CRN Exclusive: Verizon's Schijns On XO Integration, Partner Program Revamp And How Not Selling Connectivity Hurts Cloud Ambitions

All About Partners

Now that telecom giant Verizon has closed its acquisition of XO Communications, Janet Schijns, executive vice president of solution and sales channels for Verizon Business Markets, has integration on her mind.

Schijns sat down with CRN to talk about the carrier's overall channel strategy, how XO partners are being brought into the fold, and exclusive details on what the soon-to-be-combined Verizon/XO partner program will look like. Schijns also weighed in on ScanSource-owned Intelisys' acquisition of Verizon-exclusive master agent Kingcom, how the newly inked deal will impact partners, and the opportunities that channel consolidation is presenting to VAR and agent partners.

Here's what Schijns had to say.

How is the XO integration going and what will the combined partner program will look like?

As we are working through the [integration], we decided we are going to do this right, not fast. We are going to build a new channel program. In fact, the channel has already all committed to helping us redesign the program. This will be the first program built for the partners, by the partners.

The program will be 100 percent partner-created and supported by Verizon, giving VARs and agents what they need to serve SMBs and go to the top with them. We are excited to hear [our partners'] input and take the best of what we had in the XO program, and the best of what we had in the Verizon Partner Program and Mass Markets Channel.

Can you give us some early details about what partners can expect from the program?

We are happy to announce through CRN that the program will be revenue-based -- total-bill-revenue based is going to be the major program change. We will also offer dedicated customer care and support with program implementation managers [PIMs] dedicated to our Platinum partners, who will each have their own PIM. Those are two of the sizable changes we know will be coming. We will continue to offer MDF, automation, and will still be our platform.

We will have more details on the partner program as we move into the second half of the year.

In the meantime, what does this mean for existing XO partners?

XO partners are still XO partners today with the same channel team until we have a new program. But right now, we have a referral program in place so if [XO partners] want to sell a Verizon product, we have a way for them to do that either through one of our partners or our direct team partnering with them and co-selling.

We are excited to have Bill Hooper [pictured, vice president, partner channel at XO Communications, now a Verizon Company] who is a known channel leader ,on board. I'm so honored to have him on my team, leading the XO channel.

Talk about the ScanSource/Intelisys acquisition of Verizon-exclusive master agent Kingcom, and how this consolidation will impact partners?

Intelisys is our largest XO partner and is also a very good Verizon partner -- they actually did a lot of their Verizon business through Kingcom. Kingcom has a very strong back office and was one of the largest Verizon partners. Those two now together with ScanSource means we have XO and Verizon together in a single operating model with the ability to bring VARs into the fold. By bringing all this together, Mike Baur [ScanSource's co-founder and CEO] is saying, 'I am going to help you.' They are educating VARs on network, communications and security with Verizon at the lead, and we are honored.

Will this acquisition change the commission structure for former Kingcom partners?

It won't change commissions -- everything stays the same. Our first message is 'Do no harm,' and [that's] the caveat before helping people grow is having that sense of stability. So, the same experience partners have had with Kingcom will be the same thing moving forward -- the same compensation and same level in the program.

What is the missed opportunity, and possible negative implications, for partners that aren't selling carrier services today?

Business customers are going to buy connectivity from somewhere, and the problem is many VARs have not yet completely pulled in connectivity. There are two misses there -- one is the revenue opportunity with connectivity services they are missing and the ability to make money on these services.

The second miss -- and this is the harder part of the story -- is if your network isn't sized right. According to Verizon research, 78 percent of networks are insufficient for what the cloud provider decided to sell. We've seen it time and time again -- the network is not being provisioned right or secured. And then the VAR gets a call because the application they deployed isn't working for their customer -- that [VAR's] revenue and reputation just got massively impacted because they failed to handle the network piece. That’s where this VAR becoming an agent trend is so meaningful -- it's that trusted adviser role.

Is Verizon actively recruiting new partners?

The answer is no. We believe we have enough partners and I've been stressing that because we have very loyal Verizon and XO partners who do a fabulous job of taking in new partners under their umbrella -- both our VARs as well as our master agent partners. These partners have really invested in us as we've grown the program, so we will continue to invest in them and empower their businesses to grow. We want to value that commitment as opposed to jumping to the next commitment.

Our strategy is: the smallest group of partners for the best results for our customers. We believe we have that elite group of partners today.