Ma Bell knows it’s all about ecosystem
Companies rare really focusing on their solution partners (SP) – especially when looking to court small to medium business customers as the SP owns the relationship. As reported by Tara Seals on TMCnet recently, Nimble Storage, AT&T, HP, Equinix, NTT America and others are deploying similar strategies to court this market.
In fact, two years ago, AT&T Partner Solutions decided it wanted to attract more customers with up to 20,000 employees and as a result, they decided they would change the way they do businesses. In a recent meeting, Brooks McCorcle, president of the division says they now act more like a Silicon Valley start-up.
While it isn’t uncommon for companies to become more nimble in the face of growing competition, it is impressive to see any division of an established carrier making such a claim. After all, not only is this company huge – meaning typically lots of lawyers and rules they need to follow, they were a government sanctioned monopoly at one point. In short, it is a big deal to take a company that was once a slow-moving beast (meant respectfully of course) and even suggest it has become nimble enough to be considered anything like a start-up.
The company works with 275 partners now and wants to get even more qualified companies into the program. If you’re wondering, to be eligible an SP must:
- Have a 24×7 NOC
- Be able to bill and handle issues
- Sell something more than AT&T service
Moreover, Solution Providers in the program will undergo an annual validation to ensure they are at the right program tier based upon revenue, operational and marketing requirements. Monthly updates will be provided to help solution providers keep track of their progress within the program.
McCorcle explains they will be rolling out a certification program to drive solution providers’ sales proficiency and product knowledge for a complete product family. The AT&T Certification Achievement Program was developed to increase engagement as well as to help propel compensation and revenue for both the individual learner and the solution provider. The learning experience helps build sales proficiency on AT&T Partner Exchange products and services and is designed to advance a solution provider’s abilities to effectively sell and create fully integrated solutions for its customers.
AT&T will be offering role-based tracks, organized by product family, with the ability to “test out” of any course if the learner is already experienced in a specific product. There is a prerequisite level (Core) and two certification tiers – Professional and Master:
- Professional – This tier builds upon the learner’s foundation, helping to build in-depth knowledge of specific product and service offerings. Three technology tracks are offered: Network Professional, Cloud/Hosting Professional and Mobile Services Professional.
- Master – Master courses offer learners an immersive experience to help advance their ability to effectively sell and design fully integrated solutions for their customers. The experience incorporates in-person case studies and role-play scenarios to develop, demonstrate and test advanced solution selling and design skills. Two technology tracks are offered: Network Sales Master and Mobile Services Master.
As Tara explained, investment development funds will be available for solution providers who invest in activities beyond marketing. This includes sales and operational consulting, contracting support, API development and systems enhancements to platforms like billing and service assurance. Funding will be available through a portal where solution providers can select from a list of third-party vendors ready to help meet their internal business transformation objectives.
Perhaps most importantly, the company touts its APIs as a huge differentiator allowing SPs to tie deep into network functionality – they can see the network, problems on the line, put in trouble tickets, see if a location has service, see pricing and most importantly, integrate all of this with their own native systems.
“APIs are a game-changer, and AT&T is leading the way in helping the marketplace unleash their transformational potential,” said Avi Lonstein, CEO of AireSpring. “Already, we’ve seen our sales of AT&T services increase by millions of dollars in the last year.”
McCorcle said, “The nirvana is if I’m a solutions provider. I log into my native system and all the functionality is there so I can serve my customer.” She continued, “And make it no touch. You don’t need to call AT&T.” She concluded, “This is the vision of where we’re going.”
Another important differentiator is the innovation ecosystem which brings in third parties to help solution providers evolve using value-added services. This includes Billing-as-a-Service (BaaS). With BaaS, solution providers can access tools from BluLogix, Omniware, OneBill and Profitec to ease the billing process.
The latest addition to the ecosystem helps solution providers use the AT&T API platform to create a customized experience for service availability, quoting and ordering. MasterStream, FPX and ChikPea have joined the ecosystem and are working with solution providers to help them develop innovative software solutions so they can better meet the needs of their businesses and customers.
Brooks sums up her thoughts in a blog post where she says:
To be direct, we’re serious about our indirect channels. And we are making bold moves to help our agents, solution providers and wholesale customers find success in the marketplace.
Based on the latest news and the company’s drive to be more partner friendly, it’s tough to disagree with what she says. Moreover AT&T seems to think this new nimble approach is the key to future success. This is likely why they gave Brooks responsibility for managing the company’s AT&T Wholesale and ACC Business as well. These moves in-fact were designed to give wholesale customers, agents and solution providers more flexibility to choose how they want to work with the company.
We’re aware wireless is getting the majority of focus at carriers for all the reasons we know such as IoT and subscriber growth. This is all the more reason it is impressive to watch AT&T make investments in the wired side of the house and moreover doing its best to grow an ecosystem of partners who can grow with the company.
Since the break-up of AT&T and the subsequent internet revolution, it has begun clear that the ecosystem is as important as the product or service. AT&T does realize this and these moves show they are serious about growing theirs.