Avaya Lands Top Cisco Telepresence Exec

by Matt Klassen on May 11, 2011

What’s the difference between unified communication vendors Avaya and Cisco these days? Well, to put it simply, the former is clearly “Fit for Purpose,” while the latter suffers from a distinct “Lack of Purpose.” Its been no secret of late that Cisco’s traditional command-and-control management structure has left many talented executives feeling incredibly frustrated, resulting not only in a veritable valuation nosedive for the company, but the mass exodus of key staff as well.

In an effort to quell the discontent, however, Cisco promised to overhaul its entire management structure, reorganizing sales, services, and engineering operations in an effort to make Cisco more productive again. But as the company struggles to regain its corporate focus, the reorganization failed to prevent one more key departure, one that will undoubtedly hurt the company deeply; the departure of Telepresence Vice President Phil Graham.

Put aside for the moment that Cisco’s new strategy is focused primarily on improving its video telepresence solutions for business communications, a project that is now leaderless, Graham’s departure hurts the most because of where he ended up…at the top of Avaya’s own Telepresence division.

While Avaya has come under fire for its ambitious Flare experience of late, the communications vendor clearly thinks that its innovative platform is where business communication is heading, and to that end the hiring of Graham is a veritable market coup, robbing the now-struggling Cisco of one of its key Telepresence executives.

Graham, for his part, was relatively mum about his reasons for leaving Cisco, stating only that Flare was a main reason for his transition, and that the software platform is a “very interesting paradigm of mixing information with applications. And then at the center of that experience is communications.” If he was one of the many disgruntled former Cisco executives, he certainly wasn’t letting on.

With its most recent hiring, Avaya wasted no time in placing Graham in a position of utmost importance, naming him Vice President of Research and Development Endpoints, stating that he will, “play a key role in expanding Avaya’s focus on next-generation endpoints that improve the user experience and effectiveness of business collaboration.”

The oversight of all Avaya endpoints will leave Graham with some huge responsibilities, as his focus will be on everything from the top of the line Desktop Video Device tablet that the company’s Flare experience had its debut on several months ago to the ubiquitous desktop phone that’s no doubt staring at you right now.

That being said, Graham’s passion is clearly enterprise video communications, and it’s in this area that I would expect Avaya to succeed conversely as Cisco continues to struggle to establish a Telepresence foothold.

For Cisco, it’s clear that loosing Graham hurts, more so given the fact that he ended up at Avaya, a move that will almost certainly skyrocket Avaya to the forefront of burgeoning Telepresence solutions. Will Cisco be able to recover? Perhaps, but only if they’re able to sort out their in-house discontent first.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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