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Avaya ‘roaring forward’ in the age of experience

From beating the J-curve, riding the upward trajectory of a U-curve to a simple formula to drive business growth through enhanced customer experience. We report on the transformation taking place at Avaya

Organising a successful major corporate turnaround in the world of IT is no Mickey Mouse affair, and to be able to count on the continued loyalty of key customer the Walt Disney Company, among other major clients, and get back on track from the dark days of bankruptcy, must be as pleasing to communications and customer experience (CX) technology provider Avaya as it is ironic.

Announcing the degree of the bounce-back at its recent Engage 2024 conference in Denver, company president and chief executive officer Alan Masarek said that while the firm could be proud of the recovery – the result of not only financial transformation, but also strategic and operational ones – there is still a lot of work to do to get back to where it wants to go.

Masarek told the conference the financial transformation has been completed with virtually all of the debt the company held eliminated, and that there would be only “modest” gross debt due for a number of years. Moreover, investors have injected some $650m in fresh capital into the company.

The CEO notes that the key to continued improvement in the company’s fortunes is to execute better on its core business plan among the existing asset base and reap the benefits of a CX market that he expects to have a total addressable market worth $50bn by the end of the decade.

In addition, Masarek insists the company has operationally the right size of customers – such as Disney, as well as Southwest Airlines and Comcast Business – to restore free cash flow.

He says the company’s trajectory since bankruptcy had been a U-curve, and that Avaya is now very much on the rising part after the dip. The result is that the company is not just roaring back, but actually roaring forward.

The next job is a strategic transformation, with the question of how to define a unique value proposition.

Innovation without disruption

For Avaya, this would be continuing with its programme of delivering innovation without disruption, says Masarek, modernising without creating underlying disruption and fundamental business risk that comes with a rip and replace policy. “How do I innovate without the fundamental business risk that comes along when I rip out everything that came before?” he says. “Our solutions [are] not only mature and battle-tested, and reliable, but they’ve been integrated into workflows in this very, very intensive way.

“What often happens when you rip out what is working today to go to the new stuff, is that the promised upgrade looks like a downgrade,” says Masarek. “And the larger and more complex the deployment is – often with regulated companies or companies in security conscious markets, or in certain geographies where data sovereignty and privacy and reliability are just so paramount – ripping out that promised upgrade which was going to happen in a few months has now gone on for years, and it hasn’t happened. The upgrades turned into a downgrade.

“Innovation without disruption, which is the core value prop, simply says you want to get to the good stuff,” he says. “You want to get to allow innovation around AI [artificial intelligence] and omni-channel [services]. Our solutions work whether you’re on-premise, private cloud or public cloud, or more often than not, a hybrid. You’re more likely to be a mixed state the larger and the more complex the deployment is. So, we’re saying to the customer that innovation without disruptions is a better way. And we’re saying it’s your journey, [so] choose your journey.”

Masarek also introduced what he calls the concept of the J-curve. This, he says, occurs in every enterprise software category when people go from one technology to another – for example, from on-premise to pure multi-tenancy in public cloud.

While he says that without doubt there is much “cool innovation” available, Masarek notes that what is not often understood is the pain, disruption and time factors. The cost and fundamental business risk that firms go through to get to where they need to. “And it’s no more complicated than the curvy part of the J,” he says. “You actually have lost business outcome. The promised upgrade is downgraded. In our view, why go through the J?”

As regards operational transformation, Masarek confirms the company will also continue to streamline and retool its product portfolio, taking the Avaya experience platform as an umbrella concept for CX with technology being built with common core components. There will be, he says, one platform for contact centre customer experience, the Avaya Experience Platform (AXP), combining on-premise, private cloud and public cloud services. In addition, there will also be one suite for communications and collaboration, based on Avaya’s offerings such as Aura, IP Office, Enterprise Cloud and Cloud Office, with dedicated integration to leading third-party collaboration providers.

AXP enhancements

At Engage 2024, Avaya highlighted two sides of this strategy: the acquisition of cloud-native orchestration services provider Edify and the launch of what it regards as “important” enhancements to the AXP.

