Moving to the Cloud with Mercer Rowe at Avaya ENGAGE 2018
We speak with Avaya’s new cloud VP and GM, Mercer Rowe
Global leader in UC and CC solutions, Avaya, recently held their Avaya ENGAGE 2018 event, where they shared their innovations, views, and announcements with a broad collection of business partners, customers, and interested attendees.
Since exiting Chapter 11, Avaya has started the new year on a positive note, with a strategic plan for cloud-focused development in the years ahead. Not only does the company already have new products in the pipeline, but they’re also announcing exciting strategic acquisitions, and agile development plans under the watchful eye of their Cloud Vice President and General Manager, Mercer Rowe.
Though Rowe has only been working with Avaya for around five weeks now, he’s already making huge strides on the behalf of the company, and he even appeared on the Avaya ENGAGE 2018 stage to share his vision for the months ahead. I was lucky enough to not only witness Mercer’s speech but have a one-to-one conversation with him about his experiences in Avaya.
How Did You Come to Work with Avaya?
During his keynote speech, Mercer noted that he was thrilled to be speaking to customers and partners after only a month of working in the heart of Avaya. Mercer comes from a strong voice and communications background, and he has plenty of experience in the cloud too. “I’ve been doing cloud solutions for about 17 years now, starting in 2001 with a hosted IVR system. I’ve gone through a lot of business transformations, dealing with apps, artificial intelligence, and infrastructure, and I have the scars to prove it.”
Mercer told me that he started his career in Nortel, building his knowledge of voice before he moved into IT. During his time in the industry, he made a lot of connections:
“Jim (Chirico, Avaya Global CEO) reached out to me and said that Avaya was going to do something big. They wanted to turn the business around and make it into a growth engine. I believe the brand is ripe for innovation. It has the right support, the right teams, and the right technology. Now, all it needs is a vision to present to its people.”
Mercer noted that when he first spoke to Avaya he wasn’t sure whether they were truly ready to transform into the cloud. Yet, after some due diligence, he began to discover that Avaya was poised to make a real impact on the future of communications. “Avaya has everything they need to go to the cloud. They have the technology, with 3 million seats already in the cloud infrastructure, they have the expertise in voice, and they have the exceptional partner and customer base.”
For Mercer, the decision to work with Avaya simply felt like a “can’t miss” opportunity.
What’s the Plan on Your Whiteboard Right Now?
Mercer is a man completely focused on the transition to the cloud, and how that can make a company more agile, and more competitive. In his keynote speech, he suggested that people aren’t exactly “running towards” the cloud. Instead, “they’re making decisions on an application by application basis. They’re looking for the tools that make sense to keep on-premises, the ones that should be moved to the cloud, and what can be hosted and run by partners. Avaya has the ability to offer all three options.”
Rowe highlighted the fact that Avaya is investing in the new year, using the money it opened with its restructuring process to develop new teams, new investments, and new products. We’re seeing a new Avaya, driven by speed, agility, and innovation, and the company is consistently simplifying their model with faster solutions for innovation.
“Cloud is no longer an afterthought or bolt-on feature. Everything in our platform from now on is going to be built from a cloud-first perspective. This means you’ll be seeing more focus on innovation, more solutions, and more options from Avaya. In 2018, you can expect more open, transparent partnerships from Avaya as we react more to our customers and partners, talk to them, and listen to their needs.”
Rowe also suggested that Avaya will be making the move to the Agile framework, rolling out new ideas in process schedules of 6 to 8 weeks.
“We’re going to be delivering new alphas, betas, and early-access technology. This means that customers can try our products, give us feedback, and become an integral part of the product development process. We’re giving people ownership of the products they get.”
Are you Pleased with the New Acquisition?
One of the biggest announcements for the company at Avaya ENGAGE 18, was the acquisition of Spoken Communications, a company known for creating innovative CCaaS solutions in the cloud. I asked Rowe whether he was excited by the new acquisition as head of the Cloud-based business.
“The fact that we had the financial resources and technology to make the Spoken Communications acquisition was incredible for me. From day one since I joined the company, the collaboration was already in motion. Avaya already had an OEM relationship with Avaya, but this was a significant next step.”
Mercer told me that when he began talking to Jim, Avaya had said that they wanted a Head of Sales expert for the cloud strategy. “I said, no you don’t, you want a “cloud-first” solution.” For Rowe, the new acquisition, combined with the focus on cloud-first technology just goes to prove that Avaya has what it takes to transform. “I know from experience that the cloud transition is a difficult one.”
What Makes Avaya Such a Great Cloud Opportunity?
Mercer told the attendees at his speech that they were seeing the birth of a “new Avaya, an agile and flexible company that’s going to help people transform from static solutions into agile strategies on the cloud.”
There’s a great deal of pressure for Avaya to perform in the current marketplace and deliver from an R&D, innovation, and financial perspective. It’s up to Mercer to earn the trust of existing customers and partners working with the brand, and he plans to do this by building the company’s position as a real, effective cloud platform.
“We’re going to continue being opportunistic, and purchasing new solutions where we can, but we’re also focusing on building our own technology. There’s a huge opportunity for us right now because we’re right in the middle with our voice heritage. Voice is hard, and it’s one of the reasons that our competitors have trouble moving up the stack. You need 5 nines reliability, innovation, and security. Voice has no tolerance for errors.”
As a voice leader, Avaya is perfectly positioned to become a platform, but the only way Rowe sees that happening is if he can create an ecosystem.
“We’ll invest in IoT, AI, and other things, but we’ll be starting to create products out of APIs and SDKs too. I think winning today is all about being an open platform.”