Nurturing the European Midmarket

In many countries across Europe, recovery has been largely attributed to midmarket success.

In the UK, for example, throughout the recession the sector bucked the economy’s negative growth trend and since then has continued to outperform the rest of the economy. Meanwhile, in Germany the famed Mittelstand is the main ‘stoker’ of its economic firepower. Even countries not particularly known for their midmarket–like France, Italy and Spain–have seen a jump in performance.

Research from GE Capital predicts that the Italian midmarket will employ a further 74,000 people this year and the French midmarket will contribute nearly €49 billion to its economy moving forward. The European midmarket is clearly buoyant, but to what can this be attributed?

A key characteristic for midmarket companies in general is a focus on growth and innovation. They are inherently more nimble than their larger competitors. They are also more adept at meeting change quickly and consequently, and can thrive even in the toughest environments. Yet they also have the resources and infrastructure in place to withstand market conditions that their smaller rivals may find challenging.

In a textbook virtuous circle, these attributes and the millennial generation are together helping fuel midmarket prowess.


Generations Y and Z–used to the luxury of choice, instant information and quick decisions–are attracted to the more agile, innovative and less corporate midmarket companies, with many marking them as their first-choice employers.

The influx of fresh-thinking young people is in turn keeping midmarket businesses on their toes. In fact, these millennials are now helping midmarket companies become increasingly innovative and agile, and therefore able to attract even more millennial employees. And so the circle continues.

Should this come as a surprise? As a global technology company with a focus on the midmarket, we too have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand, seen its growing impact on the technology market in general, and our business in particular.

I am constantly delighted by the way our younger employees interact and engage with our customers, partners and prospects. It’s amazing how you can redefine what’s possible when people truly work together and deploy new sales channels–for example, using social as a route into the customer.

Yet, despite its huge potential and all of its positive attributes, the midmarket sits in an uncomfortable position when it comes to technology adoption.

What the midmarket wants

On the one hand, this market is highly sophisticated and millennials, with their personal experience of technology, are making it even more so. Midmarket firms want what cutting-edge enterprises want in terms of sophistication, and they don’t think they should have to sacrifice that just because they need to cater to 200 employees and not 2,000 or 20,000. On the other hand, they generally do not have the same budgets and have traditionally found that the functionality they require is out of reach.

Fortunately, this is changing.

Solutions are increasingly being designed with the unique needs of the midmarket in mind, aimed at empowering these companies with simple, effective customer and employee engagement tools. Companies selling to the midmarket are taking a more consultative approach, too.

In addition, advances in cloud computing mean more cost-effective alternatives are available. Cloud’s on-demand model requires almost no setup or capital expense. By using cloud infrastructure, midmarket organizations don’t have to make a big capital leap with hardware upgrades as they expand. Cloud services also require less IT management and can be deployed quickly, all of which enable midsized businesses to compete more effectively.

The march of the midmarket across Europe show no signs of abating, particularly when we consider that in less than ten years millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce. And at the same time, the EU continues to propose market reform that makes it easier for these businesses to operate. It’s time for all of us to support this dynamic sector by recognizing and meeting its very specific characteristics and needs.

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The New Era of Engagement Everywhere for the Midmarket

IT decision-makers working inside midmarket companies need to shift from the technology gatekeepers to the technology road pavers–instead of controlling who goes where, they must make it easy for their company’s employee to go where they need and want to go.

The first step is to adopt IT platforms that allow communication and collaboration capabilities to be extended across networks and different devices. Extending capabilities everywhere simultaneously creates value (by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of professional services teams on customer locations) and risk (by creating additional requirements for network access security).

In this new era of open engagement:

Employees will want to buy software like a consumer: In today’s BYOD environment, information workers want to use the devices and services that they are most comfortable with to maximize their productivity. For example, imagine a CEO demanding that IT support iPhones, an operations team adopting a free, over-the-top telephony service for internal calls, or a research and development team using public cloud storage to share planning documents.

