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AT&T Business Celebrates 'Breakthrough Bet' on the Channel

It took a big investment from the top down.

James Anderson

November 8, 2018

5 Min Read
Zee Hussain and Thaddeus Arroyo
AT&T's Zee Hussain and Thaddeus Arroyo do a fireside chat.

(Pictured above: AT&T’s Zee Hussain and Thaddeus Arroyo (right) on stage at AT&T Fusion this week in Plano, Texas.)

AT&T Business leaders say their organization has undergone a cultural shift.

Anne Chow, president of National Business for AT&T Business, said the company’s solution providers have noticed a different vibe since the realignment of AT&T Partner Solutions.

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AT&T’s Anne Chow

“The feedback that we’ve gotten from partners is extremely positive,” Chow told Channel Partners. “They’ve actually said to us, ‘This is a very different AT&T.'”

Chow and AT&T Business CEO Thaddeus Arroyo appeared at this week’s AT&T Fusion event in Plano, Texas, and spoke to an audience of Partner Exchange and Alliance Channel members.

A keynote session at the event stressed the investment AT&T Partner Solutions is calling on its solution providers to make. We also got a glimpse into why the larger AT&T organization has been increasing its investment in AT&T Partner Solutions. Arroyo stressed the importance of the role partners play.

“You’re building a relationship. You’re providing the technology and the intimacy with that customer. Our job here is to put a lens on that, and [channel chief] Zee [Hussain]’s job and what he does effectively every day is to make sure that, as we think through it, we don’t just think of our retail channel. We think of how we’re going to support our indirect channel,” Arroyo said.

Chow said AT&T in recent years came to see the channel as a primary means of growth. And the corporation is publicly expressing that priority.

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AT&T’s Thaddeus Arroyo

“In the past we would be characterized as saying, ‘Indirect is a supplemental strategy,'” Chow said. “And I would say to you that was very much true.”

She said channel partners add diversity to AT&T’s go-to-market strategy — and customers want diverse options.

“We know that customers want to gauge and buy and build relationships and be serviced in many different ways. Our growth strategy is one which is based on expanding our coverage of the market. We want to do that not just through our direct sales force, but we want to do that through channel partners,” she said.

Investing in the channel meant more than allocating funds. It also meant taking feedback from partners. Chow said early meetings last year with AT&T’s top solution providers gave her a good starting point for the realignment.

“They told me that they were really excited about it, but they also shared with me several friction points because there wasn’t synchronization across the programs,” she said. “They didn’t to feel that we had a unified approach.”

What followed was a year of convergence among AT&T’s three indirect programs — Partner Exchange, Alliance Channel and ACC Business. The company at multiple points this year gave programs access to products, services and resources that were previously exclusive to one program. One was Tuesday’s announcement about Partner Exchange and Alliance Channel getting their hands on a few of each other’s offerings. Hussain told Channel Partners that new funds went to bolstering the ACC and Alliance sales teams and building Partner Exchange’s technology platform.

All of this formed a major gamble that AT&T was taking with the channel. And for Hussain, as he alluded to in his keynote, he was betting …

… his very job on it. A year later, AT&T Business executives are seeing the yield.

“It was a breakthrough bet, and I sit here a year later with you and tell you that I don’t regret that at all,” Chow said. “In fact, I think we can do more.”

Four-Headed Monster

Hussain reiterated AT&T’s technological vision. To put it in brief: Fiber leads to 5G, 5G enables the internet of things, and the internet of things requires more security.

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Mach Networks’ Don Ochoa

It’s a message Hussain has consistently delivered to partners.

One offering layered into that four-point vision is software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), which AT&T launched last year.

Mach Networks CEO Don Ochoa touched on the subject of SD-WAN, which has been his company’s fastest growing segment. Mach told the partner audience that wireless failover is one of the biggest selling points for the technology.

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AT&T’s Randall Porter

“One thing is sure: Wireless WAN technology is changing our industry. Networks are getting faster. Latencies are getting lower,” Ochoa said. “Connectivity is getting more affordable, and frankly, solutions can be deployed in days – even hours – instead of weeks or months while you’re waiting for maybe a broadband connection to be installed.”

Randall Porter, vice president of AT&T Partner Exchange, also noted that backup is one of the big draws for SD-WAN. Although some of AT&T’s rival carriers have pushed SD-WAN as something of a standalone product, AT&T has touted its platform in a more holistic fashion.

“For us, it looks like big growth in AT&T Dedicated Internet Service and Shared Internet Service for backup and failover and LTE for backup and failover,” he said.

Porter took leadership of Partner Exchange last November, and he described his experience to Channel Partners in a Q&A earlier this year.

 

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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