Avaya crosses the line

This is not going to be an in-depth post. I just wanted to put on record that I was very impressed with a lot of what I heard during the Avaya industry analyst conference a couple of weeks ago.

It was a pretty big gathering, with analysts from across the world rubbing shoulders with each other. I love events like this, as while we here at Freeform are continuously researching the European and North American markets, it is great to talk with people who have in-depth knowledge of thrusting economies like India and China.

With so many analysts on one place, it also reinforced the myriad of different styles, approaches and areas of coverage that exist within the research community. I guess it will be no surprise that with Avaya’s heritage, the majority of the delegates were specialists in the communications industry, and I lost count of the number of conversations I had on the nitty gritty of the telephony market that left me way behind.

So why was I impressed?

Well, I am a bit of a hybrid when it comes to coverage in that I think of myself as a business and IT analyst primarily, but with a reasonable working knowledge of how the communications part of the equation touches this world. This is very relevant to the Avaya discussion as one of the big topics of the conference was Unified Communications (UC). I don’t want to dwell on this specifically as Robin Bloor, who was also at the event, has already written a pretty good treatment of the topic, but the main point is that UC represents the clearest business and application level cross-over between the traditional IT and telephony spaces outside of the call centre environment that we have seen to date, and Avaya seems to ‘get’ what’s important to be successful once you cross over the old dividing line. The understanding is multi-dimensional too, i.e. Avaya is thinking as much about partnerships, IT related architectures and standards, and business process enhancement in the broader application sense, as well as simply neat functionality.

If you are an Avaya customer, I would encourage you to catch up with the firm’s latest developments in unified comms and ’Communications Enabled Business Processes’ (CEBP), as ways of bridging the gap between domains that are still considered separate by many.

I am going to resist saying much more at this stage as Jon Collins and I will be spending some time in a week or so with the most visible player in the unified comms space, Cisco, and one of the objectives we have is to bring ourselves completely up to date with its ideas and developments with regard to IT/comms convergence. I’ll also have to track down the guys at my old firm Nortel, as there have been some interesting developments coming out of that camp in recent times too, and it is a while since I have caught up with them properly.

Looking at the bigger picture, the coming together of communications and IT at the application and process as well as the network level is a significant development which represents opportunities for both suppliers and customers. But it is obviously not just the traditional comms players that are moving into this area – IT incumbents such as Microsoft and IBM are also very active (see here and here) – they are just coming at it from a different direction. You’ll therefore be seeing us spending a lot of time on this topic in 2008.

Meanwhile, it is nice to see Avaya, backed by its new found private equity arrangement, starting to cross the line into the world of IT so convincingly.

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