It's always interesting to hear channel leaders speak candidly.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

October 8, 2018

5 Min Read

The big kahunas made themselves available to subagents at last week’s Intelisys Channel Connect conference.

One of the channel’s largest gatherings featured a “Channel Chief Council,” featuring five of the biggest technology companies that sell indirectly – namely Verizon, Comcast, 8×8, CenturyLink and AT&T.

The companies offered up their leaders to give a brief channel update and later answer several questions from the audience. While they gave some interesting off-the-cuff answers to the various lines of inquiry, we will focus here on how each channel chief described the state of his partner program.

Below we have given you the CliffsNotes version of the panel, in alphabetical order of vendors.

John DeLozier, 8×8


8×8’s John DeLozier

DeLozier, who joined the unified communications provider in the summer after leaving CenturyLink, expressed the confidence that vendors like 8×8 have in their market opportunity.

Andrew Pryfogle suggested in his keynote speech that the UCaaS is worth $150 billion and is less than 10 percent penetrated to boot.

DeLozier said 8×8 and its partners have a leg up on the competitors that are working to migrate to the cloud. He said the 8×8 platform is “developed for the cloud.”

“We are the only company in that space that owns our own thing. 165 patents. We literally establish our applications for the cloud,” DeLozier said. “We’re not having to make it a hybrid thing. We’re not having to switch over something.”

And partners are set to benefit from 8×8’s value proposition. Channel partners landed 90 percent of the company’s sales in the most recent quarter.

“There is no channel conflict. We like that. Our goal is to go to the market through the channel,” he said.

Zee Hussain, AT&T


AT&T’s Zee Hussain

Our recent interview with J.D. Baker of ACC Business helped review 2018 for the AT&T indirect channel, but during the panel, Channel Chief Zee Hussain shed light on all three programs within AT&T Partner Solutions.

A couple of changes for partners — aside from the impending arrival of 5G — are the ability to sell AT&T’s FirstNet platform to first responders and the opportunity to reach new health care accounts.

Hussain told the crowd of partners that the simple act of listening has brought “tremendous” success. For example, a partner suggested in conversation that AT&T Partner Solutions needed to invest further in ACC Business, and less than a month later, AT&T had pledged to increase the boutique program’s sales force by 50 percent.

“Our partners told us, ‘You need to have a more competitive comp plan. You need to invest in resources in the channel to support us better. You need to make sure that you eliminate as much of the channel conflict as possible,'” Hussain said

Garrett Gee, CenturyLink


CenturyLink’s Garrett Gee

The channel media have beaten to death news and analysis of the CenturyLink-Level 3 merger, but we promise CenturyLink brought up the subject this time around.

Garrett Gee, who led Level 3’s channel before eventually taking the helm of the combined company’s indirect efforts, said that although the companies are on a gradual path to unification, there are positive sentiments about the channel.

Although the program awaits the day when it has a “single set of tools and solutions,” Gee said he and his team elected to make speedy yet decisive integration plans to put partners on the right path.

“Certainly we’re not yet ready to declare victory. Any integration is a journey. You look at network assets and you look at products and things like that,” Gee said. “We certainly have to rationalize products further. Because we’re in the midst of a contract negotiation, we haven’t restricted our partners from selling on the former CenturyLink or the former Level 3 side, so that introduces complexity. ”

CenturyLink has already declared to partners that it has poured…… new resources into helping partners “stand on their own” in the midst of rumored channel conflict.

Craig Schlagbaum, Comcast


Comcast’s Craig Schlagbaum

The cable company is looking to lead its peers in software-defined networking (SDN). Schlagbaum previously told Channel Partners that Comcast’s combination of a network and an SDN platform gives it a competitive advantage.

And Comcast wants its partners to help to address this “gigantic opportunity.” Schlagbaum said the corporation’s upper leadership are paying more attention to indirect sales.

“They’re very bullish on the channel. Why? because they believe partners are a key route to market that many many customers are going to go to over a direct sales force,” he said.

Bill Hooper, Verizon

The XO Communications Channel Chief turned Verizon man, described the group he leads as Verizon’s “out-of-franchise channel.” That’s because the partner program operates within both Verizon Enterprise Solutions and Verizon Business Markets. Verizon announced a revamped partner program with Hooper at the helm April 2.


Verizon’s Bill Hooper

Intelisys President Jay Bradley agreed with Hooper that Verizon has been posting solid growth numbers in recent months. And the reason for the growth, according to Hooper, is a return to fundamentals.

Hooper recalled his boss asking him — during an uncertain Verizon-XO integration — what was necessary to “invigorate” Verizon’s channel.

“I told him the simplest thing to do is to put channel managers out where subagents are and have the channel managers work with the subagents in those geographic territories and get to know them,” Hooper said. ” Do something with the product pricing, do something with the product set and it’ll happen.”

His feedback quickly took effect and Verizon increased to 15 channel managers for the out-of-franchise channel.

Many of these channel chiefs will be on hand this week at the Channel Partners Evolution conference in Philadelphia.

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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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