AT&T Revamps Partner Exchange With New Tier Structure And More

AT&T Monday revamped its AT&T Partner Exchange program with new features for solution providers, saying the channel is going to play a larger part in AT&T's distribution strategy.

Brooks McCorcle, president of AT&T Partner Solutions, told CRN that the new features include brand-new investment development funds and additions to its API platform, all designed to accelerate solution providers' evolution to a recurring revenue model and increase their success in the marketplace.

"We believe that indirect channels going forward will be a big part of AT&T's distribution strategy," said McCorcle. "They want to own the end-user customer and that means there are things they're going to have to do which maybe they haven’t done in the past like have a 24/7 operation center, like being able to build recurring telecom revenue."

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AT&T Partner Exchange was launched in February 2013 and was designed to grow AT&T's presence in the midmarket space with solution providers that could wrap services around the company's offerings. In February 2014, Dallas-based AT&T said it would invest $300 million into the program over the next three years.

The new investment development funds for solution providers come on top of already supplied MDF, and additions to its open API platform include billing-as-a-service from suppliers to encourage solution providers to create unique ways to do service availability, quoting and ordering, according to McCorcle.

"The desire is to have the API platform span the entire customer life cycle, so at the end of the day the solution provider owns that customer experience end to end," said McCorcle.

Bruce Flitcroft, founder and CEO of Alliant Technologies, a Morristown, N.J.-based solution provider and longtime AT&T partner, said Alliant's recurring revenue has risen "dramatically" since joining AT&T Partner Exchange two years ago.

"They're now doubling down on their commitment to the development of this program and strategy, which is good news -- they're re-upping their channel commitment," said Flitcroft. "It's the only way the channel is going to survive, by getting really good at the recurring revenue model, whether it's public cloud, private cloud, utility models or managed service models. You've got to start getting good at one of them or you're not going to survive for long."

Robert Short, vice president of consulting and business development at UpNetworx, a telecom solution provider and AT&T partner, said the API platform and new development funding will help UpNetworx invest internally.

"This really demonstrates the commitment AT&T is investing internally and externally," said Short.

AT&T also reduced its tier structure from three to two, which now include Platinum and Elite levels, meaning some solution providers will now have access to better pricing and additional benefits, including more MDF, said McCorcle. AT&T also enhanced its Certification Achievement Program by adding new Professional and Master tiers to help partners advance their abilities to effectively sell and create fully integrated solutions for customers.

"If you want to transform your business and start collecting recurring revenue, you can sell a managed service -- managing and monitoring whatever the network elements they sell to the end user, and they can resell telecom services, data, mobility, voice and they can sell those services and make that part of a solution," said McCorcle. "We're selling AT&T service to solution providers at a discount that they then mark up to the customer."

There are currently more than 275 solution providers in AT&T Partner Exchange. McCorcle said the program is not made for tens of thousands of partners.

"It's for a group of solution providers who want to transform their business, who have the capability or desire to have the product understanding and design a full end-to-end solution, the ability to care for that customer through the whole customer life cycle," said McCorcle. "It's going to continue to grow; we're going to add products to it and we're going to take the functionality of AT&T Partner Exchange and we're going to start to pour it over to other parts of the business."