In February 2013, AT&T launched Partner Exchange, a partner reseller program that was designed to reach into midmarket accounts primarily via solution providers that could handle a client's end-to-end technology needs, including AT&T carrier services built into a bundled solution.
In existence for a year-and-a half now, SearchITChannel spoke to AT&T channel chief Brooks McCorcle, president of emerging business markets at AT&T, to find out more about the new partner program, her goals and uptake by solution providers.
One of the key objectives of the new partner program was to gain reach in the midmarket, where McCorcle said the company needed some help. Today, Partner Exchange has attracted more than 165 regional and national partners that have access to AT&T products and services. The program is focused in the U.S., and there are plans to expand at some later date.
According to McCorcle, Partner Exchange is the first program to come from the emerging business markets unit. She expects that there will be other programs, some adjacent to the channel space, all focused on putting the AT&T brand out in the marketplace in a new and seamless way so customers can choose the companies they want to work with.
How does AT&T Partner Exchange work for the partner?
Brooks McCorclepresident of emerging business markets, AT&T
McCorcle: Through the AT&T Partner Exchange reseller program, solution providers have access to mobility, cloud and IP networking solutions. Solution providers can bundle those services with hardware, software and managed services of their own to offer a custom solution for their business customers.
From the day the program launched, the AT&T Partner Exchange reseller program has been a recurring revenue model, in which the solution provider owns the end-user business customer relationship. Solution providers benefit from the ability to create complete solutions, flexibility in designing offerings, ability to manage the end-user business customer and potential for new recurring revenue.
We sell the products to the partner at a discount, and the partner can set their prices -- we don't set their prices, which gives us flexibility in the marketplace. The partner does the billing, Tier-1 care -- and we're there underpinning that to make them successful -- but at the end of the day, the partners are the interface to the customer and provide a one-stop shop for the customer.
Is there a particular type of partner that AT&T wants to attract to Partner Exchange?
McCorcle: Our partners tend to be more sophisticated because we ask them to be able to bill and care for the customer, and they have to have a 24/7 network operations center (NOC). They need to be the place that the customer calls and that one-stop shop.
Obviously, we have to educate them on our products and services if they haven't sold telecom before, so we have extensive training for that, as well as general selling and other support functions.
So, talk a bit about what exactly is the opportunity for AT&T channel partners.
McCorcle: Our partners are selling the AT&T business suite of products. So think about VPNs, access, pipes and IP-enabled pipes. Think about services that ride on top of that, such as managed Internet services [or] IP Flex, which is our VoIP product that partners can buy managed or unmanaged. Partners can buy wireless services,; they can buy from our entire mobility portfolio for business; they can buy cloud services. Also, partners can buy our services off of a catalog.
Partners can pick and choose. They can choose to use our network services and somebody else's cloud, for example. Or, they can buy piece parts. We offer a VPN that's managed or unmanaged, and many partners pick the unmanaged because what they bring to the table are their own managed services.
We're not forcing them to go all AT&T if they've got other things that they've built that are their sweet spot, that they want to connect to. For many of our partners, this represents a new growth area. This is a recurring revenue model, which gives them more control over what they want to offer.
What were the top three goals that you put in place for 2014, and what enablement for AT&T channel partners did you put in place to support these goals?
McCorcle: Our top three goals are to scale the AT&T Partner Exchange reseller program; enable solution providers to get the capital, tools and programs they need to compete and win; and the third goal is for AT&T to remain agile and responsive to learn and adapt fast to help solution providers take advantage of every opportunity as they consume our model.
We've done a number of things to support these goals. We've continued to scale the program and are experiencing significant interest and growth. More than 165 regional and national solution providers have joined the program, and they're closing deals. Also, a majority of these solution providers are new to AT&T, with more joining each week.
Another thing that we've done: In February 2014, we announced an investment to accelerate our work with solution providers through a $300 million commitment of resources over three years that began in 2013. The investment is intended to drive more API development and enhance a suite of programs and services to speed up solution providers' transformation from traditional upfront sales compensation to a recurring revenue stream. This includes financing arrangements to help solution providers strengthen their working capital and grow their businesses, and eligible services include network services, cloud and hosting services, and mobility solutions. There's also a mobility solutions financing program that offers solution providers two unique mobility device options.
We've additionally put in place technology, programs and services to help solution providers accelerate sales, including APIs that allow solution providers to access and manage networking capabilities to help them reduce cycle times, be more efficient, decrease operating costs and add value to their custom solutions; a multimedia training platform to support a sales transformation that includes a certification program, digital learning paths and onsite leader-led sessions; third-party billing and taxation solutions to help solution providers meet the challenges of capturing and reporting taxes in a recurring revenue business model; and immediate access to market development funds and marketing and sales programs to help them grow their business, including dedicated marketing consultants and self-serve tools.
From Day 1, AT&T Partner Exchange was created around solution providers. We asked partners what was most important and built a program focused on making it easy to do business with us. We learned early on that mutual success is driven by a solution provider's ability to serve their customers end-to-end. The emerging business markets organization applies AT&T Foundry principles to everything it does. Openness, collaboration, innovation and agility play a central role.
What type of enablement is in place to help AT&T channel partners?
McCorcle: In addition to some of things we already talked about, such as APIs, financing and training, for example, there's a partner portal with resources, sales tools and do-it-yourself marketing to help build awareness.
Where will the program go from here?
McCorcle: We need to challenge ourselves to create new and different ways to go to market. This rapid pace requires all of us to be innovative, open, flexible, dynamic and collaborative. We're committed to continuing to help drive solution providers' growth and look forward to collaborating with them to deliver differentiated solutions for their customers.
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