Edify’s stated mission is to connect businesses with customers and employees, making business communications as easy as personal ones. Its flagship product, Edify CX, unites contact centre (CCaaS) and real-time communications platform (CPaaS/API) functionality in a no-code cloud-native offering that lets users move among channels in one conversation irrespective of what channel a user entered in from, such as voice, digital chat or social, or whether that’s coming from the cloud or on-premise infrastructure.

Edify claims its technology removes all the risk once associated with moving to the cloud by delivering global availability, real-time redundancy, no-waste pricing and a 100% SLA uptime guarantee. Masarek stresses that the deal means in addition to a “great” technology set, Avaya has brought in a “bunch of really talented engineers”, fuelling its progress and furthering its offer in enterprise CX.

The AXP development plan includes using AI and analytics to orchestrate customer journeys by using data from interactions across multiple supplier touchpoints and applications, and using these with the aim of streamlining customer experiences, driving efficiency and delivering improved outcomes. Avaya is also unifying existing on-premise capabilities with cloud-powered functionality into a single, modern agent desktop. This streamlined interface is intended to blend voice, digital and AI-enabled interactions, empowering agents to deliver superior customer experiences more efficiently.

In addition, Avaya introduced AXP Private Cloud - Extended Scale, a service designed to meet the needs of its largest AXP on-premise customers. This offering enhances performance and capacity, allowing for what Avaya claims will be a “dramatic” simplification and consolidation of infrastructure. It’s said to deliver a “substantial” reduction in infrastructure footprint while ensuring 100% call survivability across actively separated sites.

With a universal agent pool and a single system architecture, it streamlines orchestration to optimise operational efficiency, reducing costs and simplifying migration. It’s also built to enable customers to maintain their existing capabilities and integrations while controlling security and data residency.

Read more about customer experience

For Avaya executive vice-president and chief technology officer Soren Abildgaard, the enhancements reflect a “pivotal” leap forward in customer and employee AXP experience, with a focus on allowing organisations to create “personalised, proactive and fluid” experiences that not only build customer loyalty, but also drive business growth.

Expanding on this point to Computer Weekly, he says: “From a customer’s perspective, [the launch] is really about building an architecture … I think the unique opportunity we have is that we have a hybrid cloud platform … We can be more adaptable, [and] we can bring the innovation to the customer and adapt the architecture so it’s the customers trying to do [their job] in a better way. Faster, more agile, more cost-efficient, and bringing benefits to customers faster.”

Reflecting on the Edify acquisition and AXP enhancements, Avaya senior vice-president and chief product officer Omar Javaid adds: “At Avaya, we understand that the true power of AI lies in its ability to orchestrate complex customer journeys. That’s why we’re excited about the acquisition of Edify and the enhancements to the Avaya Experience Platform.

“Together, with our organic development efforts, this represents significant progress in our strategic plan to use AI to deliver seamless, intuitive experiences across every touchpoint. Our open and integrated approach means that we’re not just working within our own extensive suite of technologies, but also collaborating with leading AI innovators to ensure that our customers have access to the most advanced, cohesive solutions available.”

Avaya is indeed dealing with innovators and a whole host of other partners. From a technology perspective, these include collaboration technology integrations with firms such as Microsoft, RingCentral and Zoom, for whom CEO Eric Yuan offered – fittingly live streaming over the celebrated video communications suite – the company’s video collaboration more insight on the two companies’ recently announced partnership. Working under the innovation without disruption banner, the partnership aims to deliver “exceptional” experiences to customers and employees, and drive measurable business growth, with the Zoom Workplace offering integrated with Avaya’s Communication and Collaboration Suite.

“Being open, honest and direct [in communications] is extremely critical when it comes to customer interaction,” says Yuan. “I spend a lot of time talking with the customers to fully understand how to look at everything from a customer perspective. We’ve got to [support] a customer deployment whether in a private, public cloud of hybrid. We will protect a customer’s investment, and inside learning innovation without disruption; that’s very, you know, important. At the same time, we will leverage AI to empower every feature and every service we are offering to customers.”

Assessing the year ahead, Masarek concludes that companies and brands now have to deliver a differentiated customer experience to deliver the growth and business outcomes their management want, pointing out that there’s a simple formula for this: customer experience plus employee experience equals business growth. This will be the benchmark that Avaya will adhere to in 2024.

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