What Does The Next-Generation Solution Provider Look Like? Top Channel Leaders Weigh In

Imminent Change

Predicting the future is a near-impossible feat, but that doesn't mean solution providers shouldn't be thinking about how to evolve their businesses to better meet the future needs of their customers. At the same time, making this pivot will also mean grooming the next generation of channel leaders to take over at the helm.

CRN caught up with four of the top channel executives in the cloud and telecom space and asked them what they think solution providers need to focus on to earn future business, what their own companies are doing to nurture younger talent, and what the channel partner of the future will look like. Here's what they had to say.

Craig Schlagbaum, Vice President of Indirect Channels, Comcast

Just doing commission-only as a pure agent partner, that’s like having an insurance agency that can sell a book of business, but don’t have any intellectual property that's an asset in which you can earn a multiple from. So, I think the partner of the future, not that it's fully defined yet, will be a partner who has services they sell on behalf of service providers for which they derive commissions, services that they built themselves, and services from other third-parties that they might rebill. It will be a combination of all of those things -- if you're just a pure VAR reselling hardware, you're never going to get a good multiple on that business, similarity, pure agents and brokers won't earn a good premium on those services in the long-run.

Lisa McLin, Channel Chief, Rackspace

Rackspace is getting ready for the next generation of the channel. We have a staff channel enablement team -- they are actually in their mid-twenties -- but they are telling us how they would like to be educated. It's about solution selling, not product selling, and solving for business outcomes. Partners should always be managing their business, but preparing for the next technology wave at the same time.

Scott Peterson, General Manager and Vice President, Verizon Business Markets

I think there needs to be a return to some leadership human-ability in terms of how we interact with each other, how we develop our leadership, and how we partner and collaborate to solve end user issues -- those are still the basics. Although the profile of employees at the different companies is going to get younger, the fundamentals of leading with gratitude, rewarding success, and being clear in your goals, all of those things still resonate across generations. I think it's good that people are thinking about leading the right way and setting the right example for the influx of younger workers, but I'm not sure there needs to be a brand new secret sauce when it comes to the solution provider of the future.

Zee Hussain, Channel Chief, AT&T Partner Solutions, AT&T Business

From a company standpoint, AT&T has moved from a slower, highly propriety hardware-based company, to a much more nimble, virtualized software company. Our goal is that partners are able to turn up services at their fingertips, powered by A.I. and analytics. The world is going toward software solutions, so we want to make it as easy as possible to attach networking services to those solutions as part of the package, because to access the cloud, you need connectivity. From a channel standpoint, I want to understand how to make connectivity frictionless so that these new solution providers can include it in their bundles, and we'd be viable in that new world and have a huge competitive advantage.