Finally! Avaya Messaging Service Brings Texting into the Business World

Everyone knows how popular texting is. Nearly 10 trillion text messages were sent last year. Of all U.S. cellphone owners, 80 percent of them use text messaging, also known as SMS (short message service). Its popularity among 18-24 year olds is the subject of many humorous comics and ads, as well as serious research: that cohort averages 4,000 text messages a month.

(This is a guest post by Mark Monday, Vice-President and General Manager for Collaboration Platforms at Avaya.)

Unsurprisingly, texting has become an essential collaboration tool for work, too. But texting remains a clumsy fit inside the office. Text messages from employee or customer to an employee may offer meaningful business information, contacts and schedules, but they almost always arrive to a personal mobile number; lack a corporate identity; and may or may not be attributable to a specific office location. This creates potential breaches of corporate security and compliance policies.

Mobilizing workers is a key goal for any business, but mobility without business identity or security is like walking down the street talking to oneself. Businesses can learn to live with BYOD as long as it is secure and provides an archive of the messages. Even mobile emails carry a corporate identity and security. Until now, texting did not live up to the standards set by lowly e-mail, and has not been ready for business.

The Avaya Messaging Service (AMS) enables true One Number communications for the SMS era. Employees at companies using Avaya Messaging Service can send texts and multimedia messages with photos or audio clips and have them appear to come from the worker’s office telephone extension. Those intra-office AMS messages are sent securely over an IP or cellular data network and encrypted. The recipient can be another employee using Avaya Messaging Service, or anyone in the world with a textable phone number. Moreover, anyone with a textable cell phone can now text your office phone number and have those messages displayed on your mobile phone, tablet or PC.

Avaya Messaging Service doesn’t require fancy technology. Any size business with conventional +1 Direct Inward Dial (DID) phone extensions can use Avaya Messaging Service. Based in the cloud, Avaya Messaging Service only requires workers to download a smartphone or PC client application. For IT, there’s no servers, no hardware, no maintenance, no installation. User apps are available for iOS, Android, Windows and the Mac operating systems. On your smartphone, the Avaya Messaging Service app will conveniently sit next to where you get your personal texts, while looking different enough so that there’s no confusion between personal texts and business texts.

The employee just downloads the app from the appropriate app store, enables the license from Avaya (each company has its own administration web site for easy activation and management) and customers or coworkers will immediately be able to text your office number. You’ll have a true One Number, which as I mentioned before, now bundles together your voice, fax and mobile phone numbers as well as your text messaging and instant messaging as well. Companies can also save on the cost of carrier-based text messaging plans because messages between co-workers only travel over the AMS network. Text messages originating from AMS only incur additional charges if sent to an international telephone number.

Besides being corporate identifiable, business texts have to be secure and ubiquitous. As mentioned earlier, Avaya Messaging Service provides a texting network in which all messages between users are encrypted, archived and attributable to a worker’s specific office telephone number. AMS also connects to workers’ existing corporate contact lists. And it supports all of the major mobile and PC platforms. Below is a
diagram depicting AMS, which any IT expert will vouch as being streamlined and simple:

There are would-be alternatives to Avaya Messaging Service. All lack key features, such as the ability to text non-subscribers, or limited security or lack of support for existing corporate DID numbering plans. Some use limited SMS short codes for one-way out messaging. All of these limitations create unnecessary friction that will rankle your employees and drive them back to plain old text messaging, costing your company more in the short and long run.

The Avaya Messaging Service is available for any enterprise whether it is an Avaya customer today or not. It is part of our mobile collaboration solution that helps businesses become more productive, responsive and better-equipped to grow and communicate. That’s due to AMS’s simplicity and low risk, both for the employee and the IT department. Contact Avaya and let us demonstrate how texting can become a valuable business collaboration tool for you, too.

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Five for Friday: How Avaya Messaging Service Beats WhatsApp for Business

By now, you’ve probably heard whassup about WhatsApp, why both Facebook and, apparently, Google would be willing to spend $19 billion (or more!) for this 5-year-old startup.

I bet none of those plaudits concerned what WhatsApp brings to the table for businesses. Like Apple with its iPhone, WhatsApp doesn’t win business customers by design, but accident. The most obvious case being small, thrifty companies with employees or business partners scattered across different countries. They use WhatsApp to keep in touch. Of course, these are the same kinds of firms that put up with jittery pictures and murky sound on Skype rather than adopt a solution like our Scopia where the IT manager has full control over the Quality-of-Service.

Related article: Finally! Avaya Messaging Service Brings Texting into the Business World

But in general, WhatsApp is aimed squarely at consumers. It’s not true enterprise mobile messaging. If your company is looking for a real business-class platform, consider the Avaya Messaging Service, which bests WhatsApp in these 5 ways.

(Thanks to Tac Berry, Avaya Messaging Service product marketing manager, and Jeffrey Hodson, AMS chief architect at Avaya, for their input.)

