Q&A: The Value of Avaya Consulting in an ROI Age

Ajay Kapoor is the Vice President of Professional Services Consulting, Strategy, and Offer Development for Avaya (as well as an Avaya Connected blogger). Avaya today announced a set of new consulting services for enterprises: Cloud Transformation Services and Continuous Performance Services (see coverage by ZDNet’s Rachel King and Talkin’ Cloud’s Chris Talbot). A 15-year veteran of Avaya and its predecessor firm, Lucent Technologies, Kapoor talked about Avaya’s consulting organization and what its new consulting offers mean for businesses.

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Avaya VP for Professional Services Consulting, Ajay Kapoor

Give me an overview of Avaya’s consulting team. 
Avaya Consulting is a subset of Avaya Professional Services. We provide the business-side expertise for clients that are thinking about their current issues and future plans with that business hat on. Our consultants typically either come from the customer side where they have run enterprise infrastructure, or they are recognized domain and industry experts. They link up with our technical architects to help build and optimize customer environments with both business and technology goals in mind.
How big is the team?
Avaya Professional Services includes 1,500 specialists and experts in many industries, fields and countries. Out of that, our core group of business and technical consultants numbers about 80. This team has actually been around for more than half a decade. When we started out, we were used more tactically, in specific projects. But the CIO’s role is changing. Today, he or she cares more about business results versus traditional IT results than ever before. As a result, we are seeing a lot of demand for our expertise. Customers are asking us to take a front and center role.
In what way?
For instance, there is a Fortune 500 insurance firm for whom we provided a multi-year strategic roadmap. This was a contact center maturity model that helped guide them to where they want to be, which is a customer service model based heavily on self-service. We also recently finished a project for a large Middle Eastern transportation authority which also wanted to move to a self-service customer engagement model. For a leading business hotel chain, we helped them identify what the cost of transforming their network to SIP would be, so that they could understand the financial benefits of the upgrade, as well as the technical ones. 
When we can come in every quarter or year, this lets us give up-to-date advice on how organizations can improve their contact centers or unified communications systems. The vast majority of projects have multi-year roadmaps. But six months after deploying Phase I, the network may have already changed. Or the customer has changed. They need to tweak and optimize their plan, which we can help with. This is why we are launching our Continuous Performance Services offering. It’s something we are very experienced with – besides the insurance firm I mentioned earlier, we’re doing similar work for the admissions office of a very large west coast university. Our experience with these customers allowed us to create this template of services that we are now offering broadly now.
But do enterprises really need this sort of handholding from us? 
I think so, and I’ll explain why. When I bought my Roku media player for my house, I set up two channels on the first day. I still watch only those two channels. I’ve only taken advantage of 10% or less of the Roku’s channels and features. 
Similarly, after a company does a Phase I deployment of a new Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, it is usually only taking advantage about 10% of the system’s capabilities. We help companies close the gap between technology potential and actual consumption. Because whenever you deploy technology on an enterprise scale and timeframe, your business needs and goals change over time. You have to constantly optimize because when your technology stays static, the value to the business usually declines. So we come in either monthly, quarterly or annually, and audit how companies are using technology and compare that with their business needs. These audits enable us to optimize their environment, enable the right capabilities, so that their technology investment increases in business value over time.
Why should IT care about business results?
The era of IT basically only be measured and held accountable for executing projects is over. The expectation these days is that IT and the CIO are also accountable for business results. This is a major change that has been taking place the last two years.
How is Avaya Consulting similar or different from large consulting firms, or our competitors that also have consulting divisions?
While there are similarities at the superficial level, I’d say there are two big differences. First, all of the financial modeling and business advice we will offer you is very much grounded in actual data. So if we are going to give you advice on the ROI of transforming your network, we will roll up our sleeves to extract and measure your data. We will get down to the actual penny what you are paying for your telecom circuits per month, or what your agent performance is and how that affects you financially. Only then will we supplement with data from leading industry benchmarks.  
The second difference is that our professional services organization, including Avaya Consulting, is all about maximizing client value. We’re not about selling you Avaya products. We are very focused and aligned around our client needs. We take pride in making sure that our new consulting offers are not just abstract Statements of Work or standard consulting contracts where we try and boil the ocean for you and then get to your actual problems. Our consultants are not measured on change requests – they are measured by how many actual problems of yours we actually solve. 
About four-fifths of Avaya’s revenue today comes in from our 30,000+ partner channel ecosystem. Does Avaya Consulting compete with them?
In fact, Avaya partners call upon our consultants quite a bit. Our average consultant has been working for more than 20 years. Nearly all of them have worked on the client side. It’s difficult to build the years of experience and industry and domain knowledge that we have. Partners, meanwhile, tend to have a lot of breadth but not as much depth. As a result, we have partners that love to leverage us, with some partners in Europe and the U.S. that call upon our consultants by name, all because it helps them solve their clients’ business problems better.
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