Mother Avaya Nurtures Her Technology Partners

The PBX giant's DevConnect program brings its marketing and testing heft to bear in growing robust additions to its product ecosystem.

By Adam Stone | Posted Oct 9, 2008
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You can develop business-communications applications, systems and services to your heart's content. But when the building ends and the marketing begins, many find they cannot go it alone.

They've conceptualized, constructed, and prototyped. They're almost ready for the big time, but they need a little help, a partner who can give them that push from lab bench into real-world sales.

Avaya wants to be that partner. With its continually evolving DevConnect program, this provider of intelligent communications solutions looks to verify interoperability between its own and others' applications, while simultaneously brokering relationships between developers and likely resellers.

"Our business partners love it because it gives them more things to sell, along with the [certainty of] integration, and the ISVs [independent software vendors] love it because many of them are small, and they are not as savvy when it comes to sales and marketing," said Eric Rossman, vice president of developer relations and technical alliances for Avaya.

It works like this…

Anyone can register for free to participate in DevConnect. About 8,000 have signed on so far—mostly ISVs but also corporate developers looking to write apps for their own internal needs.

Among these, about 450 have been promoted to Gold or Platinum status, each paying between $7,000 and $10,000 for the privilege. Gold and Platinum members get access to Tier 2 and 3 technical support; training; discounted lab equipment; and especially the testing that ensures an application meshes smoothly with Avaya's PBX solutions.

Avaya decides who can be a Gold or Platinum member. To make the grade, a developer must bring to the table not just a product that adds value for Avaya's business partners, but also one that delivers something 'unique,' Rossman said.

A good example comes from Sipera Systems, which this fall was hoisted to Platinum status. In this case it was Sipera's comprehensive security offering that won the nod—especially its ability to interoperate with various aspects of Avaya's unified communications solutions.

Once in, developers can have their products put through the paces to ensure interoperability with Avaya systems. Rossman points out that this testing is done by Avaya itself, in its Lincroft, N.J. labs, rather by an outsourced testing service. It's a big deal, he says, because it ensures an ongoing testing relationship.

That is to say, Avaya hangs onto DevConnect data, recording all configurations at the time of testing. "That means that a year from now that end customer can upgrade something or change something in their network, and if something isn't working, they can call us for help and we can usually replicate that situation—and usually fix the problem," Rossman said.

It's true that much of the testing could be done remotely from the developer's own site, "but they almost always want to come out to us, because they want to be standing next to our engineers to see how we configure our side, and we want to see what they are doing," Rossman said. In this way Avaya and an ISV can forge a testing plan together.

The end game for all parties involved is to make a match between ISV and reseller. With 70 percent of ISVs running shops of fewer than 100 people, Rossman said, it takes a concerted effort to bring the right people together.

In this respect DevConnect's certification efforts are only half the battle. Once an ISV's solution is pronounced interoperable, the show goes on the road, with Avaya hosting frequent meetings between 20 to 50 of its star ISVs and diverse members of its business-partner community.

Developers welcome the chance to strut their stuff, "and the business partners love it because it gives them more things to sell," Rossman said. What does Avaya get out of the deal? By bringing in a steady stream of exciting new apps, the company is able to deepen its business-partner relationships over time. New features strengthen customer loyalty, Rossman said, by making Avaya solutions ever more integral within the end-user environment.

DevConnect has evolved over time, most recently through the steadily escalating participation of corporate developers.

Now Avaya is looking to make new use of the program, as the company embarks on an internal effort to shift the bulk of its sales efforts away from direct sales and into distributor channels.

In light of this strategy, the DevConnect program likely will take on increasing value, not just as a way to get ISVs onto the reseller radar, but to ensure that Avaya itself is visible in the third-party universe.

"This really ignites our ability to get out in front of our channel partners," Rossman said.

In the even bigger picture, programs like DevConnect could give UC the push it needs to go truly mainstream, much like we needed Word and Excel to take the PC from an interesting gadget to a globally relevant tool.

"The value of IP telephony is not going to be realized until we start to get some applications," Rossman said. "That is our mission: To seek out those unique applications that are out there."

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