Windstream Channel Chief: Partners Eager for New, Post-Bankruptcy ChapterWindstream Channel Chief: Partners Eager for New, Post-Bankruptcy Chapter
Windstream's exit from chapter 11 bankruptcy is expected midyear.
March 11, 2020
That’s according to Matt Milliron, Windstream’s channel chief and head of strategic channels. He has been in this role since November.
Windstream Enterprise hired Milliron last year as the successor-in-waiting, allowing Curt Allen, previously president of strategic channels, to transition into an advisory role. Before becoming channel chief, Milliron led development of the channel integration program.
Earlier this month, Windstream announced two key agreements that help it move closer to exiting bankruptcy. It reached a settlement with Uniti Group, to which it had owed a $650 million yearly lease for accessing network assets. The settlement was reached just before the issue would have gone to trial.
Windstream’s Matt Milliron
In addition, Windstream announced that its first lien creditors have agreed to its financial restructuring plan. The plan is said to reduce Windstream’s debt by $4 billion.
In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Milliron talks about what he’s been up to since becoming channel chief and what partners can expect when Windstream emerges from bankruptcy.
Channel Partners: Now that the Uniti issue has been settled, is there any latest information that partners need to know regarding the chapter 11 process? Is emerging from chapter 11 coming soon?
Matt Milliron: We are thrilled to be moving forward into a brighter tomorrow. Our leadership has done an excellent job securing our financial future, as well as strengthening our ability to service both our customers and our partners during the technology shift that is occurring in our space. This settlement allows us to finalize our go-forward business model as well as file [our] reorganization [plan] to emerge from restructuring directionally during the middle part of this year.
When we do emerge from restructuring, we will deliver on our commitment over the past year to be a business with greatly enhanced financial flexibility, as well as a strong plan of investment into transformative solutions. It’s an exciting time to be part of Windstream. It’s an exciting time for partners to continue to build on the momentum that they have had historically and currently.
CP: What all have you been up to since becoming channel chief last November?
MM: The focus since assuming the role in [the fourth quarter] has been on ensuring that our channel integration approach has been successfully launched across the nation. This was developed as the go-forward, go-to-market strategy for our channel program. So our channel leaders and our peers have a great deal of passion for the success of this approach. It’s one thing to discuss how we want a specific thing or specific program to work; it’s a completely different thing to educate, construct and deploy the framework that affords for scalability and embraces the customer and the partner experience. So a big portion of our time inside our channel program since the fourth quarter has been rolling out this program nationally. However, aside from deepening our reach within channel integration, our team has been laser focused on three main objectives. The first being recruiting. onboarding and developing our newly constructed national business development teams. The second is preparing to launch our brand new partner portal that we’re extremely proud of and excited to get into the hands of our partners. And the third, we’ve started to evaluate a new learning management system tool that will cater to …
… the education of our partners and potentially allow us to develop certification programs more enhanced from what they are today.
CP: What’s driving the need for the increase in education and training?
MM: Our business over the past couple years has transformed and pivoted to more of the modern age solutions. Those solutions are more complex in nature than circuits and basic telephony solutions. We want to make sure that as our partners continue to go deeper into the stock of customer needs and desires upon their topology, that we are arming them and matching them effort for effort with the tools that will allow them to be successful inside of those complex solutions. So our investment plan is to continue to drive awareness and education, both as industry insights as well as our Windstream Enterprise portfolio offering insights.
CP: Is the channel integration program complete or is there more work to be done?
MM: Part of our business model is to continue to assess, constantly evaluate, look at best practices regionally and geographically, and expand upon those in areas that we can see improvement. With that said, we have rolled out channel integration nationally. We continue to see remarkable results from our channel integration program as well. If indications reveal anything, it would say that this program has quite a future for us. We have seen some large new logo marquee names become customers of ours through this program, and our funnels of opportunity of large, multi-towered solutions prospects. We are also grounded in the fact that the keys to the success of this program are our partner experience and customer experience, and making sure that we’re constantly evaluating best approaches to continue to move the ball forward as we progress in redefining and redeveloping the definition of partnership.
CP: What sort of feedback are you receiving from partners with chapter 11 exit approaching?
MM: Our partners are as eager as we are to get to the end of this chapter and turn the page to the next chapter of our story. Internally, our focus has been and continues to be on that next chapter. Our business afforded us the increase in investments and resources, and market-leading solutions in order to prepare us for that forward future view. I can tell you that I’m an optimist by nature, but our future looks bright and our partners are seeing the change. The reception we have seen being granted by our partners is strong and gaining more momentum daily. I talk to partners and receive messages from partners everyday applauding the changes we’re making. And they all are looking forward to continued success as we continue to build this program.
CP: What’s the latest in terms of momentum in SD-WAN and UCaaS?
MM: Similar to other suppliers with great histories of heritage services, I would tell you the past couple years for us have been …
… around transforming, reshaping and hardening our business processes, including our go-to-market sales strategy, service delivery and customer support just to name a few. With that said, today SD-WAN and UCaaS represent almost two-thirds of our monthly sales volumes in our enterprise unit. In just a few short years, the considerable investment that the business has continues to push the envelope in capabilities of our offerings, and has allowed us to move on to the Gartner Magic Quadrant with over 550,000 UCaaS seats installed, as well as amass over 3,200 SD-WAN customers representing almost 30,000 endpoint locations. In reality though, there is still a large market of opportunity out there. And as momentum continues to increase in the industry as well as inside of our organization, we are fully prepared to continue to recognize and match that energy with our partners.
When you pair these technologies with the scale of our organization, the resources committed both in technology, subject-matter experts and vertical SMEs, [and] with our go-to-market strategy, we fully believe that that’s the winning formula for tomorrow.
CP: Coronavirus is presenting challenges for businesses everywhere. Can Windstream and its partners help them with their needs?
MM: Absolutely 100%. In fact, we’ve seen a large increase just in the past week or two of requests with demonstrations of our UCaaS offerings and some of the other technology tools within our partnership community. Our business mostly operates already in a remote work environment. Our whole channel organization operates that way today. We believe we practice what we go out there and we evangelize to our partners and the community. And so not only are we prepared from a solution standpoint, we’re also prepared from a personal use case that is able to drive that awareness out to the edge of our partners and their end users.
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