Avaya Brings Home Another 5-Star Rating in CRN’s 2015 Partner Program Guide Under the Leadership of Avaya’s Own CRN Channel Chief

It’s with no small amount of pride that we are pleased to announce that we’ve been awarded with a 5-star rating in CRN’s 2015 Partner Program Guide – now for the sixth year in a row.

This annual directory is the definitive listing of technology vendors that service solution providers or provide products through the IT channel. The 5-Star Partner Program rating recognizes an elite subset of companies that offer solution providers the best partnering elements in their channel programs based on investments in program offerings, partner profitability, partner training, education and support, marketing programs and resources, sales support and communication.

Further, this award is compounded by CRN’s recognition of Richard Steranka as a 2015 Channel Chief, for his work driving Avaya’s efforts to improve the profitability of our channel partners.

As a Channel Chief, Richard represents one of the most powerful leaders in the IT channel driving growth through their indirect channel partners. Individuals are selected for inclusion based on their track record of channel accomplishments, standing in the industry, dedication to the partner community, and plans for driving future business innovation and channel growth.

It may seem obvious that there’s a symbiotic relationship between vendors and their channel partners. They depend on one other; each one must make a commitment to the other to be successful.

Successful channel programs require an open dialogue between the partner and the vendor to understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and frustrations. Sometimes these conversations are heated and other times they’re celebratory. It’s all part of clearing the pathways for success.

The Avaya Connect Partner Program is and has been a work-in-progress. The business world is more dynamic than ever. New rules – many yet unwritten – need to replace older, outmoded ones. Less than a decade ago, most companies equated what’s now called “cloud services” with Centrex; the move to software for real-time communications was just starting to turn into an upswing, although a large part of a partner’s revenue could still come from selling hardware: PBXs and telephones.

That’s all changed, and skills and programs need to move with the changes for partners and vendors to stay relevant. This year, Avaya has focused on the transformation occurring in the industry and how channel partners can capitalize on the shift, particularly around cloud-delivered engagement solutions.

Under Steranka’s leadership, we’ve worked with partners to enable them to be there for customers who are increasingly moving from premises-based IT operations to cloud-based services. Many Avaya partners are now able to offer a cloud-based service through a wholesaler or distributor, or may be launching their own service based on Avaya Customer and Team Engagement solutions for enterprises or midmarket companies.

We’ve also restructured our partner recognition program to make customer value through expertise, customer satisfaction and experience the central theme of the program. It’s our customers who decide whether either of us provides the value that warrants an ongoing relationship, so it behooves us to drive a standard of excellence for our solutions as well as our go-to-market efforts.

We’re looking forward to better enablement for our channel and greater success for our partners. We can’t wait to see what Richard and team have in store for the year ahead.

The 2015 Partner Program Guide will be featured in the April issue of CRN, and online at www.CRN.com.

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Serving Customer Buying Patterns Means Our Partners are “Living on the Edge”

Today’s business environment is a competitive and dynamic landscape that necessitates innovation in communications and collaboration. Technology solutions are more than mere infrastructure investments, they are business success enablers. This has led to a major transformation in customer buying patterns. Customers have changed how they approach, purchase, and deploy ICT—information and communications technology–and we’ve changed how we sell to customers. Simply put, customers are requesting as much agility in their solutions and infrastructures as they require functionality, if not more.

Here at Avaya, we recognized several years ago that one size NEVER fits all. That’s why we made the strategic decision to transition to a software-and-services-led company providing solutions and platforms. To keep pace with customer buying patterns, we totally changed our product mix, made everything available as a software component, and gave our customers more flexibility in how they consume our solutions.

That last point reflects another major shift for Avaya—we put our customers first. That may sound self-evident, something all companies should be doing all the time, but it all too often doesn’t happen in the IT industry. It certainly wasn’t happening at Avaya. In 2011, our Net Promoter Score was hovering in the 20s, placing us … well, on par with most of our competitors, which is to say not very good. Today, we’re at 59, or Best in Class, which is in the 50% to 70% range with Apple and the Ritz Carlton.

So, putting the customer at the heart of everything we do has paid off for us big time. Consequently, our channel programmes have to evolve taking that new reality into consideration and that is exactly what we have done.

This month saw the global launch of Avaya Edge, our brand new and streamlined global partner programme, designed to give our partners the edge in the marketplace. Our vision for the new programme has three pillars:

  • Put the customer first
  • Protect and represent the Avaya brand
  • Be highly rewarding for the professionals and organisations that are a part of the programme, wherever they may be.

Avaya Edge also addresses some of the biggest needs for technology partnerships—a simpler structure, greater benefits, and flexibility—and builds them in as the key defining characteristics of the programme. To achieve that we gave our partners a choice to decide in which marketplace they would like to thrive, i.e., Enterprise or Mid-Market, since each of those segments require different level of profiles, skills and investments.

Here’s another way we’re bringing partners more closely into the fold. In previous years, we’ve hosted separate events for partners and customers around the globe. The partners had their own specialist Avaya Partner Forum event, while customers attended Avaya Technology Forums. Fair enough, specialization is not exactly a bad thing—but achieving the best possible outcome requires everybody pulling together in the same direction. The Avaya business teams, our partners (resellers, systems integrators, distributors, etc.) and, above all, our customers need to be aligned if we are all going to achieve our business objectives.

