Nortel legacy lives on in other tech incarnations
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in
Vancouver August 2-8, 2011 issue #1136 High Tech
What happens to superstars after they fall from fame?
For rock stars, there’s always the Oldies circuit. Nortel Networks is
perhaps Canada’s most famous tech burnout. But like aging rock
musicians, a faded tech superstar never quite disappears.
While Nortel ceased operations in June 2009, it was back in the news
recently, selling some 6,000 patents to a consortium that included
sometime rivals Apple, Microsoft and RIM – but not Google.
At its peak, though, Nortel was more than an intellectual property
portfolio. The company had actual products, both hardware and software.
In November 2009, U.S.-based Avaya bought Nortel’s Enterprise Solutions
(Avaya? It’s a privately held, New Jersey-based company that, until
November 2000, was the business communications unit of Lucent
Technologies, itself one of the companies created by the breakup of
In May, I spoke with Avaya Canada president Ross Pellizzari, who was in
town to roll out the company’s new generation unified communications
software that merged Nortel and Avaya product lines. Later I visited
two local companies that were using Avaya products.
Burnaby-based Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers has grown from a one-time
Kelowna storefront furniture dealer to the world’s largest industrial
auctioneer. The company has a long history of using technology to
maintain an edge on its competitors. For example, it pioneered remote
video bidding on auctions in 1989 and expanded to the Internet in 2002.
With staff and auctions in Canada, the US, Europe and Asia, and bidders
worldwide, seamless communications for the company is vital.
According to Ritchie Bros.’ telecommunications manager Chris Farrer,
beginning four years ago, the company consolidated multiple stand-alone
phone systems, connecting employees in the local headquarters with
colleagues in the U.S., the Netherlands and other locations. Avaya’s
one-X Communicator gives employees worldwide access to telephone, fax
and messaging services on PC and notebook-based softphones, smartphones
and more. The system allows Richie Bros. to contact employees via a
seven-digit extension regardless of location, in the office or in the
Features like least-cost routing and network redundancy save the
company money while providing inter
national backup and disaster recovery. Farrer uses other Avaya software
such as Witness, which allows him to record and monitor the company’s
call centre network, a key component in its international auctions.
Inventure Solutions is Vancity credit union’s information technology
subsidiary; like Ritchie Bros. it prides itself on having a history of
“being innovative in the delivery of technology to the advantage of our
customers and creating new business opportunities,” including
innovations in mobile banking and foreign remittance.
I spoke with Jason Peckham, Inventure’s contact centre technologies
manager. The contact centre had been using Nortel technologies
extensively, which Peckham estimated saved the company $1 million a
year over earlier product implementations. When time came to upgrade,
Nortel was no longer an option; Inventure looked at options, including
Cisco and Avaya.
According to Peckham, Avaya’s proposal offered Inventure a combination
of stability and low risk. The replacement contact centre hardware and
software was built around a series of pre-made components that could be
configured by Peckham and his team, allowing the project to come in on
time and on budget. The new system lets him “set it and forget it,”
which allows the company to advance its business without having to
focus on the technology.
Phase two added work force management and optimization software. That
made it possible to rate call centre employee performance, highlight
areas needing improvement and link to appropriate e-learning tools.
Peckham said Avaya has seamlessly integrated Nortel’s product line into
its own. The result: Inventure was able to protect its investment in
hardware and software and, more importantly, in IT staff skills.
Avaya recognized Inventure Solutions with its 2011 award for enterprise
transformation for demonstrating “the most visionary view of business
value created by Avaya’s technology solutions.”