalable
    Managing cloud operations is different from rolling out a large capital-intensive project. Cloud services and features can be added and removed dynamically. With proper configuration and standards this can be truly elastic. However, you need to manage within an allocation to ensure you do not overconsume resources and create a negative budget impact. The benefit of it is to spend at the level you need to consume. But you would need to monitor the usage on an on-going basis to ensure that growing the allocation is a premeditated decision with proper budget consideration. Cloud itself cannot be a set-and-forget environment.

    Over time, the benefits of cloud investments compound as infrastructure and labor cost savings are realized through automation, workflow, self-service, etc. So, it’s important to fully seize the opportunity to communicate this tremendous value by directing the conversation to the facts. If you have given thoughtful consideration to the strengths and weakness of these topics, then you are in a better position to objectively analyze the full potential of cloud implementation. This knowledge will let you minimize the emotion of the conversation and develop a strong, well-informed position. With these tips in mind, you are fully prepared to put nebulous cloud conversations in the past.