For years, solution providers eschewed selling telecom services because of the complexity of the services, the difficulty in dealing with carriers’ byzantine organizations and simply because the potential gains weren’t worth the pain.
Those days are gone forever, and there is no turning back. In a comprehensive special report this month on carriers and the cloud, CRN’s Chad Berndtson and Andrew Hickey take a look at the compelling economic proposition for solution providers to add recurring revenue carrier services in a cloud-dominated solution universe. In fact, the cloud computing revolution has made it critical that all solution providers act as trusted advisers recommending business-grade carrier services. In many cases, these services are delivering higher profits than partners are making on hotly contested network infrastructure upgrades.
Of course, crossing the carrier service divide is not going to be easy for solution providers. And it is certainly not going to come easy for telecom service providers, which are rushing into the market with reckless abandon to grab the hearts, minds and, most importantly, the trusted customer relationships that solution providers have built up over the years. The fact is customers are making big decisions on carrier-grade services and are looking for solution providers to guide them and make recommendations.
The carriers that are going to be successful are going to have to become easier to do business with, more flexible on terms and conditions, and be adept at building strong relationships in the sales trenches. To say there is a high level of distrust between telecom carriers and solution providers is an understatement. One solution provider CEO, who has navigated many treacherous business and technology changes, said he sees the telecom providers both as potential partners and as a threat to his business model.
What’s exciting is there are signs that telecom providers finally get it. There is a lot of channel-savvy leadership moving from the network infrastructure world to the carrier world, such as former Cisco vice president Nigel Williams, who is now senior vice president, sales and strategic alliances, at Level 3 Communications. Level 3’s channel program is winning rave reviews from partners.
Other carriers are also stepping up with programs that deserve a look, including Comcast Business Services, Time-Warner Cable, Cablevision and Charter Business. Meanwhile, giants that don’t have well-established channel programs are buying them—witness Verizon acquiring Terremark and Century Link acquiring Savvis. A day of reckoning is coming both for solution providers and vendors. There will be new winners and losers. And those that don’t get with the telecom service provider program and build long-lasting, mutually profitable relationships will find themselves marginalized in the cloud era.
BACKTALK: Are you carrying a carrier badge? Contact Steve Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org.