Working within an organization that has experienced a number of noteworthy mergers and acquisitions over the years, I am well aware of the challenges that are faced internally with bringing two companies together in a seamless fashion (or at least seamless to the customer). Having done this many times in the past, we understand how challenging it is to bring together two different companies products and this one will be particularly difficult knowing the breadth of the offerings and size of the companies.
The Avaya and Nortel merger has certainly given many in the business pause . The merger brings the company a larger customer pool, but the customer does not necessarily stand to gain much in the way of new capabilities. In fact, they may have to deal with a number of challenges and pain points. The two companies have spent many years executing on very distinct strategies and developing solutions that are not compatible. And when they were separate entities that was a logical approach. This new entity has a monumental task in front of them in trying to integrate platforms and people, and still keep their existing customers satisfied.
I’m sure most customers of either Nortel or Avaya, are trying to get a handle on what exactly this means to them and their business. Having had to address these same questions and concerns from our own customers over the years, I thought I would take this opportunity to help identify some of the things that you may want to look out for in the next 6, 12 or 18 months.
- UC Future Strategy/The Microsoft Relationship – Nortel had a relationship with Microsoft to deliver unified communications (UC) to the contact center and the enterprise that didn’t progress too far and has come to an end. And, Avaya has been developing its own stand-alone UC strategy with proprietary solutions. This will potentially require one customer or the other to abandon its UC strategy in mid-stream. Most analysts have stated that no single vendor can provide everything that an organization will require for a complete UC strategy, so this will compel customers to develop an understanding of how this will impact a future UC direction and who will provide the full capabilities needed to execute on that strategy.
- Product Compatibility – Avaya has announced that it will select the best of breed solutions to provide the greatest value to its customers. But where does this leave the customer who has already invested significantly in the platform that’s not going to be supported in the long-term? Customers will need to determine if there is a clear migration path for future investments or if this is going to require a forklift implementation. And most importantly will the new solution actually yield the capabilities and results they’re looking to achieve? The company has a history of stopping and starting the development of unified solutions, and from the roadmap discussion it looked as if that wouldn’t be available for several more years, so it could get worse before it gets better by having to integrate multiple points across numerous applications.
- Customer-Facing Contacts – Whether you work with Avaya through a partner or directly with the company, there is bound to be duplications with your customer-facing contacts, which will inevitably resulting in staffing adjustments. Whether these changes happen all at once or gradually over time, you should plan to weather some changes that may not all be to the good. Customers may have to deal with people that don’t know their business and don’t understand the solution and the problem is compounded with a channel strategy where all partners are not necessarily on board with the go forward plan. And, when customers contact the support group, they may be routed differently than they were in the past and they may not be treated the same way. Asking how all of these changes will impact a customer’s day-to-day operations is key.
The road ahead for Avaya and Nortel customers will be a challenging one. For those involved, it is important to go into this with eyes wide open. Current customers need to know what to be on the lookout for and to ask the right questions.
What are some of the other challenges that you think are important to consider when your vendor mergers with another company?