As a founding member of the Technology Channel Association, I get to interface with some of the channel execs. One that I have a lot of respect for is Craig Schlagbaum, VP Indirect Channels, Level 3. Craig let me interview him about changes in the channel.
1. What is one change that you have noticed in the Channel thus far in 2010?
As the concept of cloud-computing continues to emerge as a viable next-generation solution for businesses, the line between the high tech and telecom service worlds has blurred. VARs and solution providers from the traditional high tech industry are transforming their approach towards serving their customers, shifting away from a "one-time sale" model to become much more solution-oriented in nature with recurring services that are on-demand. In addition, many of the solutions these partners are beginning to offer such as SIP, SaaS, and managed services require carrier services to enable them.
In fact, many of our larger producing partners in 2010 have come from the traditional high tech world and have successfully made the pivot to selling carrier services in conjunction with the value-add components that they're piling on.
2. The Channel Partners are experiencing the shift from TDM to all-IP. Level 3 certainly spends time on training and explaining. Do you think that the Channel learns better peer-to-peer?
As we continue to see the transition from TDM to IP-based products, effective training is critical due to the complexity of the product sets. At Level 3 we offer a wide variety of training opportunities for our indirect channel partners. We understand that everyone learns differently, so we've tried to implement a number of vehicles for our business partners to learn not only our Level 3 service portfolio, but also the technologies associated with these services as a whole.
Our online training platform, which can be accessed through our Business Partner Portal, has become a popular training medium as it is a self-paced tool that allows partners to undergo trainings at their own speed. As this training portal continues to evolve, we will be requiring certain levels of certifications moving into 2011. In addition to our online training platform, we offer monthly service trainings via webcast and face-to-face trainings with our Partner Sales Managers and SEs.
There is no substitution for learning with peers, but in order to scale more effectively, it is crucial that we put the necessary tools and systems in place to allow our partners to become as self-sufficient as possible.
3. How do you foresee TCA's certification program affecting (if at all) the Channel?
Even though the transition from the IT space to the carrier world creates a significant opportunity for the indirect channel holistically, not all partners from the high tech industry can successfully make the pivot. Training and certifications will be an essential ingredient for success and will become more meaningful within the carrier services world as more IT channel partners make the switch.
I think that implementing a TCA standard industry certification positively influences channel partners that are already involved in the carrier services space, raising the bar and allowing committed partners to demonstrate their skills to their customers.