Avaya CTO Brett Shockley: 100% Focused on Solving Today's Key Business Problems

Brett Shockley is Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Avaya. I spoke to Brett at the Avaya Evolutions San Francisco show last week. Below is a transcript of our conversation, where we talked about how Avaya’s Big Data technology is helping businesses solve their problems faster than before, and how its cloud-enabled developer platform, Collaboration Environment, is attracting fresh crops of young developers:

brett shockley avaya evolutions sf feb 2014

Avaya CTO Brett Shockley keynoting at Avaya Evolutions San Francisco.

Photo by Andres Larranaga


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Fletch: I always love coming to Avaya Evolutions because they’re really intimate settings, and you can have a lot of great conversations with customers.

Shockley: You’re absolutely right. I mean, we have an opportunity here to talk to over a thousand customers. We’re able to talk to our partners. And it’s a great opportunity to have conversations about what’s happening in our businesses, in our industry, and a number of different verticals.

I had a great conversation with a healthcare provider over lunch. They’re really on the leading edge of delivering video for telemedicine. They’re using Scopia video conferencing to deliver it. They have told us that it works better than any other technology on the planet that they’ve ever tried, including all of our major competitors because of the way we focused on this virtualized conference room infrastructure and ease with bringing lots of people in from different places on different devices.

Fletch: That’s a product with an incredible use case across a huge number of industries, like public safety, which I’m very involved with. Scopia is really going to change the way that we communicate.

Shockley: Our industry is changing at a very rapid pace. Mobile, video, cloud, big data analytics, the impact of consumer communication applications, they’re driving what is expected from an enterprise experience. For the first time in our history, our employees are telling us what device they’re going to use at work. We have our customers telling us how they’re going to communicate with us. This changes the nature of our business and changes the nature of conversations that we’re having. What it really means is that we can’t just focus on the traditional world of communications, but instead need to think about the business outcomes from improved communication, improved collaboration. Leveraging what we’re seeing work in the consumer world in the use of things like mobile and video. It means that we have to deliver much better and more tailored experiences.


Also read ‘The Entrepreneurial CTO’ Q&A in December’s Avaya Innovations.


You know, one of the things that I’m having a lot of fun talking to folks about is the customer journey and the ability to identify that customer from the first time you’re prospecting with them all the way through the work that you’re doing with them in acquiring, delivering and managing the account, and carrying it on through the lifecycle to when they buy from you again. New technologies are being used to do that, and they’re technologies that Avaya is very much a leader in. Things like data grid technology for Big Data analytics. We have an application called the Context Store that we’ve started delivering for some of our larger customers. It’s the same kind of technology that’s being used in financial trading applications. You can imagine they have to have very low latency, very large scale, and we’re applying that same technology to the Contact Center. One of the things that it does is provide a real-time store of information about the customer, sort of a 360-degree view of that customer. And think about it like a cache: it could live for a minute, an hour, or a week, and all the different applications that are being used to interact with the customer are reading and writing their information to this Context Store.

What that does is it lets us tie all those touch points together into one comprehensive experience regardless of whether they email you today, instant message you tomorrow, or call you the day after that. So we’re really tying all these things together, and what’s exciting about it is that it’s a different kind of conversation with the customer to achieve this. It’s not about, “Do you want to upgrade your phone system?” It’s not about adding to sort of traditional technology, speeds and feeds, features, etc. It’s about business use cases. You take a step back. You talk to a health care provider about how it can do an effective job of delivering health care through a community outreach service. Things like telemedicine become key there. How do they deliver a specialist to someone who has a chronic health care problem? It’s a single mother who unfortunately might have a child with cancer. You start thinking about solving those kinds of problems and bringing our technology to the table to be able to solve those problems. That’s a really different kind of conversation, and it’s an opportunity for us to really change not only the business of our customer, but the relationship that they have with their customers. And at the end of the day, that’s what’s going to make the difference in their business success.

Fletch: I think that’s a really noble thought, and I think that’s what’s driving the change that I see. I’ve been in this industry for two or three decades. I’ve seen a lot of different things come and go. I see this whole new Avaya emerging right now that just has been building and building and building. It’s just the time that it finally came out.

