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Partners join Avaya on its SaaS journey

Comms player has seen its channel embrace the opportunities that have emerged from a shift towards the cloud

Avaya shared its first-quarter numbers recently and its CEO used an analyst call to name-drop some of the UK partners that had contributed to its growth.

In his call with analysts last week, Avaya CEO and president Jim Chirico highlighted that revenues from its Cloud, Alliance Partner and Subscription growth engines had more than doubled from the same period last year and now accounted for 34% of total revenue.

Those numbers, for the three months ended 31 December 2020, showed a 4% climb in revenues to $743m and gave the firm the confidence to issue a bullish outlook for the second quarter.

Key to its optimism was the progress that Avaya has made with some of its hosted products, with the firm’s OnceCloud offering and its call-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) offering picking up steam in the UK.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of collaboration tools and has got many firms thinking about the future, but even before those changes began, Avaya had been transforming its business and taking its channel with it.

“Channel has always been hugely important for Avaya – we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for our channel,” said Steve Joyner, UK&I managing director at Avaya.

“As we have been transformed into a SaaS [software-as-a-service] company, questions will get asked: where does your channel fit in? The models are different, the business models are changing, but we’ve been really fortunate. We’ve got a fabulous portfolio and ecosystem of channels, and they’re coming on the journey with us.”

Joyner has seen the firm’s large enterprise-facing partners start to develop cloud models, mid-market players compete more effectively because hosted services have made more possible, and it has also seen some success with the agent model.

There was some caution across the channel about the “master agent” model, an approach that has been more popular in the US and more common in the comms channel.

But Joyner said that after some natural caution, partners had started to appreciate where the model worked. “We’ve got a number of agents that are actually very good in specific verticals because of some of the services and the wrap and the professional services that they bring over and above the core service,” he said.

The shift to a SaaS model has come at a time when the customer base is changing its attitudes towards cloud, he said. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of hosted services and forced even the most conservative of customers to be open-minded.

Joyner said many of those that were risk-adverse have discovered that moving to a hosted model is nowhere near as scary as they thought it would be.

“We’ve seen a lot of our customers talk about how seamlessly the move to working from home and operating was,” he added. “In the UK, I’ve seen a shift. I think in the last two years, where we might have always been a little bit cautious and steady, we’re right at the forefront now.”

Looking ahead, Joyner is expecting the “new normal” to include more hybrid working and for the shift to cloud to continue for many customers.

“I’ve seen the whole spectrum, but one thing that we’re definitely seeing is, it’ll never go back to what it was,” he said. “It’s going to be a hybrid, probably.”

Joyner added that the technology in the office would also change to support more productivity and keep collaboration levels high.

He also echoed the CEO’s views about the prospects for the rest of this year, with the UK playing its part in delivering growth.

“We’re having more and more discussions, we’ve got more and more partners and we’ve got more and more innovative-type discussions going on,” he said. “We’re certainly busier now than perhaps 12 or 18 months ago, and the opportunity is wider. Cloud brings so much agility to be able to do things, specific for certain use cases and certain customers.”

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