You Say You Want an Evolution? Well, Ya Know… *

As technologies go, there’s little glamor or excitement in those that have stood the test of time. Today, the spotlight shines brightly on the latest startup, app or device and quickly fades as the next entry appears on the horizon.

The year 2000 was full of hope and hype: mobile communications, Internet and email were solidly in the hands of the consuming public and making a significant impact on new business models. It would be awhile yet before the cell phone could do much more than make and receive voice calls.

IP communications were the hot topic – with both boosters and detractors running the spectrum from “wave of the future” to “an unproven, business risk unworthy of capital investments.”  Businesses straddled both sides: the promise of new capabilities was interesting, but who in their right mind risks critical business functions on new technology?

The first version of Avaya IP Office™ hit the North American market in 2000. From the start, the SMB system was billed as a PBX/IP Telephony solution that had the flexibility to have analog, digital and/or VoIP endpoints added at any time. This “hybrid” system could support up to 360 endpoints and even network to other IP Office systems using traditional or VoIP trunking. Voice communications only from the business desk, please, but what else did a business need at that point?

Dial (pun-intended) forward. Businesses in 2015 are looking considerably different than they did a decade and a half ago (note: so are most of my friends and colleagues). Mobile, IP, social, big data have changed the landscape – not in one fell swoop – but through steady, persistent inroads made by cycles of innovation, development, implementation, measurable impact and expansion.

Deciding when and how to make a change that can have a significant impact on the future can be among the most stressful, bewildering aspects of business. The ripple effect of that decision influences an ever-widening circle of people, processes, technologies. Further, change is rarely something that’s once and done. Smart businesses continuously keep a finger in the wind.

So it is with Avaya IP Office.  Over the last 15 years, the system has evolved into a platform capable of supporting a full range of unified communications, contact center, video, mobility and networking.

We’ve shipped out more than half a million systems to customers around the world, operating some of the most unique, growing businesses. We’ve won countless awards – including our recent Leader’s quadrant position recognition in the first Gartner Magic Quadrant for Midsize Unified Communications 2015 (NA).

But most importantly, we’ve kept our finger in the wind to make sure that our technologies enable customers to flexibly accommodate new market, businesses and consumer trends and gracefully evolve into the future.

… Because, ya know, we all want to change the world.

*with apologies to the Beatles.

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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.

Yanmar America Jump Starts VOIP System with IP Office

Yanmar America didn’t have a choice when it came to upgrading its aging VOIP systems. Its legacy solution was, quite simply, at the end of life and lacked essential features like call center and call reporting functions. The multinational engine manufacturing corporation also needed to support mobile executives as they traveled overseas.

It was time to send the legacy system to the scrap heap and bring in VOIP that would grow with the business, and with that in mind, Yanmar America’s IT team chose Avaya IP Office, one-X Mobile, 9608G IP Deskphones, and B179 Conference Phones. This completely new telecommunications engine addressed:

  • Replacing the end-of-life legacy hybrid VoIP telephony solution. The existing system was difficult to support, and any customizations–like changing the display–required the IT department to get involved.
  • Implementing call center and call reporting functions. Having these functions would make it possible for Yanmar to provide parts and service to existing customers.
  • Introducing mobile capabilities. Frequent travelers needed the ability to forward desk calls to their mobile phones, and the company also needed a solution that could cut back on international roaming charges.
  • Scaling with the business. Yanmar wanted to be able to buy licenses by single seats as the company grew.
  • The need to keep faxing. Most solutions had discarded faxing along with eight-track tapes. But faxing is still important for parts and service orders.

Yanmar and Avaya deployed the new system in parallel with the old, a huge help for testing purposes and staying on top of user registrations. The cutover took place on a Friday night, beginning at 5 p.m. By 9 p.m. that same night, the IT team was headed home for the weekend, and on Monday morning, the users had their new phones already programmed and ready to use. Some of the immediate benefits of the new system include:

  • Improved company morale and reduced IT support time. Users loved being able to change their ringtones or customize their phones from a Web-based interface, all without having to call IT.
  • Crystal-clear call quality. Even in 75-seat conference rooms, the Avaya B179 conference units pick up presenters at the front of the room. The call quality has also helped with language nuances, reducing the number of times call participants have been asked to repeat themselves.
  • Reduced roaming charges. With one-X Mobile, users are forwarding desk phone calls to their cell phones, and while traveling, users find WiFi hotspots and use one-X to make calls. The company has significantly reduced its $100 to $200 per trip roaming expenditure, a significant savings for the 40 or so employees who regularly travel overseas at least once per month.
  • $23,000 saved annually on third-party consultants and VoIP hosting.

“We won’t be challenged with an end-of-life, end-of-support issue or predicament like we were with the old system,” said Brian Williams, IT Manager, Yanmar America. “We’re confident it will be here tomorrow and well into the future, and that we have a solution in place that will grow with our business.”

Click here to read the full case study from Avaya.

Social Security Administration Processes 500 Millionth Call Through Modernized Phone System

On the morning of June 16, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) processed its 500 millionth call through its Telephone System Replacement Program (TRSP)-driven modernized telecom system.

It was a milestone for Social Security, which began the TSRP with Avaya in 2007 and just celebrated its 80th birthday in August.

Social Security had long relied on a conventional, old-school PBX phone framework. Each of the agency’s 1,600+ offices had individual PBXs, and almost all had products that were nearing, or had reached, end of life.

“We were scrambling just trying to find parts,” explained Todd Markulik, the SSA’s contracting officer’s technical representative.. “We looked at our future, and realized a Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony solution would be a good fit for us as a way to really create a nationwide network.”

The agency worked with Avaya to create a cutting-edge IP telephony network and manage its average 400,000 daily calls. The SSA recognized the need to future-proof its system with an impending influx of Baby Boomers coming of age for Social Security.

Through the TSRP, SSA was able to streamline and consolidate systems, and cut costs by as much as 50 percent depending on office location.

“Previously, we had somewhere between 20 and 45 analog lines from a local phone company, and we were being charged $35 to $40 a month per line,” Markulik said. “When we moved to VoIP, we eliminated all but maybe eight of those lines.”

The carrier-grade, enterprise solution is government-owned and Avaya-managed, end-to-end. It features leading technology, from Network Skills Based Routing to Dynamic Virtual Forward, and gives the agency redundancies that help it support contact centers in four regions of the United States seamlessly. As a result, the agency was able to get through Hurricane Sandy, and major blizzards and storms without an incident.

The future of Social Security’s technology looks just as bright. Markulik pointed toward plans for an increase in soft phones, teleworking and VoIP capabilities in the near future.

“We’re well-positioned for the future,” he explained.