Q&A: How to Reclaim Tens of Thousands of Dollars from your Avaya Solutions

Craig Schnieder is the VP of Operations for VOX Network Solutions, a fast-growing San Francisco Bay Area-based Platinum partner of Avaya. I spoke to him about VOX, and his advice for customers to wring value out of undiscovered elements in their already-purchased Avaya solutions.

Craig Schnieder VOX Solutions

Craig Schnieder of VOX Network Solutions

Photo by Andres Larranaga/Avaya

Give me an overview of VOX.

Schnieder: Our background is around the heritage Nortel products. That’s the legacy of a lot of our resources and we’ve migrated that fully into the Avaya Red – going forward, Evolution – platforms today. Really, we don’t specialize in any one area, really. Our goal is to provide communications solutions across the portfolio to our customer base.

A lot of our customers are headquartered within the Western region, but we do have customers across the country and we have a global deployment strategy as well that we’ve been able to leverage for quite a few of our customers now across APAC and EMEA regions, too.


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What do you find the main thing that people are coming to you for?

Schnieder: Our real goal is to reframe that conversation from a technology conversation to a business one and talk about what the business issues are. We have a very specialized process that we call the VPOP program where we engage with the contact center stakeholders across the business, understand a little more about where process breakdowns exist within their company, and talk about generically how certain technology solutions can help address those breakdowns and provide a hard ROI breakdown for that.

I think the whole business model is changing with customers. Before, somebody built a box or a widget that did something and you went out and you peddled that widget to do whatever, but customers aren’t looking to buy widgets anymore. They’re looking for the total package. They’re looking for what we call solutions, which is this high-level, holistic view of what’s going on within the business and how we’re going to define and solve a specific business challenge.

Schnieder: Exactly. It’s not one product or one technology that is intended to address everyone’s problems these days. It’s a suite of applications. It’s a holistic approach to really addressing, finding out what the customer’s real needs are, and not trying to put a box in to address it.

What have you seen in the industry come forward that has really enabled you to change into this new business model? What has empowered you on the back end to do that?

Schnieder: Across the solution as Avaya moves into more of the software and application provider space, and out of a hardware solution, it really gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of what we’re offering our customers: flexibility in the deployment, whether you’re looking at a premise appliance model versus a hybrid, cloud-virtualized environments. We have a lot of flexibility now in how we deliver these solutions to our customers.

I want to talk about leveraging feature entitlements, moving forward.

Schnieder: One thing that we found walking into an existing customer base, we find that many times customers don’t fully understand the breadth of features that they have available to them, they’ve already purchased.

Right, stuff they already own and have in the closet, so to speak.

Schnieder: Exactly, and some of these are hidden entitlements within a certain feature level. Some of them are bundled within suite licensing bundles. And some of them are enhanced reporting capabilities that are underneath maintenance offerings as well. So one thing we really want our customers to look at is really understanding what those features are, what are available to them. Some of these are features that are very powerful, that have been within the Aura and Affinity product lines for many, many years. Things like EC500 and Meet Me Conferencing. Many customers might not even be aware these are features they are able to consume immediately. And many of these are not even requiring the purchase of a server or the engagement of a formal professional services implementation, engagement with a partner, with Avaya. Some of these, a savvy telecom engineer can open a book and take advantage of some of these applications within a couple of hours within their environment.

So your role is to enable or foster that to happen within your customer base?

Schnieder: Absolutely. We really want to make sure that while we’re talking to our customers about expanding and evolving and moving forward, that we make sure they have a full understanding of where they are at a baseline today, and that they’re able to fully leverage the investment they’ve already begun.

It’s interesting. It kind of relates to another topic that I’m very near and dear with, and that’s public safety solutions. There was a horrible death in Texas December 1st where a poor little girl watched her mother get killed in a hotel room, and didn’t know she needed to dial 9 for an outside line. And that prompted some meetings with the FCC and I put out a list of three simple things that could be turned on that people already own in their PBX: dialing 911 with or without an access code, turning on crisis alerts to know that the event happened, and then routing that call directly out to public safety. So it’s just another example of the power of the box, the power of the system that’s there that people bought and that wasn’t top of mind at the time. So it’s like, “Oh hey, look what’s laying in the closet here.”

