Efficiency key to Avaya's success, Giancarlo says

In an interview, Giancarlo chats about the evolution of Avaya

You said this morning that the demands on unified communications have changed from network-oriented ones, such as cost-cutting, to the employees' productivity needs. Has Cisco responded to that change in requirements differently from Avaya?

Cisco has some very good strengths, but part of that strength is that their customer base are the network operators. And from an organizational structure in the company, the focus is on the integration with the network. I certainly took advantage of that, and in fact, that's what you want to take advantage of as Cisco, is the integration and the synergies that you get, technical and otherwise, by integrating into the rest of the network. It's a great strategy. But it prevents them from executing on other good strategies. Microsoft, to name another one, is going to focus on the IT department. That's their power base. And the synergies that they can bring are by integration into the application base, or maybe into the desktop.

What's important for Avaya is that we not only bring a strong value proposition but that we bring a unique value proposition ... and into a constituency that matters. Business users are now much more empowered and much freer to either make demands or, in some cases, even choose the technology quite independently. And I do believe that our industry has underserved, in general, those business users. Our opportunity as Avaya is to transform at least part of the market by focusing in on those business users.

What was the hardest thing to unlearn when you left Cisco and ended up at Avaya?

I was pleasantly surprised with the level of satisfaction of the customers with the Avaya product. I would say, however, that I was surprised [Avaya was] relatively -- and significantly -- inefficient in its operations. There were many things I couldn't take for granted here in terms of effectiveness and efficiency, and that's been what we've been spending a lot of our time on.

So at Cisco, you could take efficiency for granted?

Well, we worked at it every day, but it was at a very high level. And in this case, efficiency and effectiveness is something that we have to put a lot of focus and attention on.

Do you mean that there are too many layers of management?

You have operations where it takes too many hours, or too many people, or too much investment, to get a return. Part of that is, by the way, that the company has not spent much money on IT. IT isn't providing nearly as much benefit as one would like at the moment, and so we'll be one of the few companies that actually increases our investment in IT over the next couple of years. [Avaya was also] inefficiently organized. Too many groups having responsibility for sort of the same thing.

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