Nearly three-quarters of employees say they’re happy with the technology they have at home, while just 59 percent of employees are happy with the technology they use at work. As a result, employees are increasingly bringing their own devices, services and software applications into the workplace.

Networks must be secure, reliable and manageable: Every year, the demands on a company’s network infrastructure grow. The network that strains under today’s traffic will have an even harder time handling the data-hungry applications of the future. Smart midmarket companies know the network is crucial to business success, and adopt technology that’s available, secure, reliable and supportable.

It’s estimated that breaches inside data centers cost an average of $3 million to $5 million to recover from. Midmarket companies would do well to take a closer look at network performance and security, with an eye toward the amount of time it takes to restore operations, and the estimated cost of network downtime. Leaving data security to an unmanaged patchwork of consumer devices and applications is dangerous.

Businesses need to innovate like a startup, or risk failure: In many respects, the business world is a zero sum game where the winner takes all. If you are not taking share from your competitors, they are most likely taking it from you.

A 2014 study by PWC found that “the most innovative companies are growing at a much faster rate: 62.2 percent vs 20.7 percent over the next five years.” Technologies like social business platforms, Web collaboration, and team engagement enable successful midmarket businesses to share information and ideas readily.

Being able to engage is the first step. Employees must embrace the innovation process and tools for them to operate in a high-performance team. To drive midmarket innovation, the company must first enable and support the devices and services that their employees are most comfortable with.

Reliable, predictable service of these devices and applications is key. Technology leaders, with the help of vendors and service providers, share the responsiblity of educating the informing workers on how and when to use new tools to engage with customers and peers. No matter how intuitive a user experience seems, it’s still critical to demonstrate the value of the solution in terms that workers understand. For example:

  • Sales teams can use live data from a Web-based app to check inventory on their tablet or smartphone in a customers’ office to drive urgency (or provide assurance of availability) when closing a deal.
  • Field service personnel can use point-to-point video communications to help fix mechanical issues at a customer site, using forward- and backward-facing cameras to see the expert and show them the problem.
  • Save time, effort and money by using desktop conferencing applications to share information and build personal relationships among distributed teams, whether they are sharing updates on projects, planning new activities, or making a business-critical decision.

New technologies, new processes and cultural adaptation will deliver breakthrough business results. Teams must accommodate shifting work schedules, share data and information, and collaborate rapidly to deliver market-leading innovation. Avaya and its global network of business partners stand at the ready to help your business succeed in the new era of engagement.

For more, read my white paper, “The New Rules of Engagement for Midmarket Businesses.”

What Engagement Means for the Midmarket

Large enterprises know Avaya well: We have a successful track record of designing, building and deploying the world’s most complex and customized communications solutions for the world’s best-known brands. In recent years, we’ve steadily taken those large products and virtualized them into standard modules for the midmarket, helping unlock value for the world’s fastest-growing companies.

Midmarket customers and large enterprises have the same goal–to improve engagement between team members and customers.

Whenever I speak at industry events, I often get asked two questions: “What does engagement mean for my business,” and “Why is Avaya investing in the midmarket?” I’d like to address those two questions today, so potential customers and partners can understand Avaya’s perspective on the challenges and opportunities presented by the midmarket—and the reason why we’re committed to serving this market segment.

What Does Engagement Mean For My Business?

Here at Avaya, we provide a comprehensive portfolio of solutions to drive simple, human-centric communication and collaboration deep into business processes, which ultimately helps create business value.

Traditionally, we have categorized our products under three umbrellas: Unified Communications, Contact Center and Networking (with a robust set of professional services to simplify planning, deployment, configuration and management of these products).

The problem is, these labels succeed at describing what our solutions do, not how, why or where they do it. These contextual questions get at the ways our solutions create business value and hone our customers’ competitive edge.

Technology has fundamentally changed the way we interact. Those changes are reflected at work, and with our customers. Avaya’s history has been centered around improving human connections, delighting customers and energizing employees.

This is the essence of engagement. Our solutions don’t just make it easy for an employee or customer to reach an expert or a salesperson; we enable a business outcome by making it easier for these potential communicators to access expertise and acquire goods and services.

