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Brave new world

Michael Bayer, EMEA President, AvayaNWME: Most enterprises still don’t seem to understand the real benefits of the Unified Communications technology.

Bayer: That’s because unified communications (UC) isn’t really a technology in the traditional sense of the word. Put succinctly, UC it is the crossroads at which business objectives and technology capabilities meet to create a unified environment were a company’s most costly expenditure – its staff – can work in more ways, in more places, improving business productivity and efficiency.

Generally, unified communications is a business objective dictated from the board down to drive business productivity and efficiency. But, from a technical point of view unified communications technology is a way to achieve that business productivity and efficiency. This is done by delivering an intelligent communications infrastructure that integrates voice, data, and video applications so that new, easy-to-use collaboration capabilities will be accessible at the desktop, in conference rooms, at off-site locations, on mobile devices, and all via an interface that is consistent and familiar. It is generating so much interest because, implemented correctly, UC technology can have an almost immediate and sustained impact on a company’s bottom line.

NWME: Adding voice, videoconferencing and other real-time network traffic adds a level of complexity and support requirements. Do you think this will force CIOs to reassess IT operations and organizational structure?

Bayer: Unified Communications is much greater than the sum of its parts. Many organizations are already utilizing aspects of this technology; the key is to do it more efficiently or in a ‘unified’ way. By moving to a single holistic communications environment IT managers will automatically get a better sense of what communications tools are already running on their networks and can better monitor and manage IT across the organization. What’s more, having one entity, in this case the telephony environment, manage all forms of communications enables IT managers to set a common set of policies giving them greater control over bandwidth allocation, security and general traffic flow.

NWME: Avaya is offering a wide array of UC products. What kind of assistance is being provided by Avaya and its partners to integrate all these pieces together?

Bayer: The Avaya Unified Communications Solutions are packages built around the unified communications needs of specific types of workers including teleworkers, home agents, mobile workers and different types of businesses such as retail stores, banking, enterprise and small business. Even within these defined environments not all staff will work in the same way or require the same tools. As such, it is our job, or the job of one of our Avaya business partners, to help companies make the right technology choices.

Because this first phase is so critical we have trained UC specialists in our Avaya Global Services team and our certified business and service delivery partners that work with our customers from day one. Early conversations are as much about the way different teams within the organization work as they are about technology; which teams are the most tech savvy, which might be resistant to change, etc. From there we move on to look at the technology. The Avaya Global Services team and business partners have a strong applications background. They understand how our technology works and, perhaps even more importantly, how a customer’s legacy technology, be it Microsoft, IBM, SAP or Siebel, works too.

Only once we’ve got a holistic overview of a company’s human resource expectations and technology landscape do we begin the design, install, pilot and roll out of the relevant UC solutions

Our Business Partners also have access to this team and we also recommend working with our systems integrators partners who have an excellent knowledge of a customer’s business and the applications environment.

NWME: How do you plan to take this technology to the masses, especially small businesses?

Bayer: Avaya has the most affordable unified communications solution on the market including video and because we integrate with third party software and services such as Microsoft Office Communicator, businesses can be on the road to a UC environment for a relatively nominal initial outlay. This makes UC affordable for the masses, as cost efficient for a small or medium size business as it is for a much larger enterprise.

NWME: Telephony installation and support services have always been a large part of Avaya's business. How is this affected by the major shifts going on in Avaya — such as becoming a software-centric company?

Bayer: Gartner recently named Avaya as the world leader in contact centre by revenue and shipments across all measured categories and regions. Specifically in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) contact centre market, in revenue, Avaya leads with 32 percent of the market, which is 14 points ahead of its nearest competitor. This shows we are still very much in the telephony installation business; it’s just that the nature of that business has evolved and we have evolved with it.

In addition to telephony and support services, today we offer our customers’ things like the SIG (Secure Intelligent Gateway) which is an innovative, secure remote access technology pioneered by Avaya to allow us to remotely support a customer in a software centric environment. We also offer proactive IP monitoring and are very much moving into the field of software and services provision, in line with our customers’ needs.

NWME: As no vendor offers all elements of a complete UC solution, can you tell us about Avaya’s industry partnerships?

Bayer: Our commitment to open standards is one of the driving forces behind all our new technology innovations. We sit on the SIP development committee to help develop this industry standard protocol and are committed to ensuring a customer is never locked in to a single vendor. That’s one reason we’re so proud of our industry partnerships.

The Avaya DevConnect (Developer Connection) program works with software and hardware vendors to integrate their solutions to Avaya’s. Our mobility solution supports 500+ mobile devices, which is more than any other UC vendor, and enables us to integrate with Nokia, Blackberry, iPhone and Palm. Of course, we work with our peers such as Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, Jabber, SAP, Siebel, salesforce.com etc as well as smaller “boutique” vendors to integrate their solutions. On the hardware side we partner with companies like Polycom and have a better telephony integration to video with them than any other telephony vendor on the market.

NWME: What key opportunities do you see in the Middle East market?

Bayer: Key opportunities in the Middle East reside in the expansion and growth taking place in three important sectors: Finance & Banking, Hospitality and government sectors. We see the most growth coming from the regions contact centre industry, with businesses increasingly focusing on enhancing their customer service experience. Extensya Jordan is our latest addition to our roster of contact center customers, while Emirates bank and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi continue to be our flagship customer with the biggest contact center and branch solutions in the UAE financial sector along with Etisalat. We also see a lot of growth opportunity in the area of Unified Communications, a technology that is being widely accepted by businesses in the region. In fact, we see customers in the Middle East who use technology to gain a competitive advantage in their markets and take giant leaps in deploying the latest technologies available.

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