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Avaya has named a new vice president of North American channels, a spokesperson for the company has confirmed.

Donny Ward has been promoted to take on the job, said Deb Kline, spokesperson for the maker of networking and communications technology based in Basking Ridge, N.J.

The current vice president of North American channels, Ken Archer, will be leaving his position at the end of January after just under three years with Avaya. Kline could not confirm Archer’s future plans. Archer was widely credited with improving Avaya’s channel focus. The company began its life as a direct sales company and now has about 1,800 channel partners in North America.

Ward has been with Avaya since the company was spun out of Lucent in October 2000, and he previously worked for Lucent and AT&T. He’s worked in many regional sales capacities within Avaya, particularly in the southeastern and south central regions, and Kline described him as an ardent channel advocate.

The channel executive shake up comes at a time when Avaya is working to transition into more of a software company, Kline said, and there are new competencies to be gained in the process.

To read about Cisco’s channel exec reshuffle click here.

As for the channel program itself, Avaya is getting ready for a “large deployment” of new tools and programs. The moves come on the heels of the company’s plan to offer its online training free-of-charge.

The company also recently introduced a new “Master Reseller” program where select Avaya BusinessPartners recruit and train independent sales agents to sell Avaya’s SMB portfolio. Many of the new agents specialize in data networking, but want to offer their clients ready access to voice solutions as well. To date, 10 Master Resellers are working with more than 300 independent sales agents across North America.

Less than a month ago, Avaya named Trevor Gruenewald as vice president of the company’s North America sales channel for small and midsize businesses.

Gruenewald has been with Avaya since its 2000 launch and formerly served as sales vice president for global demand generation. He also has worked in a variety of sales leadership capacities for both AT&T and Lucent Technologies.