Solution Providers: AT&T 'Batting 1,000' In IT Channel Offensive

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As AT&T kicks off its inaugural Partner Exchange Summit in Dallas, Texas this week, AT&T partners say the event is one of several recent moves that prove the telecom giant's commitment to making inroads with the IT reseller channel.   

The event, aimed at bringing partners up-to-speed on the latest and greatest in AT&T technologies and programs, comes roughly 18 months after AT&T introduced Partner Exchange, its first partner program focused exclusively on IT VARs and solution providers.  

That program, since its launch in February 2013, has attracted more than 200 solution providers that are now reselling AT&T's cloud, networking and mobility solutions.

[Related: AT&T Pumps $300M Into New Partner Financing Program, Other Channel Resources]

And, the telecom giant doesn't plan to stop there, according to Brooks McCorcle, president of AT&T Emerging Business Markets and head of Partner Exchange.

"Absolutely we will continue to grow the program," McCorcle said in an interview with CRN Tuesday. "We are adding to the program in a very measured and steady way, and that's the way we want to do it. As it continues to grow and gain a lot of creditability in the market, we have a lot of solution providers actually coming to us."

Brooks said more than half of the roughly 200 partners in Partner Exchange are new to AT&T, meaning they hadn't previously partnered with the company as a master or sub agent. What's more, many of those partners are new to the carrier services market, in general, suggesting the convergence between the traditional telecom and IT channels is still in full swing.

Brooks said AT&T's success in attracting IT solution providers to the Partner Exchange program -- which received $300 million in additional funding from AT&T earlier this year -- stems from one simple concept: collaboration.

"It's about the collaboration that we have with solution providers," McCorcle said. "They have sat at the center of this from day one. We said, 'We are going to build a business model around you,' and we have kept true to that promise."

AT&T partners, it seems, couldn't agree more.

"Getting the time and attention, getting the visibility, collaborating to make an impact -- the way AT&T has approached this program was really the closer for me," said Anthony D'Ambrosi, president of Bell Techlogix, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based solution provider and No. 233 on the 2014 CRN Solution Provider 500 list. "The approach AT&T has taken from the executive team on down has really made it easy to do business with them."

D'Ambrosi said AT&T represents the first carrier partner for Bell Techlogix, which has traditionally focused on the end user computing and infrastructure management markets, where it partners with vendors like Cisco, Microsoft and HP.  

At first, D'Ambrosi was hesitant to partner with AT&T, fearing the size of the company might make it difficult, or slow, to work with. When he learned, however, that AT&T Partner Exchange was being hosted within its own dedicated business unit -- the AT&T Emerging Business Markets Group -- those fears dissolved.

"I had all the typical trepidations about partnering with AT&T," D'Ambrosi said. "But I was promised that this is not the traditional AT&T. This is a new unit within AT&T that wants to go to market a different way."

The fact that AT&T Partner Exchange resides outside the $128.8 billion telecom giant in its own dedicated unit has made access to AT&T channel executives and account managers quick and seamless, D'Ambrosi said.

"We can go to market, provide feedback on any challenges and see an impact and improvement," D'Ambrosi said. "The responsiveness with which the AT&T team works with us… it's just been a tremendous differentiator."

Chris Mountzouris, director of operations at Reno, Nev.-based solution provider Network Services, said his company has been doing business with AT&T for years in the telecom market. But it wasn't until the launch of Partner Exchange -- and Network Services' decision to transition some of its AT&T business into that program -- that his communication with AT&T became so strong.

"The quality of the relationship has been so further enhanced with the development of the Partner Exchange group," Mountzouris said. "In the past year or so, our relationship has just strengthened phenomenally. They are batting 1,000 at this point."

NEXT: AT&T's APIs A Game-Changer For Partners

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