Broadening the Contact Center Platform: Q&A With Avaya VP Bob Lyons

This summer, Bob Lyons was tapped to lead Avaya’s contact center division. The new general manager and vice president of customer service applications — a relatively new position at Avaya — joined the company at a crucial time. It was in the midst of reorganizing its operations around three business units: the contact center, unified communications, and small and mid-sized business applications.

Given Avaya’s evolution, it is easy to imagine Lyons’ marching orders: Focus on more tightly integrating contact center applications with the rest of the product line — and in a broader sense, with the rest of the enterprise.

In an exclusive interview, CRM Buyer spoke with Lyons about the progress of these plans and, more importantly, how they will manifest to the clients.

CRM Buyer: Why the internal shift at Avaya?

Avaya Vice President Bob Lyons:

Actually, that focus has been evolving at Avaya for a while now. We used to be organized around multiple application divisions, but decided it was a better approach to roll these applications into business units that are responsible for driving strategy and performance. These are the three crucial units that were identified. Essentially, we are becoming more industry-focused instead of product-focused.

CRM Buyer: Does an internal reorganization change the goals of product development at all?


No, I wouldn’t say that. A better way to put it is that it enhances those goals. For instance, I have the overall responsibility to deliver a top value proposition in the contact center industry — making sure we have the best products, branding, etc. But besides helping customers leverage technology, I also want to be able to help them drive business performance. The reorganization helps me do that.

CRM Buyer: Can you give a tangible example of how this will impact customers?


Sure. Look at our contact center platform application, the Avaya IQ. We are working to reposition that away from being just an overall platform for the contact center that does, for example, operational reporting, to a larger portal environment that leverages integrated communications and data. Users could conceivably use it one day to plug in business applications — as well as allow third parties to develop applications for it.

CRM Buyer: That sounds like a big shift. If I can rephrase what you said, it sounds like you are pushing the IQ to be an aggregate point to gather information, as well as become a platform on which you or your customers or third parties can write applications.


Yes, that is accurate. That process is happening now.

: When will we see these enhancements?


Releases are scheduled for the next year or so. Upcoming versions will provide enhanced reporting and position it for the portal capabilities. That will be the foundation on which we will engage our partners to build tools. We have partners working on that right now.

CRM Buyer: How do you anticipate helping customers to migrate to the new platform?


We will provide easy migration to existing customers, most of which will welcome the new integration technology. For new customers, it will be an easy enough component to add onto their existing contact center platform, because it is built on services-oriented standard technology.

CRM Buyer: So it will be a standalone application as well?


Yes, but as I said, able to easily integrate with other contact center applications. These won’t be scripted tools, but more dynamic, rules-based tools and processes.

CRM Buyer: Can you give an example?


Sure. Let’s say you call your bank and want your balance on a savings account you maintain there. You have to go through several prompts for other products you might have with the bank before you get to the one about the balance. With the IQ, the system would recognize that you as a customer only have one account with it. It then assumes that you are calling about your savings account and offers you only one or two possible prompts, one of which is, ‘do you want your balance?’

CRM Buyer: That would be nice. A lot of self-service voice applications still don’t seem to be able to offer that level of personalization yet.


Yes, that is true — and it is a shame, because the primary differentiation in financial services is customer service.

CRM Buyer: What else are you working on?


Much of it is a continuation of what we always do — aggressively drive integration of world-class products so they can seamlessly work together. We want to push the performance side even further out so there is real communication between intelligence applications. We are also doing things like broadening supporting applications for products such as our voice portal. That way it becomes better positioned in the marketplace, because it has a stronger, supporting ecosystem around it.

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