BASKING RIDGE, N.J. –The development of its reseller channel may help overcome market recognition challenges Avaya executives see as the company sets its sights on the small and medium business market.

Avaya is entering the SMB space

with the IP Office, a group of converged communication solutions offering intelligent voice and data call routing, voice-over-IP (VoIP), frame relay as well as other IP telephony tools previously only offered by the company to large enterprises. Currently, the company offers three models of IP Office, ranging from a base model able to accommodate up to 100 extensions and one T1/PRI, to an upper end model able to handle up to 180 extensions and 4T1/PRI lines.

Though it intends to price IP Office competitively, Avaya is confident that the efficiency increase and cost savings IP telephony will bring to its clients will be the stronger selling point, Avaya services group vice-president Michael Dennis at an analyst briefing this week.

Expanding the channel partner basis is going to be a key strategy for getting a better grasp on the Canadian SMB space, says president of Avaya Canada John Cameron. But the company also wants to get existing partners more involved with its full product portfolio, he says.

“”The other thing is adding new partners specific to certain vertical markets,”” Cameron adds. “”We’re finding more and more the type of partners we’re adding on (are) highly focused, whether it be health care or finance, or whether it be another specific vertical market.””

Already a strong presence in the Canadian public sector, the company plans to further develop its health-care practice, while capitalizing on the gains it has made in the financial sector, Cameron says.

The overall SMB focus is also going to be carried over to the Canadian market with Avaya planning to market its products and services to the smaller businesses it sees as holding the biggest opportunity, Cameron says.

“”Studies that we’ve done suggest that this is a market segment that is growing at a rate of 10 to 14 per cent a year,”” he says. “”About 75 per cent of the market in Canada is small and medium business. It’s just the nature of the sizes of companies in Canada; they tend to be a little smaller. We believe there’s tremendous opportunity with that.””

The two-year-old company has done relatively well in a tough industry because of its unwavering customer focus, says Avaya converged systems and applications group vice-president Michael Thurk. The company has succeeded because it understands that what customers want is not a new toy, but a solution that will translate into productivity or efficiency increases, a growth in revenue, a need he hears about from CIOs all the time, he says.

“”Ten years ago it was a technology conversation. The conversation we had yesterday had almost nothing to do with technology and everything with business processes,”” he says.

Avaya is still struggling with making a name for itself and its newly expanded services division, which up until very recently was a support organization only, Dennis says. To be seen as more of a total solution provider, it is going to require some additional commitment from new and existing channel partners, as well as increased investment in marketing. The company is also betting that its partnerships with larger companies will strengthen its position, he says.

“”We’re working with Bell and Telus. Consider the presence that they have on the marketplace,”” Cameron says. “”So as we continue to get more presence with those organizations, we’re going to get more awareness in the Canadian market.””

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