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Avaya Appoints New U.S., Worldwide Channel Leadership

CEO

Edward Gately**Editor’s Note: Click here to see which channel people were on the move in January.**

AVAYA ENGAGE — While dealing with its chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and ensuing controversy, Avaya has appointed two new channel chiefs for the United States and globally.

Gary Levy is the new vice president of U.S. channel, and Walter Denk takes the role of worldwide channel leader. The announcement was made on the final day of Avaya’s Engage conference for partners, customers and others in Las Vegas.

Avaya's Gary LevySteve Biondi, previously vice president of Avaya’s Global Partner Organization, remains with the company and is working with partners on a regional basis. The global channel role is expanding under Denk.

Denk will be responsible for creating and executing Avaya’s partner strategy, architecture and policy management of the Avaya Edge partner program. Also, he will lead revenue growth through the channel, which includes more than 7,000 partners globally.

Levy has been working with Avaya’s partners for 20 years, and has established a number of programs. Most recently, he was Avaya’s east region channel leader from Florida to Maine.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Levy and Denk talk about stepping into their new channel leadership roles during a challenging time.{ad}

Channel Partners: How is your job going to be different with a larger scope?

Gary Levy: It’s been three weeks and it’s been exciting. We’ve been having some great conversations this week and the partners are excited not only for our new offerings, but to monetize those offerings to their customers.

We have a great team under me and in the regions, and it’s a very tenured team, which is very important. So whether it’s a national partner, an SISP or regional partners and even big-market partners, there [are] relationships that are pretty strong, that will help get to that next level with us.

Walter Denk: I’ve been with Avaya for five years now. I’ve been responsible for the German entity, a field sales and services organization which is doing a significant amount of its revenue with the channel. So I’m very much familiar with everything that comes along with channel and Avaya.

For four weeks I’ve been in the new role and responsible for channel globally. The role is now quite significantly differently defined compared to the previous one. Avaya decided to …

{vpipagebreak}

… put together all global channel resources in one organization under one leadership. This is new.

Avaya's Walter DenkI do perceive myself as the advocate of the channel within Avaya and also Avaya’s No. 1 channel account manager worldwide. So this is where we are as of today. This event is a fantastic opportunity for us to get this new channel setup introduced to the worldwide channel community, and to me this is more like just a reorganization. This is a statement, this is a message to the world outside and to all employees within Avaya that the channel is very, very important to Avaya. The channel is part of Avaya’s heritage, it’s DNA, it is important, it has always been and it will always be.

CP: What’s it been like working with partners before and after the chapter 11 bankruptcy filing?

GL: I’d almost say it’s the same because our partners have such loyalty and confidence in us and what we do, that they were just waiting for the other piece to play out. So that once it played out, there was no stopping. And I think that those partners really were able to help us broker a lot of conversations with customers who felt the same way. Customers wanted to understand where we were going and know that our technology is strong, that we were going to come out of this fine and stronger than prior.

These partners have been with us for 20-25 years, so they’ve been through a transition of AT&T to Lucent, and Lucent to Avaya, and in the industry they’ve seen much of this. So I think there was more of just getting to the next step.{ad}

And we had a strong first quarter, which is kind of where all of that was going, which was, again, credit to their efforts and our sales team’s efforts.   

WD: Prior to the filing, I was still in the old role, and I had many, many conversations with partners in Europe because there has been this uncertainty for the last two years basically because everybody was aware that Avaya needs to solve this refinancing issue. And then especially with the potential sale of some parts of the business in the second half of the last calendar year, the uncertainty actually climaxed. Then it was obvious that nothing will be sold and that the potential chapter 11 filing might occur. And then I got asked many questions of what does it mean. First of all, “What is chapter 11?” Because in Europe, they’re not familiar with the concept, so we explained it, and then what will change operationally once the company files.

I’d always explained that actually nothing will change operationally because it’s purely financial restructuring. So then we filed, and now we have been in this process and nothing has changed. And this is very, very important to the partners. They see, we deliver our hardware, our software, our services, the distributors restock their inventory, inventories levels are not going down, so it’s an ongoing business.

Partners keep asking how long will the process prevail, and …

{vpipagebreak}

… nobody knows the answer. It’s a legal process, but everybody is working as hard as possible to get this process as short as possible, and so far things are going smoothly.    

CP: How is Avaya’s channel strategy changing this year? How do you want to impact the strategy?

GL: With the entrance to Avaya Edge, which is our new channel program this year, Edge really made it better for us to work with different types of partners in the way they wanted to be worked with. So when you look at a midmarket partner who is structured in a 5,000-employee-and-below market, they wanted to be able to have marketing programs and incentives that were geared toward their customers. So we got more specific about how we handle different partners, so the Edge program is highly rewarding; it’s simple. We include all types of Avaya revenues in the Edge program.

For myself, we had a partner advisory council meeting (Tuesday) with our Americas international partners and U.S. partners, and I think the theme was confidence, that they would know that someone like [me] and my peers who have been living this success of Avaya, and the growth and transformation to a software and services company would be able to have their best interest in mind as we move forward. My vision is probably more about activity and communicating better with the partners, and driving the activity of our teams so that we can be successful together.

It’s important to allocate the resources to the highest growth and those partners that align to us as a software and services company.

CP: What role will cloud communications play in Avaya’s channel strategy moving forward?

GL: Tremendous. In fact … we met with four partners throughout the day … and the adoption rate has been tremendous. We met with Windstream (Tuesday), who is our cloud partner of the year, and they have a tremendous opportunity and tremendous base that they’re waiting on getting to that upgrade point, and we talked about those pieces as well.{ad}

From a midmarket perspective, our partners have already begun. We have many partners on the Powered By Avaya offer, which brings our IP Office out into the market in the cloud form, and then, of course, the Zang announcements have been very exciting because, to the partner, the overhead is minimal. It’s Avaya’s work, it’s a great offer and it just creates a demand for us. And that’s been important.

CP: Competitors are actively trying to recruit Avaya customers and partners. What’s your response to that?

GL: What’s great is that the partners are like family where, the moment they get that email or that phone call, they just call us and say hey, and a lot of times … the good partners who are very technically savvy or financially savvy will find the time to listen and then provide feedback to us. And they’ll come back and say there’s no interest because it’s not a short-term play. Some of these companies that are coming in now are thinking that it’s going to be a short-term play. Many of these companies don’t have positive earnings, they’re not making money, they’ve got a short-term, limited strategy of how far they can scale.


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