Schnieder: Exactly. And that could take the form of everything from looking at least-cost routing using tail-end hop-off of remote gateways to a call center environment. Many customers we talked to today aren’t aware that Business Advocate is now an entitlement within your elite call center.

What does Business Advocate do?

Schnieder: Beyond the basic skills-based routing of Elite, Business Advocate provides for an additional, very advanced feature set: service level, prioritization within the call center, a host of new ways to approach and prioritize your VIP callers, treat your call center in slightly a different way instead of most idle agent.

That’s where the power of a call center really comes into play. We used to call them call centers, and then we started calling them contact centers, and now I hear them called interaction centers because that’s what it’s now really turning into because we’re looking at all this big data that’s available. But you have to be able to have the applications to deal with all that. Again, stuff that is built into the platforms that just need to be activated.

Schnieder: Exactly.

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A Note of Thanks for Your Support of #AvayaENGAGE Mexico

There’s an old saying, “Challenging times reveal your true friends.” In the months following our debt restructuring, customers and partners have never wavered in their confidence in Avaya, most recently when 3,000 joined us in Mexico City for #AvayaENGAGE Mexico (formerly Avaya Evolutions). This incredible show of support validates what our competitors don’t want you to believe: Avaya has friends in all the right places, and they’re only growing in numbers!

We have a wonderful video reel and photos that highlight experiences from #AvayaENGAGE, from our CEO Kevin Kennedy’s opening keynote address, which was streamed live over Facebook, to presentations from our own Gary Barnett and Laurent Philonenko, including an exclusive CIO forum lunch with more than 100 regional CIOs. This moment proved to be the perfect opportunity to drive conversations around innovation and transformation on a panel with our Avaya leadership team and Uri Levine, founder of Waze. In addition, guest speakers Dr. Jaime Serra Puche, former secretary of treasury and public credit economist at Yale University; and Alondra de la Parra, Mexican founder and artistic director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, kept audiences engaged until early evening.

Believe me, ask anyone who was with us in Mexico and they’ll tell you … the energy was contagious. As Maiara Munhoz from Frost and Sullivan put it, “It’s great what I’ve seen here at #AvayaENGAGE. Many companies speak about their greatness but Avaya is showing they are taking the digital transformation seriously. I love its transparency … a thing that many companies don’t have.”

Feedback like this is gratifying … motivating … inspiring.

#AvayaENGAGE Mexico delivered on so many levels thanks to the people who make the work we do every day worthwhile: our customers, our partners, and our employees. I couldn’t be more proud to work for a company that revels in working together—side by side—all of us rolling up our sleeves and becoming immersed and invested in solving today’s challenges and goals.

It is because of all of you that Avaya continues to create fresh, innovative engagement solutions on the hottest technologies, in the cloud or on premises.

It is because of you and your confidence in us that we’re able to continue to show our #AvayaStrength in the market.

And it is for you that we remain committed to becoming an even stronger Avaya in the future.

Thank you for being with us on our journey. Get ready now for #AvayaENGAGE 2018 because I promise you this: “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Five Things Every CMO Wants Their CIO to Know

This article first appeared in CIOReview, May 2017.

The reality of today’s digital, customer-centric world is clearer than ever, and it is significantly affecting the CIO and CMO. CIOs are now emerging as collaborative business partners with more customer-facing priorities; meanwhile, CMOs must now balance customer engagement with technology and analytics to deliver contextually-rich experiences. Together, these two key players must work in unison to amplify the customer communications experience.

I explored this dynamic further in a recent blog, where it was concluded that CMOs should operate as major influencers of IT spend, with CIOs working alongside them. Now, just one question remains: how? How can CIOs support CMOs to make their best marketing technology investments? How can they empower CMOs to operate at maximum potential each day?

There are seemingly endless ways that marketing can work with IT to reimagine business and customer outcomes, but the right support is needed to make this happen. To this end, here are five things CMOs want CIOs to know to help marketing teams do what they do best:

  1. Speed Matters
    The world has sped up in a very short amount of time. Consider technologies like web chat, social media and mobile apps: once non-existent for customer service, we now see hundreds of thousands of customers engaging with these platforms every minute. To be competitive, you must move quickly. You must be able to move at the speed of the consumer, and flexibly respond to digital change.