This month in Dubai, we’re hosting Avaya Engage—our first event that brings everybody in the Avaya ecosystem under one roof. Avaya executives will meet with partners, customers and industry leaders, giving everybody an equal opportunity to network, learn latest industry trends and understand where Avaya is going.

Get more details on Avaya Engage in Dubai. I look forward to seeing you there.


Stepping Up and Out for a Walk Around the World

When I went through the grueling process of interviewing for my CMO position at Avaya, what appealed to me most was the company’s strong sense of community. This was an organization going through a massive transformation. Leaders and employees were dealing with a ton of change and a lot of uncertainty. Yet last year, during the month of July (the dead of summer in some parts of the world), this global team came together and rallied around the company’s first-ever Month of Giving Program. Over the course of 31 days, 60 teams across 32 locations raised more than $250,000, and donated hundreds of volunteer hours to non-profits around the world. Absolutely fantastic! It told me everything I needed to know about the people at Avaya and their outstanding compassion, commitment, resilience and sense of spirit, camaraderie and mojo!

When the company decided to do it again—this time in October—my team and I came together to figure out how we could champion it. After all, we’re marketers! We have to lead by example.

Boy Did My Team Deliver

They came up with “Walk Around the World”—a month-long activity in which our team will walk 25,000 miles, the distance it takes to circle the globe. To up the engagement factor, the team partnered with the brilliantly creative Lightning Jar to design a mile tracking app, which we’ll use throughout the event. It’s compatible with both iOS and Android, and has a built-in pedometer so every step or mile we take is recorded. It also features a leaderboard so we can engage in spirited competitions, and increase the miles we’re walking and the money we’re raising.

Key to every philanthropic activity is the fundraising element. For that, we’re partnering with Save the Children, and will raise approximately $31,000 for their “Classroom Though Communities” initiative. What’s really cool about this tie-in with Save the Children is that every dollar donated will go directly towards the construction of a school in Mozambique, Africa, one of the poorest communities in the world. As the school is being built, the organization will send us photos of its construction, and then of the children basking in the delight of their new classroom.

Education is something about which I’m really passionate. A recent UNICEF report noted that on average, each additional year of education a child receives increases their adult earnings by about 10%. It also said for each additional year of schooling completed on average by young adults, a nation’s poverty rate drops 9%. These are stats we simply can’t ignore. As my colleague Amy Fliegelman Olli recently blogged, when you’re in the position to help, you must.

So my team is prepared to do their part. And if that weren’t remarkable enough, several friends are walking alongside us. Three cheers to our Avaya Law Team, led by the incomparable Amy Fliegelman Olli, Avaya HR, our customer Plantronics (who has the best headsets, by the way—talk about a superior #CX) and to our partners who are with us every step of the way (now literally!): Campaign Stars, Engagio (who published a wonderful blog about our event), Lightning Jar, Revana and Telefonix. We couldn’t do it without you!

Here’s to a successful Walk Around the World. Now let’s get moving. #10KaDay #ProudtobeAvaya


Avaya Refreshes Channel Partner Program with New Incentives

This past week, Avaya announced a series of changes to its channel partner program designed to incentivize activities around five quickly-growing market opportunities—midmarket, the contact center, next-generation networking, modernizing the customer base and the cloud.

“Avaya Channel Partners start from a position of strength, equipped with a portfolio of unified communications, customer experience and networking solutions that are unmatched in the industry,” said Global Channel Chief Steve Biondi. “We are making that position even stronger with new program elements that will bolster their capabilities and reach as we streamline how we work together. We want and need our channel partners to be successful and our customers to be happy – we can only do that as a united front that respects the individual concerns of each party.”

Avaya will consolidate a number of existing partner incentives, while introducing new incentives for partners who carry Avaya’s full product portfolio and deliver industry-leading customer service.

Avaya will introduce two rebate categories based on partner size and scope: Large, high-volume partners will be eligible for the Portfolio Growth rebate, and fast-growing partners who specialize in either networking or midmarket will be eligible for the Specialized Growth rebate. Neither rebate is capped, so the partner’s earning potential is only limited by their spend with Avaya.

Under the Portfolio Growth plan, large partners who meet specific revenue targets can earn a 3 percent rebate if they exceed a specific year-over-year growth target. Additionally, large partners who meet this threshold will receive favorable co-delivery pricing.

Under the Specialized Growth plan, smaller partners who specialize in networking or the midmarket and meet specific revenue targets can earn a 3 percent rebate if they exceed a year-over-year growth target.

The company ended its Grow Right program in late 2015, and will shift funding to these performance-based rebates in 2016. Additionally, Avaya will consolidate four separate theater programs for demo purchases into a single, standardized demo purchase program using the Avaya One Source quote process for instant discounts.

“We are in a time of intense transformation for channel companies and their customers,” said Paul Edwards, Director of Infrastructure Channels and Ecosystems at IDC. “To stay one step ahead of market demands, vendors need to continually assess and evolve their channel programs in ways that support, encourage and empower their entrepreneurial spirit.”

In other partner news, Worldwide Partner Organization Vice President Joe Lohmeier has been recognized as a 2016 CRN Channel Chief. Lohmeier helps manage the company’s relationship with its more than 9,000 partners worldwide. The executives on this annual list represent top leaders in the IT channel who excel at driving growth and revenue in their organizations through channel partners.