This week, Avaya threw a party in New York City. The theme of the event was 'Think Big,' and, in part, it was a celebration of the courage, tenacity, and innovative spirit of small businesses everywhere.
At the event, the company showcased a couple of its Biggest Thinking, poster-child customersThe Agency Group, an international entertainment booking operation, and Carlo's Bakery (of TV cake building wizard Buddy Valastro fame)both of which have put Avaya communications technology to ingenious use in growing their businesses.
But technology companies need to sell technology, and the primary purpose of the Think Big event was to announce the release of the latest version of its communications suite for small and medium-size businesses: Avaya IP Office 7.0.
Enterprise VoIPplanet wasn't unable to attend the event, but we did have the opportunity of a pre-briefing with Joe Scotto, Avaya's global director of SME marketing, who, at the outset, stressed the size and importance to Avaya of this customer segment, which numbers some 30 million users worldwide. "On the IP Office platform alone, we just passed our 200,000th sale. There are over 7.5 million users on that platform," Scotto said.
This is due in part to the way the product is architected and marketed. "The solution that we have is a unique one in the industry," Scotto said"a single platform that combines the best of mobility, conferencing, UC, CC [contact center], and video, and serves the entire very small to mid-size audience. With that one server, you can equally serve the single-site five-user business as well as the 1,000-user business with 32 sites."
The expandability of the product allows for growth, conferring peace of mind on the customer, and its one-size-fits-all architecture simplifies life for channel partners who only have to learn, sell, and support one product, Scotto pointed out.
IP Office 6.1, released in November 2010, added a lot of features to the platform, including support for multi-party video, (see our coverage here), and made a good start at integrating the communications technologies that came with the Nortel acquisition earlier in the year.
Version 7.0 doesn't sport a lot of new features, as such, but rather focuses more on interoperability issues. Most significantly, it completes the integration with Nortel's Business Communications Manager (BCM) and Norstar IP communications systemscarrying out the roadmap that Avaya made public less than a month after the acquisition closed.
"What we've built into the 7.0 release is the ability for a customer with an existing Norstar or BCM system to take a lot of the devices they've already purchased and now leverage them when they upgrade to IP Office," Scotto explained.
That is, the many former Nortel customers out there with extant BCM and Norstar systems can now upgrade to IP Office, getting the functionality benefits of the newer technology, without having to replace their Nortel IP or digital phones.
"Since that is about 40 to 60 percent of the price of a new system, that will deliver an instant 40 to 60 percent savings to the end user," Scotto pointed out. "They can get better conferencing, mobility, and video that they can leverage from IP Office that the BCM and Norstar did not have."
From the channel partner perspective, with 7.0, Avaya has made it easier for partners to carry out these migrations, thanks to a new migration tool that manages the transfer of the information from the old Nortel systems to IP Office quickly and accurately.
Avaya has also expanded the selection of phones and other endpoints that work with IP Office. With 7.0, the high-end 9600 series, with color touch-screens and Gigabit Ethernet ports and the 'economy' high-end 9500 models, in which the color screen is replaced by an LCD panel, can be used with the IP Office systemas can the B179 conference phone (formerly Konftel, acquired by Avaya in January).
Also spotlighted in the 7.0 release is a set of vertical applications for the healthcare industry, created by Avaya's DevConnect partners.
"For example, one might add appointment reminders," Scotto said. "That would add a layer of software onto IP Office; the combination drives the reminders to the patients right before their appointments, which is a big efficiency and cost savings benefit for a physician or a dentist."
According to Scotto, over the next year or so, Avaya will be announcing a new 'hybrid' strategy for cloud technologies, and bringing the Flare Experience (HD video) to mobile devices on the IP Office platform.