    Marketing organizations must have the freedom to instantaneously deploy new solutions and test new campaigns to limitlessly innovate and improve. Continuous change is at the heart of marketing; CMOs must be in control of the pace and nature of this change, while CIOs must support them to flexibly do so. Considering the average IT team takes up to six months to develop and deploy a new application, this is a major problem today. The traditional IT development/deployment cycle must be put to an end.

  2. Solutions Do Not Always Need To Be Built
    That same research shows that 85 percent of organizations demand faster development and deployment cycles from their IT teams. One way to significantly shorten this cycle is to eliminate the development phase altogether. In other words, solutions and applications do not always need to be internally built. There are many great off-the-shelf applications available that can be instantly cloud-deployed, and marketing needs IT to connect them quickly and securely for immediate use. In this way, CIOs can help CMOs reduce deployment time from months to days.
  3. Understand That We Live for the CX
    CIOs are notorious for having an internal perspective; meanwhile, CMOs thrive on their ability to look outward at the customer experience. For CMOs to operate at maximum potential, CIOs must understand how marketing is working to create a better experience for external customers.


    This means focusing less on why certain actions are being taken and more on how those actions will affect the end customer. Consider Daniel Bergan, Omni-Channel Transformation at Westpac, one of Australia’s most prominent financial institutions. In taking the initiative to better serve the bank’s customers, Daniel and the team created an end-to-end technology environment that transforms parts of the organization from the outside in. Most recently, for instance, the company announced that it would be making banking features available via social media messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat.


    Forrester puts it best in a recent report: “CIOs (must) move beyond IT’s traditional focus on technology assets and expand their role as leader of a customer-facing function: responsible for creating superior customer experiences across channels and delivering digital business innovation.”

  4. We Need the Right Infrastructure and Tools
    Marketing teams need to be as productive as possible. They must be able to seamlessly communicate and collaborate, both internally and externally. They need insight into customer data across multiple teams, processes and customer touch points. Our level of efficiency is dependent on whether we have the right infrastructure and tools, supported by the CIO.


    Understand that we know you cannot eliminate bandwidth issues entirely, but we would appreciate if you did all you could to make them as minimal as possible. We know you cannot completely eradicate security threats, but we trust you are working overtime to ensure we can work as securely as possible. Just as we work to deliver on the promise of amazing experiences for our customers, we need you to deliver on the promise of this experience for us internally.

  5. Be a True Business Partner
    What more can I say? Get in the game with us. Dust off your other strategic hats and start wearing them. Start thinking outside of the box to drive the best possible business outcomes and customer experiences. The fact is that, today, the CIO is no longer concerned with simply keeping the network running and phones on. Like it or not, today’s CIO has stepped out of the data center and is actively working alongside key areas of business like marketing, sales, R&D and HR. They are now operating as a revenue-generating entity. They are responsible for driving efficiency across the entire organization.


    Today’s smart, digital world has assured that marketing and IT will remain interdependent. The good news is that CMOs and CIOs are increasingly seeing eye to eye, reflecting a willingness of both to prioritize the business over individual goals and objectives. As with all things, though, there is room to do better, there are opportunities to deepen collaboration between these two essential players and across IT and Marketing teams. I just outlined five key areas where I believe CMOs and CIOs can achieve the level of intimacy needed to really thrive and succeed.

CMOs and CIOs: Stop Battling and Start Collaborating on Marketing Technology Solutions

In a 2011 webinar, Gartner Research Vice President Laura McLellan boldly said that by 2017, the CMO would spend more on IT than the CIO. Now that we’re just shy of 2017 (how time flies!) the question is: will this statement become reality, or yet another castaway on the island of false predictions? I believe this fast rise of the CMO as a major influencer of IT spending is in fact a reality.

Here’s why…

If you think back (even as recently as 10 years ago), organizations didn’t use much marketing technology in order to achieve their objectives. Just 10 years ago, marketing technology platforms like Marketo and HubSpot had just been founded and were in their primal stages. Facebook was a novel concept that was still only offered to college students. The first iPhone wouldn’t be introduced to the world for another year.

