VENDOR WATCH

All About the Bottom Line: Q&A With Avaya Global Services President Chris Formant

Chris Formant, president of Avaya Global Services, has been on the job since March 2008. It is no small irony that one year ago he was tasked with the assignment of strengthening the services group’s financial and operating performance — a significant undertaking, given that the services division touches upon more than half of Avaya’s revenue and workforce.

Fast forward one year and Avaya, while not relishing the harsh headwinds it and other industry players are facing, is at least sanguine about its prospects.

CRM Buyer: How is Avaya weathering the economic downturn?

Chris Formant:

We are doing OK. It is a tough, tough market, and we would like to see more revenue, more sales — but then the whole industry would like to see that.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the cost-cutting measures you’ve taken?

Formant:

Much what you would expect of any global company: We are standardizing and centralizing processes as much as possible. We are also investing in more technology for our self-service functionality — but our motives are not pure cost-cutting in this case. Yes, we want to do more with less, but we also expect to deliver a higher quality of service because of these investments.

CRM Buyer: How can your products help your customers’ bottom lines in the near term?

Formant:

Well, our business case is all about the bottom line. Communications products and services reduce costs and improve performance. Our focus now is on helping clients get the most out of their products. We have people working with clients to audit their telecom infrastructures and expenditures to understand how they can better leverage that investment.

CRM Buyer: What are some of the bright spots for your company right now?

Formant:

We are focusing more on verticals. For example, we recently introduced new solutions that will be in high demand in this current economy — a virtual collection agent application for the healthcare industry and the financial services industry. Collections, in general, is a target-rich environment right now. Other verticals we are emphasizing are retail, hospitality, gaming, the public sector, life sciences and manufacturing. Solutions that deliver industry-specific functionality are still attractive enough for customers to buy even in this downturn.

CRM Buyer: How will your company look a year from now?

Formant:

I think we will be fitter and in a better position to compete when the economy recovers. Right now, everybody is trimming back operations — we are growing, though. You will likely see us extend even more aggressively into emerging growth markets and push for the development of an even larger and more robust channel partner community.

CRM Buyer: You’ve been on the job for a year now. What were your original marching orders, and have you met them yet?

Formant:

Improving Avaya’s financial and operating performance, for starters. Another directive was to create new opportunities by developing and combining our products to build more vertical and horizontal applications.

CRM Buyer: I see you achieved the vertical applications goal. Can you tell me more about the improvements to Avaya’s financial and operating performance under your helm?

Formant:

I don’t want talk specifically about numbers, but we have significantly improved the profitability of our business. Every aspect of this group was looked at — from what we are doing in a particular region [to] global lines of business.

CRM Buyer: Can you give me a few examples of tangible changes you made?

Formant:

We invested in our professional services group. We partnered with systems integrators and recast our managed services business. We spent a lot of time refining our regional footprints in the four major regions in which we operate. We also invested a lot of time, attention and money in improving our service quality. This has always been a strong point for us, but we wanted that to be a clear differentiator, especially as the economy slows.

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