NASHVILLE, TENN. – Networking solutions vendor Avaya used its first Americas sales and partner conference on Wednesday to signal its serious about becoming a serious channel player with the launch of Avaya Connect, a new all-encompassing partner program that has been 10 months in the making.
Previously, Avaya had a number of different programs for its partners, varying by geography and product. With Connect, there will be one global program with one global pricing model, designed to make it easier for partners to get trained on and do business with Avaya, to sell solutions rather than products, and to allow Avaya to drive more of its business through its channel partners.
Aspects of Connect include tiered global discounts, new incentive programs, a single global price list, a training model focused on solutions that cuts the number of courses and the time commitment in half. The Authorized, Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers will remain, and the world has been broken down into three geographic types to recognize varying market and development conditions.
The new partner program will go-live on Feb. 1, 2010.
“Avaya Connect is the next step in Avaya’s evolution to become a high-touch, channel-centric company,” said Barat Dickman, director of worldwide channel programs with Avaya. “The goal is to drive profitability for our partners.”
Dickman added it’s also part of Avaya’s move towards a value-based model that rewards competencies, a shift he sees continuing over the next few years. More marketing and development dollars are being shifted towards training to help partners with that new direction.
And on the training front, the number of certification levels has been lowered from 70 learning and certification to six solutions-focused tracks, and the over 100 courses and exams Avaya offers has been cut to less than 50 in the new program.
“This will cut partner time spent on training by half, and keep them in the field and productive,” said Dickman.
Jeremy Butt, vice-president of worldwide channels with Avaya, said the new program has been in development for over 10 months, and is the product of extensive consultations with Avaya’s partner community.
“We had a very fragmented, difficult to manage model,” said Butts. “We had to bring it together. Simplicity helps drive productivity and growth. We knew we needed a global program, and a pricing structure to make it easier to do business with us and drive growth.”The new global pricing model will be price-neutral, said Butts, and with the new program, at the end of the day, Avaya is enriching its channel investment as well as streamlining the model.
“We’re re-wiring the company. This will be a truly world-beating model that makes it a lot easier for partners to do business with us,” said Butts. “We’re taking cost out of their business.”
Having taken part in Avaya’s North American advisory committee and thus having had an opportunity to help shape the new program, the new program gets a warm response from Dave Sherry, president of Newmarket, Ont.-based IP communications solutions provider and Avaya partner Unity Telecom.
“For newer partners coming on they’ve raised the bar as far as medal status, and they’ve modified the program to be more dealer-friendly,” said Sherry. “I like the changes in the approach to marketing. It’s much more integrated into the partner community, rather that being separated from the manufacturing side in the past. Now it seems to be much more tied together and working in the same general direction.” Sherry does raise concerns though around training and certifications.
While the new program has reduced the training requirements, he said it’s still a significant commitment of resources and time for his company.
“They want you to make the commitment to Avaya. They don’t want fly-by-night partners, they want dedicated partners,” said Sherry, adding he understands that desire. “But the amount of courses for Platinum is intense. I like to joke we’re really a training company.”
Janet Waxman, vice-president of infrastructure channels and alliances with research firm IDC, said if you’d asked her six months ago she’d have said Avaya had its work cut out for it gaining credibility as a serious and committed channel player.
However, with a lot of hard work and the new partner program, she said they’re now very much in the game.
“Now Avaya is a force to be reckoned with in the channel,” said Waxman.
While Avaya had a program base to build from, Waxman said a plus for Avaya was that they did have to do a major overhaul and rethink. They weren’t building on an existing program that was relatively well received; they had to do a from the ground-up rebuild. The result is a clean, comprehensive partner program that’s streamlined and knows what it wants to accomplish.
“I think they’ve come a long way. This was a lot of work,” said Waxman.