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Avaya overhauls contact center suite, includes Nortel functionality

With a new midmarket contact center suite, an upgrade to its analytics and its entrance into WFO, Avaya is following through on its Nortel promises.

Avaya's release today of a new midmarket contact center product, an update to its analytics offering, and its entrance into the workforce optimization (WFO) market were signals that the company is following through on its pledge to take full advantage of its Nortel acquisition, according to analysts.

"They're delivering on their promises to bring the Avaya Nortel lines together," said Drew Kraus, vice president with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "Some pretty important promises were made to two pretty big installed bases, and it looks like they're following through."

Avaya today provided details of the Avaya Aura Contact Center, a multimedia application targeted at midsized contact centers. The application connects customer service agents to customers via any communications mode -- voice, video, email, or web chat. Avaya pegs a midsized contact center at around 1,000 agents.

The application uses open Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) communications to increase the efficiency of interactions. As customers begin to communicate with business through an ever-increasing number of channels, organizations must not only serve those channels but provide a consistent experience across them, according to Jorge Blanco, vice president of marketing for Avaya's contact center business.

"The ultimate business challenge we need to help customers solve is end-to-end experience management," Blanco said. "We need to connect the dots between all of the layers that could create that moment of truth and, hopefully, delight."

The Avaya Aura Contact Center is a good start, according to Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst of McGee-Smith Analytics, a contact center consultancy.

"From a contact center perspective, I don't think anyone could say that Avaya hasn't done its best to combine the best of both [Avaya and Nortel] with the current portfolio," McGee-Smith wrote in an email interview. "Avaya Aura Contact Center takes the multimedia capability (among other attributes) from Nortel and over time will add the massive scaling of Avaya Call Center Elite. Similarly, with Avaya Voice Portal, elements of Nortel's self and assisted Service Creation Environment will now be applicable to Avaya platforms."

Avaya also updated its Call Center Elite 6.0 call routing software and IQ 5.1, its analytics product, which allows for greater capacity of 900 simultaneous users.

With today's announcement, Avaya is also entering the WFO market. Until now, the company had relied on partners like Nice and Verint to provide features such as call monitoring and workforce management. The WFO suite includes call recording, quality monitoring and workforce management. Avaya will be adding speech analytics in November and feedback management capabilities next year, Blanco said, and will continue to partner with Verint and NICE.

"For customers running Witness (owned by Verint), this is mostly good news," McGee-Smith wrote. "Avaya WFO is a tightly integrated white label of the Verint suite of applications. The tighter integrations mean ultimately a single reporting application (Avaya Performance Center) for customers to use to find all their agent information. For users of NICE, Avaya will continue to resell that application, but it will lack the new integration Avaya WFO offers."

It also provides an opportunity for net new customers, according to Gartner's Kraus.

"From an Avaya standpoint, they get that new revenue," he said. "From a customer standpoint, they appreciate being able to go back to one vendor for the 'one throat to choke' but also for someone who understands the context of what they're doing and why they're doing it."

All of the products will be available by July 20, with the exception of the Avaya Aura Contact Center, which will be available July 30.

For customers that have been waiting to hear from Avaya about its plans, today's release could signal the time to start looking at upgrades, Kraus said.

"There's a lot of both Avaya and Nortel customers who had heard these promises but were very skeptical or just concerned they would be able to deliver," he said. He advised those customers to "look at the individual pieces that are coming out now for what will benefit you in the near term. For many, it makes sense to move to the newer products sooner than later."

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