We refer to this context-aware communication and collaboration as engagement—the active connection of team members and customers with the information, experts, and decision-makers they need to complete the task at hand.

Our Team and Customer Engagement solutions drive faster, more natural, and more focused communications and collaboration, and ultimately drive customer satisfaction and revenue.

Why is Avaya Investing in the Midmarket?

The midmarket (defined as companies with 100 to 2,000 employees) is the growth engine of the global economy, representing about a third of the world’s GDP, and growing twice as fast as large enterprise companies. Moving at this pace requires nimble, agile, aware processes and decision-making, enabled by the kind of Team and Customer Engagement solutions available from Avaya.

Midmarket companies often rely on consumer-grade cloud solutions to enable their communications and collaboration. While these solutions are easy to adopt and quick to initiate, they often lack the ability to integrate with business applications and processes, presenting threats to data security and communications privacy. Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy explored this topic in his recent white paper, “The New Rules of Engagement: How to Succeed in 21st Century Business Communications,” where he cautioned business owners against launching siloed products with consumer-grade data protection in place.

For every widely-publicized corporate data breach, there are many others that are quietly handled outside of the public’s eye. Data breaches can be catastrophic for growing businesses, and Kennedy urged companies to take a closer look at how data is shared among applications, internally with team members, externally with partners and across the corporate network infrastructure.

Midmarket companies have a great deal to gain from adopting engagement solutions. Roughly half of midsize companies are moving toward a single, consolidated UC solution, and approximately a third consider ease-of-management and ease-of-integration as key purchase criteria. Avaya delivers secure, reliable, dependable and easy-to-manage engagement solutions that can be connected to business applications and processes via open standard APIs.

Decades of experiences have informed our R&D teams as they’ve developed solutions for the midmarket. Virtualizing these market-leading solutions ensures engagement can be deployed virtually anywhere.

Engagement is the future of business communications, and we believe we’re uniquely positioned to lead this market into the future. Midmarket companies have a tremendous amount at stake in adopting engagement solutions because they depend on nimble business decisions to compete and win. We’re committed to building the world’s best engagement solutions for the midmarket.

For more on the midmarket and engagement, read the recent white paper from Avaya CTO Laurent Philonenko, “The New Rules of Engagement for Midsize Businesses.”

Midsize Companies and Avaya: A History of Success

In my conversations with customers, one thing is clear: Midsize companies are excited about Avaya’s track record of success creating products tailored to the midmarket.

Yes, we install big Team Engagement and Customer Engagement solutions (formerly known as Unified Communications and Contact Centers) for the world’s largest companies and service providers, and the bulletproof reliability of these systems is a key differentiator in the market. The geniuses working inside Avaya Labs leveraged that architecture and experience to produce highly-reliable and useful engagement solutions for small and medium-sized business–giving them the same capabilities as large enterprises.

The midmarket (defined as companies with 100 to 2,000 employees) is not new for Avaya. The company has always been a strong player in the midmarket space, since long before it was an independent company. As part of AT&T, the Merlin was launched in the early 1980s, while Nortel (acquired by Avaya in 2009) launched the Norstar system in the late 1980s. While these systems are neither sold nor serviced anymore, they are still in use by many SMBs around the world.

The company launched Communication Server in the late 1990s, a software-driven IP PBX that ran on industry-standard servers. Avaya’s resellers saw the opportunity to sell a reliable, easy-to-manage communications platform to SMBs. The Business Communications Manager launched as Avaya acquired Nortel, and SMBs loved the solution so much that it experienced the fastest product revenue ramp in company history.

Enough said, right?

We have consistently delivered wave after wave of innovative communications solutions to SMBs around the world. As interesting as the history is, today’s midmarket business owners and executives want to know “What have you done for me lately?” The answer is Avaya IP Office, the most flexible, reliable solutions available to fulfill the midmarket’s engagement requirements. We enhanced the offer by marrying IP Office to Avaya’s networking and video solutions, to assure reliable, ubiquitous availability of a broad range of communications and collaboration capabilities.

