VoiceCon: End Users Are Key To Enterprise Communications, Avaya Says - InformationWeek

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11/11/2008
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VoiceCon: End Users Are Key To Enterprise Communications, Avaya Says

During his VoiceCon keynote, Avaya CEO Charles Giancarlo said focusing on end users will enable strong communications companies to survive the economic downturn.

The future of enterprise communication lies in focusing on empowering and satisfying the business' end users, according to Avaya CEO Charles Giancarlo.

During a keynote speech at VoiceCon in San Francisco, Giancarlo stressed that communications companies still need to deliver the network reliability and business-centric capabilities that have been their foundation. But future success lies in making sure individual employees have access to the tools and applications that can make them more productive and happy.

For many companies, this means giving up a certain level of control and say, letting workers have access to traditionally nonbusiness features like Facebook and instant messaging. This doesn't mean all compliance and security policies should be thrown out the window, but executives and IT teams need to come to grips with the fact that they've already lost some control.

"We have to move away from 'annihilate and kill' and more toward 'embrace and extend,' " said Giancarlo. "We need to take an understanding of what end users feel they need and put that in the environment with the proper safeguards in place."

Of course, it's very difficult to classify what an end user needs, and Giancarlo said most who try wind up describing themselves. But the communication expectations and wants can vary greatly within organizations, particularly when you factor in various roles, different generations, and geography. But Avaya's CEO said the key is building adaptable systems that are multimodal and scalable, use standards, and can be easily integrated into business processes.

For Avaya, this shift toward the end users is a major part of the three-year overhaul the company began last year by going private. One tangible example of this is that engineers no longer have a say in how products appear in the outside world, as that task is handled early in the product development cycle by user-focused teams.

Giancarlo is very clear that the next few years are going to be very difficult, and companies are going to have to adapt to new economic realities. He expects to see major industry consolidation and for companies' budgets to shrink. But Giancarlo has been through the "nuclear winter" of the 2001 technology downturn and survived, and he is confident that there will be a flight to quality in the enterprise communication market. Giancarlo said the next few years will provide plenty of opportunities for those who can truly offer productivity gains.

"It's during these very difficult economic times that market shares really shift," said Giancarlo. "During the good times, the rising tide lifts all your competitors, even the bad ones. But during the tough times, that's when the weak companies stumble and lose market share. Now is the time for action, and now is the right time to think of how you'll get a competitive advantage."

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