Avaya/Nortel combination aims for greater growth

Leaders say they are looking to be ‘aggressive’ in government market

Avaya closed its acquisition of Nortel Enterprise Solutions Dec. 18 and held a kick-off ceremony for employees today in the aftermath of a massive weekend snowstorm in the Washington area.

For Nortel employees, most of the faces of their leaders remain familiar. With the exception of Chuck Saffell, chief executive officer of Nortel Government Solutions, the rest of the team remains in place. Saffell has decided to retire but will remain on hand to advise the unit, said Joel Hackney, previously president of Nortel Enterprise Solutions and now a senior vice president at Avaya and president of Avaya Government Solutions and Data.

The combined government unit will have about 2,000 employees, with about 400 coming from Avaya. The customer base includes the Army, Air Force, Navy, State Department, Social Security Administration and Treasury Department.

“What excites us most is the increased capabilities we can bring to our customer base,” Hackney said. “We see some tremendous growth opportunities.”

For example, Nortel had won a contract to build and maintain a voice-over-IP system for SSA that will connect 1,500 locations. That kind of project can apply to many other government agencies, he said. Part of Avaya’s strategy is to take Nortel capabilities to existing Avaya customers and vice versa, he added.

Avaya will be staking its claim as the leader of secure unified communications solutions, Hackney said.

“A technology inflection point is happening that allows what used to be closed systems to operate on a standard, open architecture without losing anything in terms of security,” he said.

The open architecture allows for more flexibility, speed and reliability without sacrificing security, Hackney said.

Avaya will unveil a product road map in mid-January that will describe how the company plans to exploit that area, he said.

Other plans for the next three to six months include communicating with customers about the benefits of the Avaya/Nortel combination, continuing to build the company’s contract portfolio and looking for new routes to the market, particularly in terms of new channel partners, Hackney said.

The sale to Avaya is one of the closing chapters in Nortel’s story. The company filed for bankruptcy last January and sold the enterprise solutions division to Avaya through an auction.

Despite that turbulent history, Nortel Government Solutions had a good year, said Sara DeCarlo, vice president of strategic business development at Avaya Government Solutions. She held the same title while at Nortel.

“We had our best year ever,” she said. “We surpassed all our revenue goals, and we attribute that to our customer-facing people who were reassuring them. And I think our customers saw the value the acquisition would bring.”

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

Reader Comments

Tue, Dec 22, 2009

Two losers don't make a winner. NORTEL took over PEC and killed it and they will do the same with Avaya. (PEC, of course, had help with executives/founders like Alan Harbiter, who had lots of book smarts and very little business sense.) Avaya is spinoff from AT&T with the same bureaucratic culture. They better figure out a way to beat the cisco monopoly with disruptive pricing and better positioning. Cisco has mediocre products and an arrogant sales force but great positioning. NORTEL and Avaya together will have trouble beating that.

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