IAUG 2015 Service Excellence Award Given to Avaya’s Debbie Smith-Handley

For her service “above and beyond the call of duty,” Avaya account manager Debbie Smith-Handley was honored with IAUG’s Service Excellence Award on Tuesday at IAUG CONVERGE2015 in Denver.

“We thank you for your many contributions to support our members,” said Jayne Hogle, IAUG conference committee planning chair, in presenting the award to Smith-Handley. The Service Excellence Award is given each year to an outstanding employee of Avaya or an Avaya partner/IAUG member company in recognition of providing exceptional service to IAUG members.

Christine Conner, IT systems analyst consultant at Progressive Insurance, nominated Smith-Handley for the service excellence award.

“Debbie is an incredible account manager,” Conner said. “This past year we completed a multi-year contact center initiative and Debbie’s dedication to the successful completion of this project was a huge factor in our success. She has been incredible in navigating the complex processes and organizational challenges to make things happen for us.”

At the same conference session, Hogle presented the 2015 President’s Award to Alex Morales, IS operations manager at Davis Polk & Wardwell. Morales serves on the leadership team for the New York Metropolitan Chapter and as a member of the IAUG Data Networking Council. Under his leadership, the New York chapter has grown to become the largest in the country.

IAUG also recognized the late Tina Gjerdset, an active IAUG volunteer with a passion for education and development prior, by creating The Tina Gjerdset Education Award for its annual educational package from Global Knowledge.

“We miss Tina’s passion and commitment, as we recognize an IAUG member who shares those beliefs,” said Hogle.

This year’s education award recipient was Conner, who is chair of the IAUG Customer Experience Management Council and Northeast Ohio Chapter leader.

“A big thank you to Global Knowledge for providing this package, and to all our volunteers for their dedication to our association,” said Hogle.

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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 http://engage.iaug.org.


Avaya and IAUG: Better Together at 2017’s Avaya ENGAGE Event

Victor Bohnert Victor Bohnert is the Executive Director of the International Avaya Users Group. He has nearly 20 years of experience in building and managing customer communities in the tech sector and has led several organizational turnarounds and mergers. Before joining IAUG, he was Executive Director of the International Nortel Networks Users Association, and helped guide three independent groups through the merger that resulted in IAUG.


The idea of collaboration is much more than a term used to describe the latest communication strategy. It describes the interdependencies of individuals or groups of individuals working together to achieve success … it means 1+1=3.

Collaboration is at the core of IAUG’s mission. We bring together our members in order to give them access to the collective knowledge and experience of the WHOLE Avaya ecosystem—customers, partners, and Avaya experts. This gives those that are active in our community a competitive advantage.

More than a mission, this is a strategy that permeates all that we do. To that end, I am excited about the recent alignment between IAUG’s flagship customer event, Avaya ENGAGEsm, and Avaya’s global corporate event strategy. IAUG has been working closely with Avaya over the past several months to increase the value of Avaya ENGAGE, but also extend the relevance of the event beyond just Avaya customers and partners.

Beginning in 2017, Avaya and IAUG will come together to host their first truly joint event. Avaya ENGAGE will still focus on driving value to Avaya customers and partners. But with other Avaya events coming together under the Avaya ENGAGE banner, customers, partners, analysts and other industry experts will have unparalleled access to industry knowledge and expertise—and of course more opportunities to network with each other.

Additionally, the event will be held in February, earlier in the year than past events—making Avaya ENGAGE 2017 not only one of the largest industry events, but one of the year’s first. Product releases and industry projections will help our members get a jump on the year.

This collaboration is more than an event. It signals the deepening relationship between IAUG and Avaya. Still separate organizations, but strategically aligned at all levels to ensure the greatest return.

Collaboration is just the process … Avaya ENGAGE is the outcome.

At IAUG, the Experience was Everything

Avaya invited Brenda Emerson, President of IAUG, to share her thoughts about this year’s conference:

Brenda Emerson

Brenda Emerson is president of the International Avaya User Group and CIO, SVP at Landmark Bank. She is a technology and business visionary experienced in leveraging technology to deliver improved productivity and exceptional customer engagement. Avaya invited Brenda to share her thoughts about this year’s conference.


Avaya ENGAGE 2016 was, in a word, engaging.

It’s great to see the best and the brightest business communications professionals gather each year. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Our vibrant, intelligent community is growing and has a very bright future. New technologies and solutions that we learned about will enable us to do our jobs better than ever before. When Gary Barnett unveiled Avaya Oceana during the opening keynote, the excitement and energy in the room was tangible.

The curriculum was outstanding. The agenda had something for everyone: Technical sessions for the engineers and design staff; business sessions for the business manager and architects. In total, 170 breakouts were available, covering 13 different tracks.

I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the impressive solutions expo, chatting with the more than 100 exhibitors. The ingenuity coming from the business communications industry never ceases to amaze me. I’m excited about what’s possible and what’s next.

Something new this year was the Avaya Breeze™ Developer Summit and Hackathon. This 2.5-day summit started with a quick tutorial on the development platform, followed by 48 hours of designing and building a custom application. Before the event, none of the participants had any experience with Breeze. I was invited to judge the applications. It was amazing to see the power and simplicity of Breeze in action. If you’re interested in reading more about the winners, don’t miss Zeus Kerravala’s recent article “Building Apps with Avaya Proves a Breeze.”

It’s a privilege for me to be a part of IAUG. I know it makes a difference in people’s professional lives. This event is truly a labor of love and I am grateful to work with the team that makes IAUG and the annual summit so successful. It’s gratifying to reflect on the results and feedback we receive. I was particularly thrilled when I came across Srivinivasan Narayanan’s post in the mobile app: “LOVED IAUG. My first ever. Flew in all the way from India on a friend’s recommendation. The event exceeded my expectations. Definitely worth the time and money. Brilliant speakers, great audience and a networking opportunity you don’t wanna miss!”

So my hat’s off to the team. Thanks for all the hard work. Can’t wait to get started on next year’s event!

If you were not able to come this year, and want to get a taste of what you missed, be sure to watch the highlights video.

At the end of the day, experience is everything. It’s how we learn, how we best interact with each other and how we continually improve ourselves. Being a part of a community like IAUG provides these experiences like no other. If you’re looking for a place to grow and share your expertise, come join us at IAUG.