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AppSmart says businesses want to reduce the number of technology advisers they work with.
March 30, 2020
Earlier this month, AppSmart not only announced the strategic hiring of Renee Bergeron, formerly a top cloud executive with distributor Ingram Micro, as senior vice president and general manager, but the company also made several other significant changes to its leadership team.
These changes combined with AppDirect’s acquisition of WTG and NeoCloud in 2018 and Telegration and CNSG in 2019, solidify the growth objective for AppDirect’s AppSmart business unit that bills itself as the channel-led, one-stop shop for all B2B technology services.
In her new job for less than one month, Bergeron chatted with Channel Futures to provide some insight on where the company is headed and relationship with channel partners.
Channel Futures: Tell us about AppSmart today.
AppSmart’s Renee Bergeron
Renee Bergeron: AppDirect is one of the leading e-commerce platforms globally, and we make it available to technology advisers that help businesses become digital. We help them by removing friction and providing them with the technology they need to help and solve business problems for their end customers.
AppSmart is a marketplace where technology advisers can come to learn about different solutions and to order and provision services for their customers. The AppSmart Marketplace offers a catalog of applications and services from leading providers and is powered by AppDirect technology.
CF: Who else uses the AppDirect e-commerce platform?
RB: The AppDirect platform is licensed to a number of companies around the world who are using it as their go to market engine for digital services — companies like British Telecom (BT), ADP and Telstra are some examples. AppSmart is an instance of this being powered by the AppDirect platform.
CF: What is AppSmart’s relationship with partners?
RB: AppSmart comes from a number of acquisitions that have been consolidated over the past few years, such as WTG, Telegration, CNSG and NeoCloud. These acquisitions help bring together the capabilities, the expertise, the provider relationships that we needed, as a basis, to establish the business.
Today, what’s unique about AppSmart, and one of the key things that attracted me to the AppDirect company, is our ability to help the transformation that is going on in the channel.
CF: I believe what you’re referring to is convergence in the channel — right?
RB: We all see that the technology channels are converging. Businesses are looking to reduce the number of technology advisers [that they work with]. Historically, when technology was on premises, businesses had a number of different providers that brought different expertise — so many they worked with a telco agent to get their telecommunication services, a traditional channel partner for their on-premises equipment, and they may have worked with a systems integrator to get their business applications.
With the cloud, all of these channels are converging, and businesses are looking to reduce the number of technology advisers.
What’s exciting and unique about the AppSmart value proposition is that we can help these technology advisers that are looking to support their customers with all the variety of technology; we can provide it.
CF: What technology does AppSmart provide?
RB: We combine a catalog of telecommunication services such as fixed voice lines, fixed data lines or mobile services with a rich catalog of SaaS solutions and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions — so it’s really the first digital catalog that is made available to partners that want to take advantage of this need that customers have to work with fewer advisers, who can get more of their customer’s wallet.
CF: I’m a channel partner. Why would AppSmart be more attractive to me than any other marketplace?
RB: If you look at all of the other marketplaces, they’ll either offer telecommunication services or SaaS and IaaS services; there is no marketplace today that offers both. We bring this together in a single catalog. That’s powerful for technology advisers that want to be end-to-end providers for their customers.
CF: Isn’t it likely that partners will still have to go to more than one marketplace to service their customers?
RB: We don’t think so. We think this [a combined marketplace] is a benefit, selecting one marketplace. We believe that technology advisers will …
… land in a marketplace because of everything that they can get from that marketplace.
One thing is clearly the catalog. Another element is the functionality of the marketplace, and you can argue that some are ahead of others, but certainly we feel at AppDirect that we’re making massive investments in born-in-the-cloud platform, not a legacy platform.
Another element that matters and differentiates our value proposition is the cloud management suite. This is a suite of services that we make available to all of our partners and their customers. Some of these services are unique. Here are [two] examples: AppSmart Help, that’s our help desk for all of our technology advisers and their customers; [and] AppSmart Identity, a single identity management platform that a technology adviser can provide to their customers to provide access to all of their apps via single sign-on.
CF: Talk about your role overseeing the next phase of growth at AppSmart. What will that look like?
RB: If you look at where AppSmart is today, we’ve done a tremendous job at developing expertise and a catalog of solutions to meet the needs of agents operating in the telecommunications world. In parallel, we’ve also done the same to meet the needs of technology advisers that are focused more on the software and infrastructure.
The next phase of the company’s growth will be pulling these two things into one and to help partners, regardless of what they focused on, historically, to gain the skills, knowledge and expertise, and to rely on our ability to support them from a go-to-market standpoint to offer more solutions to their customers.
So, if you’re an agent focused on telecommunication services, now you have an opportunity for your customer’s sake to offer more solutions, to go into software, infrastructure — and we’ll bring the enablement services and the expertise the partner needs to be successful selling these new services to their customer base.
That’s the next phase of growth for our company. I firmly believe that’s the next growth opportunity for all our technology advisers and partners.
CF: Currently, which are the partner types AppDirect works with?
RB: We have traditional technology advisers who have focused on telecommunication services — agents, master agents, subagents; we also have MSPs, resellers, VARs that have evolved into selling software and infrastructure hosted in the cloud; we’re also seeing some system integrators coming to the AppSmart family. It’s a mixture, due to the fact that all of the technology channels are converging and are offering digital services.
CF: You sound very optimistic about channel convergence — more so than what I hear.
RB: Channel convergence is progressive. We’ve been talking about it for years, knowing that this is going to happen. I agree with you that [channels] aren’t converged today. I think some of the elements that are going to make it happen faster are ease of access and reducing friction for partners — and that’s what we do.
One of the things that we’re seeing during [the progression of COVID-19], we’re focused on helping agents and technology advisers and their customers with remote workforce solutions. We’ve created a number of remote bundles and a series of webinars. Some of these remote bundles converge telecommunications services with SaaS, and in some cases, IaaS. Once you’ve got access, then as different situations unfold around the world, they create opportunities to leverage these converged technologies.
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