1.      More Platforms. WhatsApp users can only send and receive messages from smartphones. Avaya Messaging Service users can send and receive texts from a wide spectrum of hardware, including smartphones, tablets and PCs. In other words:

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2.      Larger Reach. Facebook spent $19 billion on WhatsApp mostly because of its large, active user base – 450 million users each month, with 70% (315 million) logging in every single day. Well, with Avaya Messaging Service, users can text not just other AMS users (such as your co-workers), but also any of the other 6.8 billion SMS users worldwide. That’s 15x greater reach with AMS. With WhatsApp, you can’t easily message new sales prospects, provide support to customers or even colleagues in your company. With AMS, you can.

3.      Full One Number Support. Employees love BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). But they don’t necessarily want to give out their personal cellphone number to every potential customer or partner, especially if the relationship is sensitive or potentially tricky. Similarly, businesses aren’t wild about employees putting their personal cellphone numbers, or, worse, their WhatsApp contact info, on their business cards, for image reasons.

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With Avaya Aura and AMS, employees can now give out a single telephone number to their business contacts. They can be reached at this lone number, whether via phone call, videochat, fax, personal mobile phone, and now, text message.  That’s elegant simplicity. A number of universities have expressed strong interest in using AMS so that students can text their professors at their office telephone numbers, rather than their pestering them on their personal devices. By contrast, WhatsApp a) forces you to use your cellphone number, including possibly your personal cellphone, as your account ID; b) grows, rather than simplifies, the messy proliferation of channels that you can be contacted on.

4.      Better History of Security and Privacy. AMS messages are stored in a secure, hosted environment. Moreover, messages sent between AMS users on the same corporate domain are encrypted. Since August 2012, WhatsApp also encrypts all messages while they are being sent. However, none of its messages are stored on its servers. For regulatory reasons, businesses are often required to keep a record of all employee communications (think Sarbanes-Oxley). Also, WhatsApp has an ongoing history of hacker break-ins, malware infections and other security holes. It’s so bad that Ars Technica ran an article today headlined, “Crypto weaknesses in WhatsApp ‘the kind of stuff the NSA would love’.” Harsh.

Moreover, WhatsApp aggressively tries to link you to potential friends by uploading your entire mobile phone address book to its servers so it can ‘scrape’ your contacts. That is convenient, but it’s also privacy-intruding, and as a result has been subject to Canadian-Dutch government investigation. For businesses, WhatsApp’s tactics can go against business regulations that touch upon data privacy or storage, such as HIPAA or the aforementioned Sarbanes-Oxley.

5.      Better Enterprise IT Support. IT managers are control freaks. And for good reason: every single application running on their networks and systems has the potential to negatively affect or take down their other systems. AMS gives administrators strong control over the service: Which employees’ numbers should be activated, whether or not images and audio recordings can be sent across the corporate network or outside to external regular SMS users, etc. WhatsApp doesn’t give IT managers any such control. Under Facebook, I can’t imagine WhatsApp getting MORE business-oriented, but instead going down the opposite way.

Who's the Real Number One in Business Telephony?

The telephone is far from dead. You know who still loves to call people? Family members, close friends and…the Pope. No joke: 76-year-old Pope Francis has startled a quite a few strangers with a call from a Vatican landline in which he simply announces, “It’s the Pope.” It’s happened to enough people that the Corriere della Sera, a leading newspaper in my native Italy, published a front-page article offering tips on how to make small talk if His Holiness calls (tip #1: talk about soccer).

You know who else loves the telephone? Businesspeople. Unified Communications may be a diverse, ever-growing set of tools and technologies, but the channel that started it all still plays a central role. It’s why there’s a never-ending stream of articles advising how to schmooze colleagues on the phone, how to run your phone meetings, how to close sales deals on the phone, how to ace telephone job interviews, etc. The stakes are high, which is why telephony remains such a hotly-contested market.

Last week, Microsoft put out a blog claiming it is “now shipping more enterprise telephone lines than any other technology company in the world.” It was a bold claim. So bold that longtime industry expert, Eric Krapf of No Jitter, felt compelled to investigate. One respected market watcher, Infonetics’ Diane Myers, told Krapf that her own research – which shows Cisco and Avaya neck-and-neck far above other rivals in telephony – made her “struggle” with Microsoft’s claims. When Krapf confronted Microsoft’s spokespeople, they admitted that Redmond’s claim to have shipped the most telephony lines was based on different data, revenue. As anyone familiar with software bundling knows, revenue alone can paint a deceptive picture.

However, revenue COMBINED with other data CAN be illuminating. While Microsoft and Cisco bicker, they are ignoring what’s really going on in the voice market. According to the well-known telecom market research firm, the Dell’Oro Group, Avaya passed Cisco in Q2 this year in telephony according to two key metrics. First, powered by growth in our small and midsized UC solution, IP Office, the number of telephone lines Avaya shipped grew 10% quarter/quarter to 1.8 million, while Cisco’s slipped for the 3rd-straight quarter, according to Dell’Oro:

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Source: Dell’Oro Group

As a result, Avaya had a commanding lead of the global enterprise telephony market by revenue, both for Q2 2013:

Dell'Oro Global Enterprise Telephony Systems Q213 Rev Share.JPG


Actually, Avaya led Cisco by the same margin for all of calendar year 2012, too:


Dell'Oro Global Enterprise Telephony CY12 Rev Share.JPG


How come Microsoft’s nowhere to be found? We asked Alan Weckel, Vice President, Enterprise Telephony & Ethernet Switch Market Research at Dell’Oro and author of the report, who “confirmed that Dell’Oro Group does track Microsoft in the report. While Dell’Oro group does not break out Microsoft call control directly, based on the size of the remaining market, Microsoft would not be amongst the largest vendors on the charts.”

