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AT&T's Randall Porter: Channel Realignment 'Came at the Exact Right Time'

The program has surpassed 600 solution providers.

James Anderson

March 1, 2018

7 Min Read
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James Anderson

AT&T Partner Exchange is pressing on into 2018 after a successful leadership transition and realignment.

Randall Porter, the recently appointed vice president of the program, told us that Partner Exchange has invested heavily in creating a large portfolio of products and services for its partners. The program now aims to back up those offerings with enablement. Port also encourages partners to look into fiber and IoT, AT&T technologies that are now moving “down-market.”

Porter-Randall_ATT.jpgThe program celebrated its five-year anniversary two weeks ago. We spoke to Porter about how the program has changed and his experience taking the baton of leadership from Brooks McCorcle.

We have edited the interview transcript for length and clarity.

Channel Partners: As someone who has been part of this program since the beginning, how do things feel the same, and how do they feel different?

Randall Porter: Three things. When we launched back in the day, Emerging Business Markets was the name of the organization, and the first big initiative that we wanted to launch was AT&T Partner Exchange. That was focused on the midmarket. What we had heard was players and businesses in that market didn’t necessarily always want to do business with directly with AT&T, and that’s not because they didn’t like AT&T. But they were looking for differentiated solutions where a trusted adviser could help them with not only their networking, but actual business solutions applications as well. So that was the whole extent of where we started with the program, and we also looked at multiple other emerging business markets as well.

What’s kind of changed since then is focus. [With] the AT&T partner exchange now being integrated with AT&T Partner Solutions, there’s no doubt about we’re about — and it’s all about enablement in the indirect market. And for us, that really means serving up our best-in-class networking, whether that be on the IP networking side or on the mobile side, but enabling solution providers to utilize our best-in-class networking to then offer differentiated value solutions to that midmarket segment of the business.

Focus is No. 1. No. 2 is around automation. We made a pivot early on to say we were truly going to automate and make an efficient channel. That meant a heavy investment in APIs, for quoting, understanding what’s going on in provisioning (service assurance, etc.) and then now ordering as well, with our recent launch of the API ordering on the broadband side too.

Finally, what we also realized, probably a year in, was that enablement was going to have to extend not only from our solution set but to the actual experience as well. Because of the nature of these solution providers, each one is created differently. Each one [has a] certain set of expertise … but in some cases they also need help, whether that be with billing, whether it be with clock management. We created our investment development program, where we would co-fund development in these solution providers to allow them to …

… truly meet the entire end-to-end need of their end users.

CP: As one of Brooks McCorcle’s main lieutenants over the years, what was the transition of speaking to employees and partners as the new face of the organization?

RP: We miss Brooks immensely. She was a trailblazer and a culture-first leader. We would not be where we are today had it noy been for her leadership early on across all aspects of the business. She had the vision; she had the execution, created the culture — created the environment where we can get the investment to now be here five years later. So obviously we miss her immensely and her leadership.

But I’ll tell you — the change came at the exact right time. We had gone from basically startup with zero customers and zero revenue, and over the past five years built an incredible foundation. 600 partners now. Each and every month is better than the last. What we needed was the scale to be able to build off that foundation and now accelerate. Not only from an AT&T Partner Exchange standpoint, but from an AT&T standpoint focused in the indirect market.

That creation of AT&T Partner Solutions with Zee [Hussain] at the helm … now having Alliance, ACC and [Partner Exchange] all together really solidified AT&T’s commitment to the channel … and now gives us that trampoline to accelerate that growth on that foundation that Brooks built.

CP: You recommended partners look into fiber and IoT opportunities in your latest blog. Could you talk further about those opportunities? Are there any other niches?

RP: Our focus is all about enablement for our solution providers, and each approaches the market a little bit differently. When you kind of net it out to the core need (especially when it comes to AT&T), it is the network. And when you talk about growth opportunities, [they’re] in IP and fiber … mobile and now spreading to IoT as well. For the past three years, that’s where we’ve been maniacally focused and making sure we had the right solutions, and then enabled those solutions with the right experience.

From a fiber standpoint, it’s been all about extending our breadth and reach in the market. As we’ve quoted, we’re going to invest $20 billion this year [AT&T’s overall capital expenditures] … more than any other carrier out there to ensure that we continue to have the best network available. What that means from a business standpoint is, more business locations that will be lit with that fiber, both in our traditional LEC footprint — and now we’re aggressively moving outside that footprint as well.

And that’s exciting for solution providers, because historically, AT&T direct hasn’t covered those out-of-region markets as extensively, especially the mid and lower business segments. So that creates an immediate opportunity for these solution providers to penetrate into new markets [with] fiber.

We’ve also made some changes around the service set as well for our dedicated internet, layer 3 product, ASE (AT&T Switched Ethernet), some changes that we’re going to be making specific to those services as well that are going to allow them to utilize those fiber-based products in their solutions.

On the mobile side, we started there almost four years ago with traditional smartphones and mobile handsets. Obviously what you’ve seen in this market is tremendous …

… opportunity now with each and every business looking to mobilize different applications within the business, make it more efficient, create new opportunities to track assets, to understand fleet [and]the development of smart cities. All of these things are now pushing down-market into this midmarket space where these solution providers have those relationships.

What we’re doing is serving those same key IoT platforms and services that you’ve seen us take broadly to large auto [companies] and retailers. We’re now serving up those same technologies and platforms to our solution providers to enable them to serve their end users.

No other reseller program today is doing that on a mobile and IoT basis, so we’re creating tremendous opportunity there, and we’re getting great traction as well.

CP: Is there anything else you want to add?

RP: It’s been an incredible five years. You mentioned it in terms of the transition from Brooks to Zee. It has been seamless. That transition time frame was perfect for the market, bringing our indirect channels underneath AT&T Partner Solutions. Obviously from my standpoint, it’s 100-percent focused on AT&T Partner Exchange and our 600 [solution providers]. We were talking at our Atlanta regional event about what’s next. Our commitment there is really all around the experience. We’ve invested a tremendous amount in the last three years around the solutions, around the APIs, on the front end from an ordering standpoint. We’re also making significant investments around service management and assurance. That’s one of the keys that the solution providers are looking for once they’ve sold them and implemented [them]; they want to understand that the carrier is backing them from a management standpoint as well.

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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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