Shockley: Absolutely. We have been a leader in the unified communication and contact center space, the services that surround that, absolutely undisputed. Take a look at any analyst’s report. We’re in the upper right hand corner of the quadrant – thought leader, we deliver. But as we really grow the company we have to think beyond that. Some of the core areas of strategy for us this year: rapid growth in applications, both in terms of delivering end applications to customers that support the kinds of things I was just talking about, as well as the tools for people to create their own applications. So the work we’re doing with Collaboration Environment, as an example, that allows ISVs, VARs, our customers’ developers to quickly create very meaningful applications that are connected directly to the infrastructure associated with Avaya Aura. So you’ve got this ability to create scalable applications without really having to understand a lot of about communications. If you’re someone who’s recently out of school and you have some great web programming skills, you’re going to be able to step right into it and be able to do that. And if you think about why does that matter. Well, in our industry, forever we’ve had this challenge that if you want to program with our products or any of our competitors, to be honest, using technologies like CTI (Computer-Telephony Integration), it requires some very specialized and unique tools to be able to do that and it’s complex.

As a result, three kids out of college can’t go start a company and start selling to large enterprise customers. They have to basically go buy a half-million dollars worth of equipment, train themselves on new things that they didn’t learn in school. They have to hire some sales people that are going to convince our sales people that they’re worthy of being introduced to our enterprise accounts. A lot of barriers to growth, as compared to web world, for example, or the app world on mobile devices where a couple of guys can go create some amazing new application and they can get it distributed in a frictionless way. Well, you think about something like Collaboration Environment and now we have a world, especially where we have these cloud-based collaboratories, sand boxes in the sky, if you will, where, small groups of developers can come together. They can create applications that are meaningful in a business sense, and not worry so much about the underlying technology infrastructure. And because they can create them in the cloud-based collaboratory, they don’t have to go buy that half-million dollars worth of equipment to get started in writing applications.

The cloud provides a way for us to allow people to try new things, test new things, it’s much easier for us to connect that developer that created some cool new small application with a large enterprise, for example, or a mid-market enterprise that needs an application like that. And the technology allows you to string applications together. So this group creates one application, this other group creates another, we string them together and now we’re doing something totally different and very meaningful. So imagine bringing together workflow, SMS and text, notification of people, video, all of these things that are powerful, powerful collaboration tools. But in the past you sort of had to be really specialized to do it. Now we’re putting it into the hands of not just thousands but literally hundreds of thousands of developers potentially.

Fletch: So you’re taking the collaboratory and you’re changing BYOD from “Bring Your Own Device” to “Build Your Own Device”.

Shockley: Absolutely.

Fletch: I think that’s kind of cool. That’s really cool. It’s just another example of the innovation that Avaya brings to it that quite frankly makes me proud to be an Avaya employee. As our technology leader, thank you. It’s incredible vision and strategy.

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Customer Journey Analytics vs. Traditional Analytics—Know the Difference

It’s expected that 60% of all large organizations will develop customer journey mapping capabilities by 2018. Why? Because the average consumer isn’t so average anymore. Consider that a typical customer now owns three personal mobile devices, each with anywhere from 10 to 20 downloaded apps. This individual owns an average of five social media accounts, nearly three of which are actively used. Additionally, the average office worker receives up to 121 personal emails per day. Just imagine what these figures look like for consumers on the high end of this engagement spectrum.

To get a snapshot of my own activity, I followed these simple instructions to figure out how many emails I receive. It’s 10 a.m. and I show 59 emails received (up from 47 just two minutes ago). And tweets average around 6,000 per second—I have 1,175 in my queue based on who I am currently following. The question is: How do you bring your email, tweet, post, or blog to my attention amid all the clutter?

When we look at what this means to customer experience it is worth noting that we’ve reached a point where over 40% of customers now use up to seven different channels to interact with brands, from live chat to email to social media to SMS. Businesses increasingly understand this fact, and they’re taking the necessary steps to ensure they can deliver consistent, contextualized experiences across various channels and devices.