Why is Avaya gaining telephone users and increasing sales revenue? For a number of reasons:

1)The rock-solid quality of our flagship Avaya Aura platform (read how billion-dollar real estate firm Forest City Enterprises virtualized Avaya Aura software onto VMware and cut costs and increased reliability);

2)The cutting-edge advances in the Aura platform, including the new Collaboration Environment platform to enable developers to quickly build communications apps, and the Avaya Messaging Service that finally brings texting into the enterprise world (and supports any vendor’s system, even Cisco);

3)The quality and cost-competitiveness of Avaya IP Office;

4)The increasing attractiveness of IP Office 9.0 to the fast-growing mid-market segment;

Importantly, we see many customers that use the Microsoft Lync solution for IM and presence turning to Avaya for voice. Rather than deploying Lync software all the way or integrating with Cisco, hundreds of enterprises are trusting the Avaya Client Applications (ACA) plug-in, which offers scalability, ‘Five 9s’ of high-availability, technical features such as open call control, protection for your other communication investments, and tight integration with our contact center solution, which happens to be number one in the market according to Gartner.

Related article: Avaya’s New Wireless LAN 9100 Mutes the Sucking Sound of Network Downtime

ACA is not a tactical solution, either. Providing a comprehensive, open alternative for customers who wish to avoid vendor lock-in is part of the Avaya long-term strategy. Simply put, we want to be the best Lync integrator in the industry.

Lync software undoubtedly excels at IM and presence. But as Cisco Collaboration chief Rowan Trollope pointed out last week, IM and presence are last decade’s news. The future is things like enterprise-friendly text messaging (like Avaya Messaging Service) and open collaboration platforms that let businesses pick the best technologies for their needs.

So when you’re thinking about your UC solution, don’t think it’s only about Lync software vs. Cisco vs. Avaya. The telephone isn’t going away anytime soon. And if telephony is important to your business, the right solution might very well be a combination of a Lync client and Avaya.

5 for Friday: The Five Biggest News Articles About Avaya This Week

For the past 5 years, Avaya has been on a steady march, transforming itself from a telephone-based hardware company into a software and services company, focusing on mobile applications, video collaboration and enterprise communications.

We unveiled a number of new software products this week, and invited reporters to delve deeper into the new Avaya. After reading the extensive coverage of the company this week, here are my picks for the 5 biggest news articles about the company’s transformation:

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#5: Avaya Cozies Up to Developers (Network World)

The company is announcing Avaya Aura Collaboration Environment, which is made up of both a set of developer tools and also software that interfaces communications-enabled apps with Avaya Aura unified communications infrastructure that actually delivers the communication link.

The result, Avaya says, would be applications that can trigger a range of communications actions such as instant messaging, conference calls and video calls. For example, an intelligent-building control application could be enabled to set up a conference call among key building staff when the air conditioning system goes on the fritz.

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#4: Avaya Helps Developers Add Collaboration To Apps (InformationWeek)

The Collaboration Environment is designed to help application developers invoke messaging, chat, video and other streaming media, or other collaborative services, including services out on the Web, and build them into an application. The platform simplifies their addition by automatically applying the plumbing that allows the application to connect to the service when needed. It allows messages and alerts to move out to a variety of end-user devices as well.

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#3: Avaya Eyes Midmarket Gains With Bulked-Up IP Office (CRN)

The new IP Office 9.0, like its predecessors, is being positioned as Avaya’s flagship collaboration offering for the midmarket and SMB space. But, IP Office 9.0, according to Avaya, is the first version that can scale to support up to 2,000 users — double that of prior-generation IP Office 8.1 — meaning Avaya, and its partners, can now cast a much wider net when selling into the midmarket.

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#2: Avaya Makes UC Easier for Developers, Midmarket (eWeek)

Avaya is rolling out an aggressive expansion of its unified communications offerings that touches on everything from the cloud and midmarket businesses to application development and text messaging. The new and enhanced offerings, announced Oct. 15, are part of Avaya’s six-year-old effort to transform itself from a telecommunications company to one that provides open communication and collaboration solutions designed for and aimed at businesses.

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#1: Avaya Now Plays in Hot Silicon Valley Segment (Wall Street Journal)

The most important factor, Kennedy says, is that the focus of the market has changed from room-based conferencing systems with specialized hardware to less-expensive, flexible systems that let people tap in to online meetings from smartphones and tablets. “It’s really about mobile,” he says.

It’s also about building a Valley-style company that is much more efficient than the Bell days of yore. Kennedy estimates that Avaya, which now has just under 15,000 workers, runs at about $320,000 to $330,000 in revenue per employee.