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This year’s Avaya ENGAGE event in Phoenix was full of innovative goodness. Attendees were treated to an entertaining—and occasionally poignant—presentation from Magic Johnson. Not Impossible’s CEO Mick Ebeling showed us some of the promising ways technology is improving life at a very human level. We were energized by demonstrations and discussions around customer experience, AI, cloud, and the full digital transformation journey.

Not surprisingly, more than a few conference-goers stopped by to enjoy the coffee and massage stations in the Carousel booth—a welcome reprieve from a busy show floor, where attendees also chatted with many of Carousel’s on-site subject matter experts. Carousel was named Avaya’s U.S. Mid-Market Partner of the Year during the event. To paraphrase an old adage: With great coffee comes great recognition, even though I’m fairly sure it is our customer service and not the lattes that did the trick.

As expected, much of the activity at ENGAGE centered on cloud’s importance within the recently announced Avaya/RingCentral relationship, and their Avaya Cloud Office (ACO) solution was pushed heavily at the conference. Existing Avaya customers now have a solid UCaaS roadmap in front of them for public cloud, with the platform also providing some investment protection for organizations that have invested in the newer J-series phones. Over time, we expect Avaya will bring more of their own brand-centric features to ACO, which will be unique to their capabilities while capitalizing on their collaboration with RingCentral.

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Further availability of subscription-based pricing models was another theme at ENGAGE, which is great news for customers. Being able to package all of Avaya’s products into a single, flexible consumption model allows organizations to consume services based on their seat count. Where traditional pricing structures require maintenance and upgrade fees, subscription customers can dynamically scale their solution to fit their needs. Even better is the ability to stay in tune with changes in technology, since businesses can easily take advantage of new features and entitlements that come out under that subscription model.

Finally, innovation and the drive to bring truly transformative solutions to the marketplace were key amongst the takeaways from ENGAGE 2020. Historically, Avaya hasn’t heavily leveraged third-party expertise much in developing new technologies. Their in-house resources remain vast, but they’re increasingly seeing the value in external collaborations to help move innovation forward. One example would be the company’s tie-in with Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI platform, which was on full display at the recent Hackathon. To see our very own Steve Drew, VP of Contact Center Solutions, in action during the Hackathon, click here. Drew created a Middle School Parent Line to report absences, obtain student GPAs and homework, and initiate conversations with teachers via SMS. Technologies used: Avaya CPaaS for voice and SMS, google dialogflow, MongoDB cloud, NiFi, Java/Tomcat. We’re pleased to share he won in the Education category.

Bringing a more meaningful experience to their customers will require that Avaya continue the trend toward additional partnering, and it seems they’re well on the way to making that happen at scale. When it comes to that space, Avaya—as the only traditional UC company and one with a significant install base at that—is well positioned. Everyone else relies on other solutions to underpin their offerings but Avaya comes to the table as a service provider/carrier with their own Communications Platform as a Service offering (CPaaS) . Their growing participation in innovative partnerships will definitely mean good things for organizations that want that end-to-end story.

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Looking ahead to where some of the developments discussed during ENGAGE may eventually lead, I’m excited to see the implementation potential of Avaya’s IX Contact Center offering. Built on an Agile methodology with a microservices architecture in the cloud, this blend of technologies and techniques could prove to be extremely compelling. And really, some of the interest around this new approach isn’t even about the product—it’s about what you can do.

Avaya’s CPaaS platform provides a foundation for taking this kind of technology somewhere great. Essentially developed using Lego-style building blocks, it has the potential to replace a plethora of antiquated cloud-based IVR solutions, for example. My own recent experience attempting to use an IVR to price match at a large retailer highlights where improve opportunities exist. This well-known company’s IVR menu made little sense and didn’t provide any options that matched my needs. I zeroed out of the menu, thereby removing any opportunity the brand may have had to use their IVR system to trim costs, deliver a better customer experience, or facilitate upsells or other revenue-driving actions.

Contrast that poor experience against what you could build with Avaya and Google Contact Center AI. Imagine an intuitive, cloud-based, AI-driven IVR platform that would not only outperform the majority of solutions on the market today, but might also be more cost effective from a product perspective. Organizations could spend less time tinkering with off-the-shelf IVR solutions that don’t quite fit their needs and instead deploy affordable platforms tailored to work with their specific customer, product, and service base. That picture is still in the future but, along with the other innovations outlined at ENGAGE, I’m excited to see where technology will deliver better outcomes in the business world of tomorrow.