Back in the day, marketing teams didn’t have organizational transparency or seamless access to customer data like they do today. Instead they’d put an ad in the newspaper, or they might pay to rent billboard space and display their toll-free number. Barely any systems were connected and, more importantly, there were virtually no platforms that enabled customer data to be seamlessly collected or shared for marketing purposes. It makes sense, then, why the CMO had little insight into technology processes or control over spending.

But then we saw the rise of technologies like cloud, mobility, social media and big data … and everything changed.

Suddenly, the end-to-end marketing experience was tied together through technology. We began seeing new tools specifically designed to enhance digital media, social media marketing, and mobile marketing, for example. Most importantly, this new state of marketing technology was fueled by big data. How much data? Just consider that last year, Facebook users were liking nearly 4.2 million posts per minute. On Twitter, users were creating almost 350,000 new posts per minute. Customers were downloading an average 51,000 apps through the Apple App Store per minute.

That’s a lot of data, and it all drives the customer communications experience that the CMO is responsible for. Think about it: among these millions of daily interactions are customers engaging and communicating with their favorite brands. Every action, reaction, interaction, transaction … it all builds customers’ digital footprints. It’s vital that marketing teams have necessary technology that enables them to strategically leverage this data in order to deliver meaningful and contextual customer communications experiences.

The rise of these technologies has transformed the traditional face of marketing and, subsequently, the role of the CMO. Research firm Deloitte puts it perfectly: “Once the leader responsible for creativity and brand, today’s CMO has vast and complex responsibilities reaching far beyond traditional marketing—now spanning technology, analytics, growth and, above all, measurable impact.”

Among the greatest of these “vast and complex responsibilities” is enhancing the customer communications experience as the major buyer of marketing technology. To keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation, companies must invest in technologies that enable customer communications experiences enterprise-wide, and they should entrust their CMOs to lead this spending initiative.

CMO vs. CIO: Not So Much

Do a quick Google search for “CMO vs. CIO” and you’ll see all sorts of results that discuss the apparent power struggle between these two key players. While it can’t be denied that the CIO does in some ways hold a unique position of power, I don’t think the answer is a battle between these executives to see who comes out on top.

Rather, I believe these changes mark a new and very significant partnership between the CMO and CIO. In today’s smart, digital world, marketing and IT have become interdependent. The CMO may now be the major influencer of technology purchasing decisions, but the CIO is needed to ensure all underlying infrastructure is efficiently running to support these technology investments. CIOs may not wake up every morning wondering how they can better nurture customer relationships, but they still play an integral role in supporting the CMO.

Just consider the drastic importance of security. One of the greatest responsibilities of the CIO involves implementing the highest security measures and taking every security precaution possible. As cloud, mobile and social continue to drive digital consumerism, security has become more top of mind than ever before. Customers must be able to trust that their sensitive data is being securely processed and safeguarded by the brands they love to engage with.

This is why we’re now seeing more forward-thinking companies innovating the role of CMO to work alongside the CIO and other collaborative players. Just consider that 80% of companies now employ a chief marketing technologist—a culmination between the CMO and CIO—according to a recent CMO spending report from Gartner.

Does this mean that some CIOs will need to shift from a position of power to one that serves the needs of their company through different lines of business? You bet it does. But this doesn’t mean there has to be a classic power struggle. It simply means CIOs need to embrace change and perhaps wear some new hats in order to drive better business outcomes.

For example, last week I had a meeting with the Vice President of IT at Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, Rick Schoenhals. During my visit, he walked me into a room where I saw eight data analysts sitting at a table, each mining data. He explained to me that these data analysts were members of his IT team who work closely with their marketing department to make data accessible and drive the customer experience using that information. The team still has traditional IT responsibilities but, as the department with the most access to customer data, the company realized that the role of IT needed to evolve and work hand-in-hand with marketing.

In the end, it seems there are more implications for today’s CIOs than there are for CMOs. CMOs should be major buyers of marketing technology, and CIOs need to work alongside them to drive the heart of business—the customer communications experience.

2017, we’re ready for you.