Avaya Plugs SMB Apps Into UC Platform

The IP Office unified communications system adds collaboration, SIP trunking, customer service, and other features developed by third-party partners in Avaya's DevConnect program.

Kevin Casey

March 9, 2011

4 Min Read
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Avaya has announced several new partner-developed applications for IP Office, its unified communications (UC) platform for the small and midsize business (SMB) market.

The latest apps -- built and delivered by outside partners via Avaya's DevConnect program -- cover a diverse set of functions and vertical areas such as UC and collaboration; session initiation protocol, or SIP trunking; customer service; interactive voice response (IVR) and automated calling; and hospitality management. Among other reasons behind the program, Avaya sees third-party app development as key to product distinction in the increasingly competitive UC space.

"The IP Office system affords [SMBs] the ability to easily connect to lots of valued applications that, in lots of cases, actually customize or verticalize the solution that we deliver," said Joe Scotto, director of Avaya's small and medium enterprise marketing, in an interview. "From that perspective, absolutely, I think it helps to differentiate us."

Avaya uses a slightly different acronym for the SMB segment -- SME -- but its definition is generally consistent: Its communications platforms scale for companies with between five and 1,000 employees. Firms with between five and 250 people comprise the target market for IP Office, Scotto said.

DevConnect provides access to APIs, tools, and tech support for third-party developers building apps around Avaya's UC platform. The company has approved around 1,400 Avaya-compliant apps since the program's inception in 2002 -- roughly 300 of those were built specifically for SMBs. DevConnect adds between 30 and 40 new apps each month, according to the company. Pricing is at the developer's discretion.

"These are their applications," said DevConnect program manager Joe Marzulla in an interview. He added that Avaya sometimes does cross-promotions with partners, but even then the price tag is up to the developer. "We provide them the tools and equip them to go to market, and they market their solutions."

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The latest additions include AdvaTel's InTouch, a server-less presence app that brings together internal and external contacts across a single UC platform. With one-click movement between voice, instant messaging, SMS, and email, InTouch extends beyond the immediate office to synthesize contacts from Yahoo, Skype, MSN Lync, and Outlook -- creating what the developer calls a "federated presence." (Scotto notes that Avaya would likely never use that brand of industry lingo when speaking with a small business customer.)

AdvaTel says on its Web site that it built InTouch because many smaller companies outsource certain lines of business -- such as accounting or human resources -- and therefore have "internal" departments that are in fact external to the company. The app also fits increasing mobility and virtual office usage among SMBs -- two trends that Scotto said are currently driving demand in the communications sector.

"Mobility is really critical in small business right now," Scotto said.

Cablevison's Optimum Voice SIP Trunking, another recent addition to the platform, delivers voice service through IP Office for up to 100 users. On the customer service and compliance front, KnoahSoft's Harmony suite adds secure call recording, silent monitoring, screen capture of agent sessions, quality assurance tools, and reporting. For outbound customer contacts, Computer Instruments' e-IVR app enables automated calling for announcements, reminders, emergency notifications, and other uses.

Features such as appointment reminders, call accounting, and custom phone applications are currently in high demand in the SMB segment, according to Scotto. He points to several industry-specific uses of those applications -- appointment reminders in medical offices, for example, or call accounting in law firms -- as examples of how a company can customize its UC deployment based on business needs.

"Those are some hot buttons, that are horizontal capabilities, that really have impact within specific vertical markets," Scotto said.

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