Avaya: Grandchild of Ma Bell

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-03-01 Print this article Print

Avaya has had a spotty financial record, but that hasn't scared customers.

Avaya is a second-generation spinoff with a spotty financial record. The company was divested in 2000 by Lucent Technologies, which itself was unleashed from AT&T in 1996; only last June did Avaya manage to post its first profitable quarter.

But the bumpy ride hasn't damaged its stature in the telephony market. Its large installed base—Avaya claims nearly 100 million people worldwide use its voicemail systems, for example—and ability to add Internet Protocol (IP) telephony to its legacy phone systems work to its advantage over IP-only phone-system vendors such as Cisco.

Three years ago, the City of Indianapolis/Marion County in Indiana picked Avaya over Cisco to provide IP-based voice service to its 8,000 employees. First, Avaya—unlike Cisco—gave a guarantee that its systems would provide 99.999% uptime, says Lori J. Kuhn, telecommunications manager for the municipality. (Cisco says it cannot guarantee uptime if it does not operate the system for a customer.) Avaya's bid of $800,000 in up-front costs for equipment and services also undercut Cisco's, in part because the municipality could retain its existing analog phones. "The Cisco system was proprietary, so we would have had to purchase all-new phones," Kuhn says.

Some customers, though, believe Avaya rushed out IP telephony before it was fully baked. Furniture manufacturer Stevens Industries installed a Definity private branch exchange (PBX) system with IP-telephony capabilities in October 2001, and it took weeks of "tweaking and tuning" by Avaya engineers before the system worked properly, says information- systems manager Cottie Dial.

It was Avaya's reputation for reliability and customer support that led Chicago-area travel agency Tower Travel Management to choose IP Office, says Michael Foster, manager of technology development. "The Avaya guys have not encountered a problem they couldn't fix," he says.

Buena Vista University, meanwhile, would have had to pay $50,000 to connect its obsolete Fujitsu PBX to a new science building. Instead, BVU opted for an IP voice system from Avaya, which was the only vendor willing to develop software to link its system to Fujitsu's, says Ken Clipperton, managing director of information services. "That let me integrate the future without having to replace the past," he says.

211 Mount Airy Road,
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
(908) 953-6000

Ticker: AV (NYSE)
Employees: 16,900

Micky Tsui
VP/General Manager, Communications Systems
Handles voice and data network convergence products, including Internet Protocol (IP) telephony. Previously vice president of Internet telephony at Nortel Networks.

Jorge R. Blanco
VP, Marketing, Enterprise Communications Group
In charge of marketing for IP-telephony, unified-communications and customer-relationship-management products.


Communication Manager is call-processing software for Linux or Windows 2000 servers, as well as Avaya's Definity private branch exchange systems, and supports IP and circuit-switched networks. IP Office, for locations with fewer than 100 employees, provides IP telephony, voice messaging and data networking in one unit. Avaya also offers a range of traditional digital and IP phone sets and software.

Reference Checks

Charter Steel
Peter Schwei
Telecommunications Supervisor
Project: Specialty steel supplier connected five locations in Wisconsin and two in Ohio using Definity PBXs and a Linux-based S8500 server, eliminating toll charges for calls among the facilities.

Buena Vista University
Ken Clipperton
Managing Dir., Information Services
Project: Private university in Iowa linked its existing Fujitsu phone system to a new science building with an Avaya S8700 IP telephony server.

Boston Celtics
Jay Wessel
Senior Director of Technology
(617) 854-8000
Project: Spent $75,000 to roll out IP Office for 50 employees in September 2002 to replace its obsolete Executone PBX.

City of Indianapolis/ Marion County
Lori J. Kuhn
Telecommunications Manager
Project: Replaced Centrex service from SBC with an Avaya IP-telephony system in 2001, projecting annual savings of $800,000 after five years.

Stevens Industries
Cottie Dial
Information Systems Manager
Project: Furniture maker swapped out its old GTE phone system for a Definity PBX, connecting 140 IP phones to avoid rewiring its offices.

Tower Travel Management
Michael Foster
Mgr., Technology Development
Project: Travel agency uses IP Office to give 20 remote agents access to its central call center over Internet connections.

Executives listed here are all users of Avaya's products/services. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.


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