Leading business communications company, Avaya, kicked off their annual Avaya Engage conference on an exciting note, with an audience of more than 3,000 customers and partners ready to explore a company that has truly transformed over the last year. At UC Today, we were honoured to be among representatives from some of the largest companies in the world, who gathered together to watch Avaya officially emerge from the ashes.
The Avaya Engage conference began with an exhilarating keynote speech from Jim Chirico, the CEO for the company, who took to the stage to discuss the evolution of the brand, with its new strategy, new management team, and new approach to leading the world of Unified Communications and Contact Centre Technology.
What a Difference a Year Makes
Transformation was the theme of the day at Avaya Engage 2018. As Chirico said as he welcomed the crowd “what a difference a year makes”. From a company shrouded in uncertainty throughout 2017, to a publicly-traded entity with more than 6,000 patents, and leadership positions in CC and UC, Avaya have a compelling story to tell about persistence and growth.
Jim said that for Avaya, there’s a clear sign of change in the air, and that’s something that the company wanted to share with their customers, partners, and attendees during Avaya Engage 2018. The first thing that Chirico did in his speech, was thank the customers and partners who helped the business to continue thriving through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“I truly appreciate your faith and give thanks for the support you’ve shown during Avaya’s journey. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this is our biggest event yet, and that’s thanks to you.”
During 2017’s fiscal year, Avaya still managed to sign more than 4,000 new customer contracts, which is an insight into their strength in the space.
“The Rumours of Our Death Were Greatly Exaggerated”
Heading into 2018, Avaya is starting the new year with the beginning of an incredible, and transformative journey. Already, the company is renewing their focus on their customers and partners, aligning the voice of their clients to the R&D investments in their new projects. As Chirico said, “Avaya is moving forward, and Avaya is moving fast.”
While other brands might have been battered and bruised by a year in Chapter 11, Avaya appears to be taking the experience in their stride. Chirico mentioned one of his favourite quotes about the growth of the company, saying “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Despite what other businesses might have said about the business, Jim believes that
“Avaya is not only alive, but we’re stronger than ever, too.”
On a somewhat poetic note, Chirico suggested that there was a reason for Avaya holding their Engage 2018 conference in New Orleans this year. He said that it’s not only a city of warmth and acceptance but also a place known for its resilience too. “Growing up as a twin, I learned a valuable lesson in resilience when I started boxing with my brother, who was much bigger than me and very good at boxing. I learned that it’s not about how you get knocked down, but how you get back up off the mat that matters.”
Avaya is getting back up with character and confidence. “I’m proud of the way that we’ve picked ourselves up, remained focused, and continued to deliver what our customers need and expect. We’ve revitalised our products, improved our financials, and we’re ready for the future.”
A Lesson in Leadership
Overall, Chirico’s speech was highly inspirational, packed with information about how he’s learned and grown during his time with the company. He told the room that he’d been with Avaya for a long time, and during that period, he’d seen the company change a significant amount. “I’ve learned a lot during my time with Avaya, and I’ve discovered what I admire most in leaders. While all great leaders are innovators, the ones that truly stand out are the people who understand how to keep the lights on and keep delivering what the customers want.”
While Jim has only been the CEO for Avaya for a few months now, he already has some significant plans in place for how to continue the brand’s new path for long-term growth. He announced six key areas where Avaya are placing their focus in the years to come:
- Transforming Avaya in ways that drive sustainable growth
- Developing a compelling plan to drive action while focusing on solid objectives
- Building a world-class organisation to attract the best talent in the industry
- Innovating to provide customers with a competitive edge
- Driving shareholder value
- Becoming a customer-led organisation
What’s Different for Avaya in 2018?
For Avaya, 2018 will be a year of development and growth. Jim noted that the industry is making the move to digital, and just as the world is during a transformation, Avaya is transforming with it. They’ve made the move from hardware to software already, but they know there’s work yet to be done.
“Culture eats strategy for lunch. If you want to change your company, then you need to change the culture.” Chirico said that in October 2017, Avaya deployed 5 cultural principles to drive their business forward into 2018. The first was a focus on simplification – something that can be seen in their decision to change their executive committee and leaderboard. “We had an executive meeting committee of 13, now we have 6. We eliminated complexity and fragmentation to drive faster decisions.”
The second change is greater accountability, “We do what we say we’re going to do.”. The third cultural factor is teamwork, and the fourth is empowerment – driving decisions closer to the partner and customer. Finally, the fifth principle Jim addressed was “trust”, something he believes that Avaya needs to continue earning every day.
“These principles are in the fabric of everything we do as a company. The equation is simple. Great people equal great teams, and great teams’ equal great companies.”
Embracing the Future
As he came to the end of his keynote speech, Jim offered a word of warning to companies in the communications industry today: “One thing that organisations need to be mindful of, is making sure that they don’t become a captive to their past experiences. Caution can paralyse an organisation, which is why our approach going forward will be “thoughtfulness” – thoughtful leaders will move us ahead, allowing us to take measured risks.”
Avaya’s path into the future looks bright, with plenty of potential for growth, and customer-focused experiences. As Jim Chirico said towards the close of his speech:
“The best part is, we’re just getting started.”