But don’t take my word for it… let’s ask our customers:

Carlo’s Bakery (The Cake Boss from TLC): After landing on the TLC network as the Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro was faced with rapid growth and overwhelming customer demand. Using a combination of IP Office, Scopia Video Conferencing, Avaya wired and wireless networking and mobile clients, Carlo’s Bakery was able to improve customer satisfaction, reduce customer wait times (in-store and inside the contact center), optimize logistics processes, and reduce telecommunications charges–all while growing the business exponentially. Read more

Prairie Street Brewhouse: This microbrewery was moving into a new, historic location in Rockford, Illinois and expanding into entertainment, events, marina- and property management. Using IP Office, Avaya Fabric networking, Avaya Virtual Services Platform and video technologies, they were able to improve customer experiences within their event spaces, improve physical security and create a desirable and safe environment for their tenants and guests–making their location one of the area’s most unique historical landmarks. Read more

Ballantyne Strong: This state-of-the-art audio/visual and lighting systems provider was outgrowing its customer service solutions, as their customer requirements grew more complex. Using IP Office Contact Center, Avaya Virtual Services Platform, Scopia Video Conferencing and mobile clients, Ballantyne Strong was able to rapidly deploy a solution that enabled them to easily track and monitor all customer activity, assuring that the right people, resources, and expertise were applied to customer needs in real time. The solution also enabled a robust disaster recovery plan, and with video-enabled mobile endpoints the company was able to reduce travel expenses by 80 percent. Read more

South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools: The South Euclid-Lyndhurst School District in northeast Ohio is a leader in implementing innovative curriculum programming and leveraging technology to improve the educational experience of their students. As technology and curriculum options multiplied, the district needed a more flexible and hardy solution to meet their networking and communications needs. Using IP Office, Avaya Fabric networking, Avaya Virtual Services Platform and video technologies, the district was able to configure their network to accommodate new applications and media streams, meet enhanced safety and security requirements, deliver newly state-mandated online testing and support existing curriculum requirements. These moves saved nearly $100,000 from their IT budget and simplified ongoing demands on their IT personnel. Read more

Break Thru People Solutions: This Australian nonprofit provides employment and educational opportunities for a wide variety of disadvantaged groups and was unable to reliably and predictably handle outbound communications. Using IP Office and IP Office Contact Center, Break Thru People Solutions was able to serve their clients more rapidly and effectively, improve outreach to other community organizations and reduce the amount of time and money spent on operating their communications infrastructure. This translated to better meeting their philanthropic mission by freeing up time and money to help those in need.

Linamar: This manufacturer of precision metallic components for the automotive industry was burdened with manual processes to monitor and manage their manufacturing process quality and throughput. Using IP Office, Avaya Fabric networking, Avaya Virtual Services Platform, video technologies and remote connections to plant telemetry, the company was able to create a shared data and voice network that dynamically optimized capacities and connections to improve manufacturing efficiency. Linamar centralized data analysis and control processes, enabling the identification and implementation of best practices and global standards. Our single-vendor solution allowed the company to significantly reduce the effort (and rework) associated with network management. Read more

Gas Liquids Engineering: This engineering services provider specializing in gas purification and liquids recovery solutions needed technology to free their high-value engineering employees away from frustrating, repetitive network and communications management and operation tasks. Using IP Office, Avaya Virtual Services Platform and Avaya networking, Gas Liquids Engineering was able to easily handle high-capacity data transmissions between CAD/CAM systems, better retain engineering talent by letting them do their jobs (instead of maintaining the network) and enhance the ability of their employees to collaborate across the firm and with their customers.

Avaya’s midmarket customers span geographies, industries and company sizes. Our solutions enable these customers to “change the where they work,” so they’re ready to meet the needs of their customers, employees and stakeholders. The common denominator is their satisfaction with the portfolio of Avaya solutions that enable them to communicate, collaborate, engage, and innovate faster and more effectively than ever before.