Each of the devices and channels offers its own set of diverse scenarios for linking to other devices and channels, making no two customer experiences the same. The not-so-good news is that businesses are still grappling to understand customers’ actions across these various touchpoints. They need to leverage data but, in fact, 43% of companies currently obtain little tangible benefit from their data, while 23% admit they derive no benefit whatsoever. Organizations are struggling to create a data strategy that delivers the insights needed to drive anticipatory engagement and repeat spending.

The bottom line is that a business can support virtually every interaction channel. However, without a comprehensive view of the data generated and shared across those channels organization-wide, it will fail. Supporting an array of channels is simply not enough. Businesses must gain an inherent understanding of how customers are using these channels so that they can adapt, evolve and change as needed. This is where the ability to understand your data—specifically, customer journey analytics—becomes vital.

The solution here may be simple to describe, but implementing it isn’t. Adopting customer journey analytics means businesses must now support a powerful, real-time visualization of the customer journey across all lines of business, not just the contact center. They need a roadmap to continually reinvent key processes and fine-tune organizational behavior. They must harness real-time and historical data across all channels and devices to intuitively understand customer needs and optimize business outcomes. Most challenging of all, they must do this in a way that shows tangible ROI and improves TCO.

To make customer journey analytics work, businesses must take a critical step from ideology to implementation—a move that can often feel like a leap of faith.

But there’s good news: technology has evolved to a point where companies can now easily, effectively and cost-efficiently achieve these core data objectives. The key is investing in an extensible, omnichannel customer engagement solution.

Your customer engagement solution should boast simple capabilities. It should be pretty easy to create and manage dynamic, multi-touch customer journeys. And you need a built-in, flexible analytics and reporting platform to deliver a single, comprehensive view of customer data across all sources, both internal and external. This lets you compete using customer journey analytics, and also easily add third-party data sources to amplify their strategy.

A customer engagement platform redefines the way businesses engage with digital consumers. Here’s how customer journey analytics stand apart from traditional reporting and analytics:

  • Obliterates Siloes: A siloed environment is the greatest barrier to data success, and it’s affecting more businesses than we realize. According to Deloitte’s 2017 “Contact Center Benchmarking Report,” nearly 60% of customer channels are currently being managed in silos. Analytics integration is vital for competing on customer experience (CX), an initiative that traditional analytics tools simply can’t support.

    Built on open, extensible architecture, a customer engagement platform has unparalleled flexibility for gathering transactional information from numerous different channels (IM, co-browsing, SMS, phone, email, IoT) and devices (phone, mobile/tablets, branch, desktop, kiosks). This enables companies to flexibly collect, process and analyze all real-time and historical data. They gain a rich visualization of their customer journey enterprise-wide. This means consistent, contextualized experiences no matter where and when interactions begin, end, continue—and no matter how many company agents are communicating with the customer.

  • Seamlessly combines internal and external data sources: The open nature of a customer engagement platform enables companies to combine internal data with that of virtually any other business intelligence (BI) tool. For example, insights collected internally can be combined with data from visualization tools from leading providers like MicroStrategy, Oracle, SAP and Tableau. This lets managers maximize the return on their existing investments, while driving their potential beyond what was initially imagined.

    Furthermore, this unique ability lets managers generate cradle-to-grave customer interaction reports, enabling them to identify innovative new ways to meet consumers’ evolving needs. Chances are you’re not going to get this with traditional reporting and analytics platforms.

  • Transforms the agent experience: A holistic customer engagement platform redefines agent and supervisor experiences by allowing companies to easily create, customize and integrate key applications for specific work groups. Supported by an advanced software development kit, companies can build their own contact center apps, or embed specific functions into their existing apps, to customize desktops for any unique customer/agent configuration. The solution represents a revolutionary way to serve digital consumers. And, it offers managers a new avenue for analyzing performance metrics for all ways customers are served.

With customers using more digital channels than ever, it’s clear that now is the time to adopt customer journey analytics via a customer engagement platform.

Interested in learning more or chatting about transforming your analytics environment? Contact us. We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.

Next-Generation IT: What Does It Really Look Like?

From mainframes to virtualization to the IoT, we’ve come a long way in a very short amount of time in terms of networking, OS and applications. All this progress has led us to an inflection point of digital business innovation; a critical time in history where, as Gartner puts it best, enterprises must “recognize, prioritize and respond at the speed of digital change.” Despite this, however, many businesses still rely on legacy systems that prevent them from growing and thriving. So, what’s the deal?

