Now that Avaya has rescued Nortel from going completely under as part of the completed acquisition of Nortel Enterprise Solution assets including technology, customer and employees, the question turns to “what of the future?”. The biggest group of companies concerned with the outcome are those Nortel customers that fear their products won’t be supported for much longer and should evaluate alternative paths for their technology future.
While much of the comments on the Avaya-Nortel roadmap has focussed on technology, what has impressed me is the reality behind the “protect, extend, growth” statements. What these boil down to is that Nortel customers shouldn’t be overly concerned since Avaya has no plans to announce any “end of life” dates for any products during 2010, which when added to its support policy means that no current products will stop being supported until at least 2017. Given the pace of change in the communications and contact center market, this should give most companies adequate time to plan their upgrade strategies.
On the technology front, the way forward for unified communications and contact center depends heavily on Avaya’s AURA product. This sits at the heart of both strategies and provides functionality such as integration with base telephony and data transmission equipment, communication devices such as telephone handsets, integration with business applications and as such business processes (e.g. customer interaction technology capabilities) and presence, the fundamental component of unified communications (UC) that allows the network and therefore other users to seamlessly know who is logged-on and available to collaborate with. This can simplify the method for customer interactions as I wrote about previously See “Unified Communications: Simpler and Eventually Cheaper Customer Interactions“. These integrations rely heavily on all component parts being SIP-enabled, hence lots of comments on the fact that the roadmap is heavily oriented to SIP. To my mind, this is not such a big issue as my research into the use of technology in contact centers shows companies are beginning to invest in SIP-enabled networks and devices and I expect that trend to continue. The roadmap sees some Nortel products, for example to support video, being integrated into AURA. Given this was only released a few months ago, I will be monitoring developments quite closely.
AURA also sits at the heart of the contact center roadmap, which is targeted to end up with the first release of a new product provisionally called the Next Generation Contact Center, in July this year; something customers and prospects should be aware of because after this date it is clear Avaya will be encouraging everyone to transition to NGCC. This will include a Nortel’s Agile Communication Environment (ACE) product, a new component called Work Assignment Engine, a new agent desktop and a new reporting and analytics product called Avaya Performance Suite. There is a lot of talk about what each of these will include but one thing is clear: there needs to be a lot of rationalisation, integration of existing Avaya and Nortel software products. Previous mega-acquisitions by the likes of Oracle, IBM and SAP teach us that rationalising/integrating software products is no easy task, so again I think it will be interesting to see if Avaya does a better job of delivering against promises than others before them have done.
So like any other acquisition, there will be lots of uncertainty for existing customers and prospects. There will also be winners and losers, with existing Nortel customers probably coming out best. As to the future, the biggest challenge I see for the new Avaya is transitioning from a largely hardware-driven company to more of a software-driven company. This still has them in direction competition with Alcatel-Geneys and Cisco which both are advancing their contact center technologies and unified communication solutions. The communications and contact center spaces are fast moving markets with new products appearing almost weekly, with the big trends being to cloud-based solutions and integration with social media. Both depend on software, so to my mind this is the biggest challenge if Avaya wants to maintain its position in both markets.
Let me know your thoughts or come and collaborate with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Richard Snow – VP & Research Director