Avaya: Strong Now, Stronger in the Future
This article also appeared in the Khaleej Times on October 9, 2017.
As a long-time leader in unified communication and contact center applications, Avaya is completing the final stages of its chapter 11 restructuring with a new CEO, a sharpened vision, and a renewed plan for growth. Making his public debut at GITEX Technology Week in Dubai, we speak to the man in the hot seat, Jim Chirico, about his plans for Avaya —in the region and beyond.
First, I’d like to welcome you to Dubai and to GITEX. This is your first public event since becoming CEO. Why GITEX, and what does the event mean to Avaya?
We have developed fantastic relationships here, and I’m looking forward to meeting our people, our partners, and our customers while sharing Avaya’s exciting new plans with them.
Dubai is a very inspirational city to begin with, one that has witnessed phenomenal growth in the last decade. In many ways, GITEX has developed alongside the city, both in size and in global importance. This reflects the fact that Dubai has become a crossroads for the global technology industry, both geographically and as a city that values and encourages innovation. Here at GITEX, established global firms such as Avaya can meet the emerging tech pioneers from the region and other fast-growing parts of the world. There is simply no other show like it.
In such a competitive technology landscape, where does Avaya see itself providing value to businesses and governments in the region?
Customers come to us because they trust our expertise and heritage as specialists in discovering new ways to improve the customer and citizen experience. We have a unique approach in which we work collaboratively with partners and customers to understand their real business requirements and identify their pain points—something our competitors seldom do. We then take ownership and commit to delivering a solution for their organization, not just a new tech product.
Moreover, the solutions we design are in high demand in this region. For example, nations across the region are investing significantly in Smart Government solutions. Dubai and the UAE are especially advanced in this regards. But it’s not just governments that are looking for digital solutions that transform the services and experiences they deliver. We’re seeing strong demand in the private sector as well. In fact, this week we’re presenting real-world use cases of how we’ve helped companies all over the globe meet and exceed customer expectations in today’s fast-moving digital world. This includes exhibitions devoted to vertical industries such as banking, healthcare, hospitality, public safety, and more. It’s in these applications that Avaya really excels.
Transformation seems to be a constant in the technology field. How do you stay one step ahead of emerging tech trends when designing solutions for the marketplace?
This week you’ll hear us talking a lot about solutions that go beyond the digital experience. This reflects our belief that the conversation is no longer just about technology; it’s about what we do with technology. After all, technology is an enabler, not an end in itself—a tool to transform the way we live, work and experience the world around us. Our goal is to use technology to help organizations create superior customer and team engagement, experiences and relationships—all of which are crucial to the business success of our customers.
In terms of staying one step ahead, Avaya has a technical vision unmatched by anyone in our industry. In contrast to our competitors, who continue to offer complicated schemes and siloed structures, our systems are based on open approaches. This makes it easier for our customers to adopt emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, IoT and blockchain while protecting the innovations and investments they have already made. These open structures also enable our customers to do business with greater speed, agility and innovation.
With so much emphasis being placed on technology and automation these days, is the ‘human’ element being lost in the shuffle?
I think when we concentrate solely on the technology we lose sight of some of the most important pillars in driving successful businesses. Here I’m really talking about people’s commitment and passion. Customers, employees and partners are at the heart of everything we do. If we don’t get those relationships right, the technology is meaningless.
Let me give you an example. A study by the industry analyst firm Gartner found that 89% of organizations expect to compete primarily on customer experience. Think about that for a minute. They didn’t say they expect to compete on products, or services or the quality of their supply chain. They recognize what many organizations are discovering—that to survive they need to deliver truly differentiated experiences to their customers and their workers.
To really thrive though, companies need to inspire passion in the people who work for them and do business with them. Technology plays a role, but the reality is that passion stems from effective relationships based on trust and respect.
This is where Avaya has the edge. Even during our latest financial restructuring, our relationships remained strong. Our customers and our partners in this region stood by us, and I think that’s as much a testament to the strong relationships we’ve forged as it is to the innovative solutions we’ve delivered to our customers. I wouldn’t trade our large and loyal customer base for anything.
You’ve just taken on the role of CEO following a major transformation period for Avaya. What’s your plan for the company moving forward?
The whole purpose of our chapter 11 restructuring process in the U.S. was to reduce our burdensome debt and enable Avaya to emerge as a stronger, more competitive company. Our business operations have remained strong throughout this process, and we continued to win customers and recruit new partners.
This reflected the fact that we never lost sight of our customers. We put them at the heart of our transformation. We listen to and understand our customers in order to create better customer and citizen experiences—and better business outcomes. We have also re-engineered our business model so we can invest, make acquisitions and take advantage of new efficiencies to drive profitability and growth.
While Avaya has been working through the chapter 11 process in the U.S., I would add that our business in this region has progressed strongly. We see enormous opportunity and will continue to help companies create superior customer experiences and drive business success in today’s digital world.
The world’s top 10 airlines and top 10 banks are running Avaya, and we service more than 90% of Fortune 100 companies. Our value to the business community has never been more visible, and we look forward to providing even great value to our customers and partners in the years ahead.