I attempted to answer this in a previous blog, where I laid out as entirely as I could the evolution of interconnectivity leading up to today. What was ultimately concluded in that blog is that we have reached a point where we can finally eliminate dependency on legacy hardware and hierarchical architecture with the use of one single, next-generation software platform. The call for organizations across all industries to migrate from legacy hardware has never been stronger, and the good news is that technology has evolved to a point where they can now effectively do so.

This concept of a “next-generation platform,” however, isn’t as simple as it sounds. Just consider its many variations among industry analysts. McKinsey & Company, for example, refers to this kind of platform as “next-generation infrastructure” (NGI). Gartner, meanwhile, describes it as the “New Digital Platform.” We’re seeing market leaders emphasizing the importance of investing in a next-generation platform, yet many businesses still wonder what the technology actually looks like.

To help make it clearer, Avaya took a comparative look at top analyst definitions and broke them down into five key areas of focus for businesses industry-wide: 

  1. Next-generation IT
  2. The Internet of Things (IoT)
  3. Artificial intelligence (AI)/automation
  4. Open ecosystem
  5. The customer/citizens experience

In a series of upcoming blogs, I’ll be walking through these five pillars of a next-generation platform, outlining what they mean and how they affect businesses across every sector. So, let’s get started with the first of these: next-generation IT.

Simplifying Next-Gen IT

As IT leaders face unrelenting pressure to elevate their infrastructure, next-generation IT has emerged as a way to enable advanced new capabilities and support ever-growing business needs. But what does it consist of? Well, many things. The way we see it, however, next-generation IT is defined by four core elements: secure mobility, any-cloud deployment (more software), omnichannel and big data analytics—all of which are supported by a next-generation platform built on open communications architecture.

Secure mobility: Most digital growth today stems from mobile usage. Just consider that mobile now represents 65% of all digital media time, with the majority of traffic for over 75% of digital content—health information, news, retail, sports—coming from mobile devices. Without question, the ability to deliver a secure mobile customer/citizen experience must be part of every organizational DNA. This means enabling customers to securely consume mobile services anytime, anywhere and however desired with no physical connectivity limitations. Whether they’re on a corporate campus connected to a dedicated WLAN, at Starbucks connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, or on the road paired to a Bluetooth device though cellular connectivity, the connection must always be seamless and secure. Businesses must start intelligently combining carrier wireless technology with next-generation Wi-Fi infrastructure to make service consumption more secure and mobile-minded with seamless hand-off between the two technologies.

Any-cloud deployment: Consumers should be able to seamlessly deploy any application or service as part of any cloud deployment model (hybrid, public or private). To enable this, businesses must sufficiently meet today’s requirements for any-to-any communication. As I discussed in my previous blog, the days of nodal configuration and virtualization are a thing of the past; any-to-any communications have won the battle. A next-generation platform built on open communications architecture is integrated, agile, and future-proof enough to effectively and securely support a services-based ecosystem. Of course, the transition towards software services is highly desirable but remember not all hardware will disappear—although where possible it should definitely be considered. This services-based design is the underlying force of many of today’s greatest digital developments (smart cars, smart cities). It’s what allows organizations across every sector to deliver the most value possible to end-users.

Omnichannel: All communication and/or collaboration platforms must be omnichannel enabled. This is not to be confused with multi-channel. Whereas the latter represents a siloed, metric-driven approach to service, the former is inherently designed to provide a 360-degree customer view, supporting the foundation of true engagement. An omnichannel approach also supports businesses with the contextual and situational awareness needed to drive anticipatory engagement at the individual account level. This means knowing that a customer has been on your website for the last 15 minutes looking at a specific product of yours, which they inquired about during a live chat session with an agent two weeks ago. This kind of contextual data needs to be brought into the picture to add value and enhance the experience of whom you service, regardless of where the interaction first started.

