Avaya doubling down on communications outsourcing

Increasing complexity of communications infrastructure seen driving business

Since publicly launching a communications outsourcing division earlier this year, Avaya says it has seen strong customer adoption, which is why the company is looking to expand its service to smaller and mid-sized businesses.

A combination of increasing complexity of contact center and communications technology within the enterprise, combined with the ability to outsource the management of those functions to third parties have been driving factors in customer adoption, says Avaya's Ed Nalbandian, vice president of managed services.

In February Avaya launched a managed hosted communications service. By the end of this year Avaya hopes to roll out pre-packaged versions of the managed or cloud-based communications outsourcing product line, as well as an ability to manage communications systems from other third-party vendors, including such installations from Avaya's leading competitors, Cisco and Siemens.

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Managers of communications systems of midsize and large enterprises are getting slammed with an ever-increasing complexity of systems to support, multiple vendors being used in the organization and increasing demands by users, says Frost & Sullivan UC and Collaboration analyst Elka Popova. This is leading to organizations warming to the idea of outsourcing their UC and communication work to either managed hosted or, more recently, cloud-based services. "IT staffs are overwhelmed," she says. "They need relief but they're not ready to fully outsource management of the systems. There is too much investment in their own equipment, or it's just not the right time in the life cycle of the equipment."

Vendors, she says, are coming up with new offerings tailored to customer needs and Avaya is one of the biggest players, given its own market share, combined with the customers it gained from its 2009 acquisition of Nortel.

Since Avaya launched its communications outsourcing solutions (COS), those have been highly-customized and fully-supported outsourced communications deployments. Nalbandian says not all customers are looking for that level of customization, though. Avaya already has a COS Express edition for contact centers, but plans to roll out a similar "express" line to the UC, Unified Messaging and Video edition.

These offerings will provide customers choices of what features they want included in a standard offering, such as workforce optimization tools, call recording and call recording with quality monitoring that will be priced based on the number of seats they cover. Customers can choose to have the backend infrastructure hosted on their own site or as part of a "private cloud," which would be hosted by Avaya for an additional charge.

Avaya also hopes to roll out what it will call a Managed Assist offering, in which Avaya will take over ongoing management, upgrade, repair and troubleshooting of a company's entire communications infrastructure. Nalbandian says this is aimed at enterprises that may not be ready to invest in new hardware and technology, but are looking to outsource the management of the UC backend. Avaya will also have the ability to manage heterogeneous communications platforms, which Nalbandian says about 60% of organizations have. Avaya management would include monitoring tools, the ability to diagnose and resolve problems and perform scheduled upgrades and repairs.

Nalbandian says outsourcing the managed hosting to an organization like Avaya switches communications platforms from a capital expense to an operating expense, which can be a more attractive model for some organizations. "This cloud and managed services trend is a huge one for the industry," he says. "It gives customers an op-ex model where they can use their legacy communications infrastructure while having the appeal of a cloud-like solution."

Popova says the op-ex model can be an attractive one for certain verticals, including education and government organizations, or groups with high seasonal workflows. Customers should be prepared though if they take the plunge to a managed or cloud-based service. Once they've done so an organization like Avaya will become an integrated part of the company's communications platform

"Even though a group like Avaya would be stepping into a multi-vendor environment, inevitably they will look to migrate solutions to Avaya technologies," she says. "It's certainly not a lock-in situation, but the longer you work with organizations like this, many times the more effective route becomes to stay with them." While managed service providers can't prevent enterprises from migrating to other technology platforms, it can make it challenging to deploy a diverse vendor strategy across an organization, she says.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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