Upping the business communications game
Fadi Moubarak, vice president – Channels, Avaya International, talks about partner opportunities in the business communication segment in the region.
The opportunities within the region’s IT channel are rapidly expanding in today’s digital industrial era. When looking at business communications, what is the most significant evolution that the channel must undertake in this ever-changing landscape?
FADI MOUBARAK: The evolution has already started and is accelerating quickly. Overall, most systems integrators and resellers are now focusing more on the business outcomes that customers are looking for rather than just product lifecycles. That is a very good thing, too. The discussions today are really about helping businesses drive greater productivity and streamline collaboration through a consolidation of business communications applications—from team collaboration to contact centre activity.
Over the last 12 months in particular, the IT industry officially put to rest the outdated expression of getting your head out of the clouds. End users’ demands for the flexibility that cloud solutions offer is creating new growth opportunities for the channel. The necessary shift to a cloud or hybrid cloud-based model gives channel players new touch points with customers, ongoing revenue streams and allows for faster new customer acquisition.
In a digital-first environment, application-based selling seems to be taking up a larger focus within the channel. Is this your experience when it comes to business communications?
FM: Indeed, we have seen that application-driven selling has become much more prominent in 2018. We expect this trend to continue. Customers are now much more discerning when evaluating the functionality of a business communication solution, how it integrates within their other business processes, and the degree of agility the solutions will offer to their business.
Consequently, this is opening new potential to resellers and systems integrators. There are an infinite number of ways to go about digital transformation, but that requires that the reseller teams’ skills are evolved enough to handle customers with way less tolerance in terms of incompetence and time to market.
What emerging technologies do you feel present the greatest opportunity for the regional channel when it comes to business communications?
FM: I think it’s quite clear that more government entities and companies are seeking to adopt emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IoT) and blockchain to enhance their overall communications. If you look at the contact centre, for example, the conversation four years ago was all about multichannel, it was about voice in the enterprise, and so on. Yet today, the conversation is about designing customer experiences, and that means combining smarter devices and systems seamlessly.
Now customers want to know what channel players and vendors are doing about AI, what are they doing in blockchain. It is for this reason why we at Avaya have helped build an extensive technology ecosystem that allows the channel to react quickly in providing the solutions that their customers need. We have re-engineered the core of Avaya platforms with the goal of making it faster and simpler for organisations of all sizes to adopt—and then integrate—emerging communication technologies into their business.
New technologies are always exciting, but novel solutions can often add complexity to an already crowded solutions market. Is this a concern for vendors like Avaya?
FM: It is absolutely the responsibility of technology providers to help their channel partners understand the advantages of new and emerging technologies. Simplification is actually a core pillar of our Avaya Edge channel programme, as we recognise that we need to make it even easier for partners to do business with the company as we trial new applications and services.
In addition, the Avaya Cloud storefront is another example of extensive infrastructure improvements we have made to enhance the speed and ease of transacting cloud sales by our channel partners. Now sales agents can quote and place orders electronically in minutes.
We also believe in streamlining our product and solutions portfolio. For example, consolidating the number of user interfaces for unified communications platforms under Avaya Equinox, which today can be used to plan a single, powerful user experience.
An ongoing challenge for the IT channel is planning cash flow, especially for larger projects. Are you working with the regional channel to address these challenges, and if so, how?
FM: This is a very important priority for Avaya. In recent years, one of the main challenges plaguing the channel has been maintaining positive cash flow. Given the growing adoption of cloud, offering hybrid cloud services presents a compelling way for channel partners to stay competitive, add revenue streams and grow their bottom line.
We are also working through initiatives like our Powered by Avaya programme to enable channel partners to offer the full breadth of business communication capabilities without large financial commitments up front. Through the scheme, we are supporting partners to open their offerings to more customers than ever before, especially small and midsize customers, so that they have a great diversity of income streams.
On the marketing front, do resellers today understand the importance of this function, and does more need to be done to support them in rolling out marketing initiatives in the region?
FM: Marketing has shifted drastically in 2018. In the past, B2B marketing campaigns depended heavily on telemarketing, lead generation, events and advertising. That’s still important, but today I think there’s a gap in ramping up online and digital marketing. With the evolution of social media and content marketing, some channel players lack the appropriate tools to reach audiences effectively.
For a large multinational like Avaya, we believe it is our responsibility to be pioneers in this field and bring the full force of our marketing capabilities to our channel partners. For example, Avaya Partner Marketing Central (PMC) is a one-stop online marketing platform which provides free marketing campaign materials to our channel partners.
Why should channel stakeholders should be optimistic moving into the last quarter of 2018 despite some looming uncertainty about the region’s IT economy?
FM: There’s no doubt that the landscape is evolving. I think some players certainly look at that and are uneasy and that’s understandable. However, for those committed to growing their knowledge and evolving their relationship with solution providers as well as customers, new doors are opening all the time. With buy-in from government and business leaders across sectors, we are upbeat about the region’s IT market – and we are readying ourselves and our partners to capture this growth.