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January 12, 2022

Thinking Differently

Last year ended with Avaya Engage 2021, held in Orlando, Florida, and streamed online from Dec 12-16.  If you missed it – there is great news:  You can access an on-demand version of the conference here until February 18.   Not sure if this would be “time well spent” for you?  Here is a brief recap of the event to help you decide:  

Avaya Engage 2021 conveyed three clear messages – (1) We are all now living in an Experience Economy, (2) Avaya OneCloud uniquely enables businesses to participate in this new economy, and (3) Creating and delivering experiences requires an ecosystem of experience builders.

My primary takeaway – the one theme that I saw running throughout the event was – “It’s time to start thinking differently about business communications.”  If the main stage presentations and the many breakout sessions were all condensed into a single message, it would be that -- as an industry we must all shift our focus from “unified communications” to composing and delivering “total experiences.”

The Avaya Engage 2021 event happened at the perfect time – right before we started the new year of 2022.  With a new year comes a time of planning for many of us – as we take time to reflect on the past and then establish new resolutions or intentions for the future.  Every year has the same length – 52 weeks.  Every week has the same length in the number of days and every day has the same length in the number of hours.  While the length of time is fixed, the “width” of time can vary widelyand this is largely determined by what each of us experiences.  So a key goal of planning for ourselves and our customers should be to pack as many rewarding experiences as possible into the available time.  It is this type of “thinking differently” that I found to be so refreshing. 

I’m sure everyone that attended the event in person will agree that above everything else, it was just a whole lot of fun to be together!  After being separated for 22 months, we were once again able to gather physically with our colleagues, partners, and customers.  As Joe Pine noted in his conference keynote address -- an industry conference is really like a “theme park” for adults – and Avaya’s premier customer conference certainly supported this proposition.  Another example of “thinking differently.”

I believe both physical and virtual participants would also agree that Dr. Sian Proctor – the first African American woman to pilot a vehicle into space – absolutely stole the show – with a powerful mix of her authenticity, charisma, and overall passion for life.  Dr. Proctor’s inspirational main stage address, her sincere interest in the new technology she observed as she visited the Expo Hall booths (as well as in the people supporting each booth), her amazing story, and her overall vivacious presence lit a light inside me and many others that will not soon be extinguished. 

Here are some other ways I learned to “think differently” at this event…   

Experience Economy 

“A new economic era in which all businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product”

Joe Pine – the worldwide acclaimed author of the best-selling book “The Experience Economy”,  and Simon Harrison, Avaya’s Chief Marketing Officer,  both provided valuable insights about the new economy in which we live, which has evolved from an agrarian to an industrial, to services, to now becoming an “experience” economy.  In this new era, businesses are competing for customer attention and time, as well as money.  There is a tremendous opportunity to elevate our employee and customer interactions beyond “time saved” to “time well spent” and “time well invested.” 

Simon and Joe agreed that the frameworks and concepts that Joe often talks about not only apply to the customer experience but also to the employee experience.  This blog provides additional insights on this and Joe also referenced The “New YOU” Business article that was published the day of the event as the two also discussed creating new economic value with transformational experiences.

Experience Platform 

“Avaya OneCloud enables businesses to orchestrate the Total Experience for their employees and customers”

Todd Zerbe, Avaya’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, gave participants an inside look into the technical architecture of Avaya OneCloud. It starts with a Hybrid Cloud Architecture that has “composability” at its core and connects existing investments with cloud innovation.  Todd explained that Avaya OneCloud is a single communication and collaboration platform that addresses four markets:  UCaaS, CCaaS, CPaaS, and Workstream Collaboration – enabling customers to differentiate the experiences they offer by combining the capabilities of each of these portfolios.  

The most interesting part of Todd’s presentation to me was when he lifted the Avaya OneCloud “hood” to reveal Avaya Media Processing Core.  This approach to handling media streams is unique to Avaya OneCloud. 

Todd explained the significance of this approach in a way that even I could understand – using the example of a three-way conference in which the cloud traditionally just acts as a “switch” to route the associated video streams to the appropriate endpoint – and then leaves it to the end application and/or device to combine the streams.  Conversely, Avaya OneCloud moves the media processing to the cloud, where media streams are combined into a single one that is then sent to the endpoint.  This approach can reduce bandwidth by as much as 80% and can also dramatically lower CPU utilization.  And it also means that with Avaya OneCloud, the user experience doesn’t depend on the quality of their specific device –  the work is all done in the cloud, and this delivers lower cost to the business and improved performance to the user! 

Getting a little more technical, Todd further explained that another important benefit of moving media processing to the cloud is that apps can take advantage of the latest adaptive codecs with forwarding error correction and packet loss concealment – which again improves the user experience.  AI capabilities like AI noise reduction can also more easily be added across any endpoint. 

And according to Todd, this is just the beginning!  The Avaya Media Processing Core is globally scalable – it is a single global network service which means less configuration than regionally delivered services, as well as unprecedented fault tolerance – as low as 50 msec.  Todd played a tone that lasted 50 msec to demonstrate how short this time is --  It was a very quick blip!  He explained that if you are on your conference call and the servers go down, the disruption is almost imperceptible. 

The Avaya Media Processing Core is another example of thinking differently.  Avaya has completely reimagined the architecture of media orchestration in the cloud – enabling the acceleration of innovation.   

Having worked in software engineering myself, one additional action that appealed to me was when Todd asked the lead engineer for the Avaya Media Processing Core - Steve Whynot - to stand up in the audience for everyone to acknowledge and applaud!  This type of appreciation and recognition is one example of why Avaya is such a great company to work for!

Experience Ecosystem

“A platform is a business model that creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups”

A few weeks ago, Avaya announced Avaya Experience Builders™ which is an ecosystem of Avaya experts, partners, developers, and customers–all working together as a community to create and deliver AI-powered experiences!

The opportunity to engage with many of these Avaya Experience Builders was also a big highlight for me.  I was fascinated by the breadth and depth of experience and know-how of everyone that I met. 

The power of this ecosystem was on full display at this conference – including the all-star panel of Avaya Experience Builders led by Laura Faughtenberry -- Avaya’s Avaya OneCloud CPaaS marketing leader, the innovation on display by Avaya and Avaya partners in the expo hall, and the exciting hackathon that kicked off the event (see winners here). 

This recent blog and interview provide more details about the progressive Avaya Experience Builders concept.   

By the way, if you aren’t watching the Avaya AI Pioneers video series that Laura is producing, you are missing out!  Check out the latest episodes: Idris Mootee, David James Clarke IV, Maryam Nabavi, Brett Shockley

Experience Innovation

“If something can be digitized, it can be customized” – Joe Pine

The Avaya Engage Expo Hall was buzzing with many examples of experience innovation.  The excitement was palpable.  One of my favorite demonstrations was Avaya Spaces Learning provided by Toolwire.  This is a great example of how composable technology can be used to reimagine the customer experience – in this case, for the education vertical. 

Avaya customers, including Liberty Mutual, also discussed on the main stage how their partnership with Avaya was essential to innovate their customer experience to meet the evolving needs of their customers.

I left this year’s conference with the sense that much was done In “21” – and there is still much to do in “22!”  And no matter what the future holds, Avaya Experience Builders will not only help our customers to adapt, but we will ensure that they thrive in this new economy – as we work together to compose Experiences that Matter.

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