Big data analytics: It’s imperative that you strategically use the contextual data within your organization to compete based on the CX. A huge part of next-generation IT involves seamlessly leveraging multiple databases and analytics capabilities to transform business outcomes (and ultimately, customers’ lives). This means finally breaking siloes to tap into the explosive amount of data—structured and unstructured, historical and real-time—at your disposal. Just as importantly, this means employees being able to openly share, track, and collect data across various teams, processes, and customer touch points. This level of data visibility means a hotel being able to see that a guest’s flight got delayed, enabling the on-duty manager to let that customer know that his or her reservation will be held. It means a bank being able to push out money management tips to a customer after seeing that the individual’s last five interactions were related to account spending.

These four components are critical to next-generation IT as part of a next-generation digital platform. Organizations must start looking at each of these components if they wish to compete based on the CX and respond at the speed of digital change. Stay tuned, next we’ll be talking about the ever-growing Internet of Things!

Avaya Predictions for 2017 Services Trends: Top Focus is on Smart Customer-Centric Engagement

Recently, we asked six Avaya services experts to help us reflect on the past year and to peer ahead into 2017. Our panel:

  • Richard English, Managing Director, Avaya Professional Services
  • Camille Lewis, Product Management Director, Avaya Client Services
  • Barbara Sidari, Customer Engagement and Executive Cadence, Avaya Client Services
  • Thomas Brennan, Vice President of global support services, private cloud and managed services delivery
  • Michael Sale, Director Online Engagement, Avaya Client Services
  • Dan Pratt, Senior Director, Business Transformation and Strategy, Avaya Client Services

According to our six experts, our predictions for these 2016 trends proved to be spot on—and they will continue to be a force in 2017:

  • Use of hybrid/private cloud

    will continue to dominate for large enterprises until public cloud providers can demonstrate that compliance to privacy/security regulations such as HIPAA can be achieved. However, Public Cloud is quickly becoming a flexible and effective delivery model for the midmarket.

  • A flexible delivery model

    to achieve growth in modular steps that helps IT maximize ROI and support rapid business scaling has been, and will continue to be, extremely successful. Taking some of the burden off the enterprise enables IT managers to focus on more strategic corporate initiatives.

  • The need for person-to-person human touch

    will continue to rise. It will become critical in 2017 as unassisted support and self-healing systems grow smarter in identifying trends and problems before they happen and engage in machine-to-machine maintenance for resolution. The use of video will be more widely used, providing personalization and higher customer satisfaction.

The panel thinks that 2017 will mean an increasing focus on smart customer centric engagement when it comes to service. In 2017, it’s all about using analytics and even smarter technology to increase customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, loyalty and revenue—and to achieve a better return on investment.

The Avaya panel sees these three trends emerging in 2017:

  • Transforming legacy systems and increased customer use of omnichannel will streamline the customer journey to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue.

    For example, many retailers will transform their Contact Centers into profit centers. The shopping experience for their customers starts on the mobile device or web-based applications—retailers want it to end with an order placed. The customer will experience a seamless transition from mobile to voice (or to web chat or video) without having to repeat who they are and what they want to purchase. The agent will already know the value of the customer to their company and will provide a personalized shopping experience.

  • Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data will enhance the experience of the Customer Journey.

    The predictive and preemptive active workflow will match people to people, machine to machine, as preferred by the customer for maximum satisfaction and profit. For instance, service vendors will use data captured from customer service requests, alarms, outage history, and project volume to identify risks and take appropriate actions to proactively mitigate issues. Utility companies can leverage web-based applications to proactively communicate to customers the status of affected service areas via maps on smart phones, reducing the burden of customers calling the service center to report an outage. Similarly alarm companies will analyze alarms and preemptively fix them before the consumer arrives home.

  • Demand for holistic application service management will grow as siloed and disparate cloud applications shift focus from managing assets in the field to delivering on business processes.

    Enterprises will need a dashboard that provides a single pane view by business process vs CPU performance. The workforce needs to be trained to leverage all the data in a way that includes human touch.

The year 2017 promises to be very exciting as service transforms and demonstrates its value by preemptively fixing issues before they become problems. It is imperative that knowing the customer and providing what they want, as well as the human touch, will become ever more critical in a big data world. After all, it’s all about the customer experience!

What do you see emerging in 2017? Drop me a note at sithomso@avaya.com