Departures from Avaya’s Mahogany Row Thicken IPO Plot

My plan was to continue writing posts about software defined networking (SDN). And why not?

SDN is controversial (at least in some quarters), innovative, intriguing, and potentially  disruptive to network-infrastructure economics and to the industry’s status quo. What’s more, the Open Networking Summit (ONS) took place this week in Santa Clara, California, serving a veritable gushing geyser of news, commentary, and vigorous debate.

But before I dive back into the overflowing SDN pool, I feel compelled to revisit Avaya. Ahh, yes, Avaya. Whenever I think I’m finished writing about that company, somebody or something pulls me back in.

Executive Tumult

I have written about Avaya’s long-pending IPO, which might not happen at all, and about the challenges the company faces to navigate shifting technological seas and changing industry dynamics. Avaya’s heavy debt load, its uncertain growth prospects, its seemingly shattered strategic compass, and its occasionally complicated relationship with its channel parters are all factors that mitigate against a successful IPO. Some believe the company might be forced into selling itself, in whole or in part, if not into possible bankruptcy.

I will not make a prediction here, but I have some news to report that suggests that something is afoot (executives, mainly) on Avaya’s mahogany row.  Sources with knowledge of the situation report a sequence of executive departures at the company, many of which can and have been confirmed.

On April 12, for example, Avaya disclosed in a regulatory filing with the SEC that “Mohamad S. Ali will step down as Senior Vice President and President, Avaya Client Services, to pursue other opportunities.” Ali’s departure was effective April 13.  Sources also inform me that a vice president who worked for Ali also left Avaya recently. Sure enough, if you check the LinkedIn profile of Martin Ingram, you will find that he left his role as vice president of global services this month after spending more than six years with the company. He has found employment SVP and CIO at Arise Virtual Solutions Inc.

As they say in infomercials, that’s not all.

Change Only Constant

Sources say Alan Baratz, who came to Avaya from Cisco Systems nearly four years ago, has left the company. Baratz, formerly SVP and president of Avaya’s Global Communications Solutions, had taken the role of SVP for  corporate development and strategy amid another in a long line of Avaya executive shuffles that had channel partners concerned about the stability of the company’s executive team.

Sources also report that Dan Berg, Avaya’s VP for R&D, who served as Skype’s CTO from January 2009 until joining Avaya in February 2011, will leave the company at the end of this month.

Furthermore, sources also say that David Downing, VP of worldwide technical operations, apparently has left the company this week. Downing was said to have reported to Joel Hackney, Avaya’s SVP for global sales and marketing and the president of field operations.

On the other side of the pond, it was reported yesterday in TechTarget’s MicroScope that Andrew Shepperd, Avaya’s managing director for the UK, left after just eight months on the job. Shepperd’s departure was preceded by other executive leave-takings earlier this year.

Vanishing IPO?

So, what does all this tumult mean, if anything? It’s possible that all these executives, perhaps like those before them, simply decided individually and separately that it was time for a change. Maybe this cluster of departures and defections is random. That’s one interpretation.

Another interpretation is that these departures are related to the dimming prospects for an IPO this year or next year. With no remunerative payoff above and beyond salary and bonuses on the horizon, these executives, or at least some of them, might have decided that the time was right to seek greener pastures. The company is facing a range of daunting challenges, some beyond its immediate control, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find that many executives have chosen to leave.

Fortunately, we won’t have to wait much longer for clarity from Avaya on where it is going and how it will get there. Sources tell me that Kevin Kennedy, president and CEO, has called an “all-hands meeting” on May 18.

For you SDN aficionados, fret not. We will now return to regularly scheduled programming.


15 responses to “Departures from Avaya’s Mahogany Row Thicken IPO Plot

  1. Bernard Gutnick

    Its unfortunate to see Avaya employees under so much pressure. If it helps, ShoreTel has over 100 open requisitions and encourages Avaya people to join us. I’ve been here for 4 years. It’s a really fun place to work. Customers love the product and we don’t have to worry about debt or being forced to raise money on an IPO like Avaya, Mitel, Siemens face.

  2. greg summerell

    like Hogs eating at the trough, they leave when there”s nothing left!

  3. Corporate Facts

    Not to mention the high profile departures of: Jeremy Butt (WW Channels), Anthony Bartolo (GM of Avaya’s largest business), Steve Fitz (US sales region leader).,, Dan Murphy (Corporate Marketing leader)…its a combination of overbearing oversight and a toxic environment that Kevin Kennedy has created and execs are now voting with their feet.

  4. Well, it has happened at Cisco, Apple, Microsoft, other IT companies, large financial institutions, you have seen this before the brink of a PROGRESSIVE happening or event about to take place in a company. There are no “towels being thrown in” or “writing’s on the wall”.

  5. It is no wonder. Avaya is difficult to work with to say the least. As a former Avaya Buisness Partner I can tell you the Channel Reps, at least here in Chicago midwest region, do not care. We receive many visits from other manufacturers frequently. We have never received a visit from our channel manager ever. If you call them for help you will not even get a response. Telcom & Data sells thousands of telecom products and we enjoy many great relationships minus Avaya. I would never buy thier stock even though I have been selling their equipment since before the Lucent split. They have a corporate culture that sneers and treats their Partners with out gratitude. All that said the stuff does work well.

  6. New leadership at CEO level is needed. Time for Kennedy to go! It’s been a long time coming!

  7. You have a very poorly run company. They spend money in the wrong places. They constantly have layoffs. Any word on the big 30% cut coming shortly and the 3rd furlough….

  8. Don’t blame them from getting out now while they can. This company is going belly up within 5 years. Why they bought a dead Nortel is beyond logic. Many legacy costs will be the cause in the end.

  9. Their technical people in the US are still the best in the industry, if they layoff US Engineers and steer calls to India and similar places they won’t have a business to sell. I am impressed with their new core products that run on virtual machines. I wish they would focus more on business continuity solutions residing on them, that the market wants instead of these One-X UC toys they have been pushing, that should be sold with an Avaya Engineer tethered to them.

  10. Richard

    This ship will sunk soon.

  11. They bought a dog in Nortel, the Nortel people run the show now and make the same mistakes they made at Nortel. Avaya is now being run like a family business and ex Nortel people are being re-hired and promoted showing any flicker of even average performance while . There are no Avaya people left with the required product knowledge. Customers are voting with their feet in droves. Professional services are overpriced and the ex Avaya people in the customer can do better than the ex Nortel people at Avaya.

    Highly toxic working environment. Ethics and integrity are non-existent and politics are king. Employees get no holidays without interruption and are expected to work 7 days a week with no reward.

    The final nail in the coffin of Avaya though is the contact center product which simply does not work and if Avaya does not have contact center then what does it have? UC is a joke next to Cisco and while the network product is good it will never be big for them.

    The channel business is in a right state too…..

    RIP Avaya, dead soonish I would think!

    • recently ex-avaya

      Please!!! You have no idea what you’re talking about. I spent 3 years working at Avaya and most of the problems existed long before they purchased Nortel. Everyone of their oneX UC apps and 96xx deskphones sucks because of a huge, overly complex and poorly designed internal framework. By the way that framework was cobbled together by the jokers in Basking Ridge. Give me a break KK!

  12. When is this company going to call it over? How are they able to continue?

  13. What is the deal, I hear the CFO and the latest CIO left….

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