AT&T Taps New Partner Exchange Leader, Hones 5G, Security, IoT

The carrier has lofty goals for its channel programs in 2019.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

February 5, 2019

10 Min Read

AT&T has appointed a new leader for its Partner Exchange channel program.

Randall Porter, who took the helm of the reseller program in late 2017, is changing roles, accepting a new position as national vice president of select accounts. He is still working under Anne Chow and AT&T’s national business unit, but his new position focuses on direct sales. Sara Straley, who has worked with Porter at Partner Exchange since the program’s genesis, will succeed him.


AT&T’s Sara Straley

“I’ve been with the program since the very beginning and have worked hand-in-hand with Randall over the last six years. We’ve built a strong team and a best-in-class reseller program,” Straley wrote on LinkedIn.

Zee Hussain, senior vice president and channel chief of AT&T Partner Solutions (APS), informed Channel Partners of the news this week (more on that later in this Q&A). Hussain oversees Partner Exchange, AT&T Alliance Channel and ACC Business. We spoke to him about 2018 in review and his expectations for 2019.

Here’s our list of channel people on the move in January.

We have edited the transcript for length and clarity.

Channel Partners: What are your highlights from 2018?


AT&T’s Zee Hussain

Zee Hussain: Without question, our biggest highlight was the fact that the combined AT&T Partner Solutions channel grew north of 70 percent. When we brought Alliance Channel, ACC [and] Partner Exchange together … bringing these organizations under one roof, going off to the market [and] letting them know that we’re doubling down on our investment in the channel. We’re going to invest in the experience. We’re going to invest in channel resources. We’re going to invest in enablement. It will be well received externally, but as we think of all three of these organizations being semi-mature and bringing them together and executing — the fact we were able to deliver such strong growth was absolutely my number one highlight of the year. At Fusion (partner summit), that sentiment was echoed by other very prominent leaders in the business. You had Thaddeus [Arroyo], our CEO, up there talking about how happy he was with the investments. You had Mo [Katibeh] talking about the fact that he had challenged this group of solution providers, and they had answered the call. They’re extremely bullish about what the future holds for us.

First and foremost was the fact that we were able to deliver such tremendous growth for AT&T. But we couldn’t have grown that way without a lot of our solution providers growing as well. So certainly this was a win-win both ways.

It was a year of transformation, as you know. We made a lot of announcements around the fact that we were going to a state-of-the-art portal that would power all channels (powered by Salesforce), and that would elevate the experience of our solutions models. We transformed the compensation model. We transformed a lot of the ways that the solution providers engage with us — whether that was tooling, whether that was …

… enabling. I would say my second highlight was the sheer number of positive things that we were able to bring to the channel. That is a huge testament to the team here at AT&T Partner Solutions.

Certainly Fusion was a huge highlight. Bringing them all together and doing an event that we believed would be the best in the industry really lived up to its promise. When I looked at the
NPS scores of the event afterward, our solution providers just absolutely loved it. Comments like, “We believe AT&T’s never been more serious about their investment in the channel.”

CP: What are your predictions and goals for 2019?

ZH: Success begets success. Big performance in a year requires you to perform again. We are in 2019 with similarly bullish goals. Without question my goal is to be standing in front of you at Fusion and sharing that we followed a year where we had substantial growth with another year of pretty significant growth.

With regards to the formula, it’s going to be the exact same thing. It’s going to be the three things that I talked about. It’s going to be continuous investment in our channel programs. It’s going to be looking at enabling more solutions for our solution providers, especially as the world around us is transforming and these trends are disrupting industries. And the third is continuing to be easier and easier to do business with from a solution-provider standpoint.

CP: Do you have any APS updates since Fusion?

ZH: Another thing we heard at Fusion was: Solution providers loved the content in the sense that it gave them very clear direction of where AT&T is going. But they wanted to get a little bit deeper. They wanted to have more technical conversations. “How am I going to package this IoT solution? How am I going to pitch this to customers? What does the post-sales experience look like?” So they had a lot of practical questions, a lot of tactical questions.

We’re going to have five road shows in the first half of the year. These are really to roll up our sleeves and spend time with our partners to share with them AT&T product knowledge and give them opportunity to network with each other for shared learning. We’re going to talk to them about some day-to-day things they do around tooling, compensation, whatnot. These are not going to be as large as Fusion, but they’re going to be pretty sizable. Maybe over two days we would be talking to 100 participants. We’re calling them “Road Shows” for Alliance and Partner Exchange, and we’re going to have them in Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Anaheim.

That’s more around continued investments in the channel. We talked about [market development fund] programs last year. We’re constantly adding resources; that’s [occurring] on an ongoing basis.

With regards to enabling new solutions, we made some big announcements around AlienVault (the cybersecurity provider AT&T acquired last year). We had talked about a couple of IoT solutions. You’re going to see more of the same this year, especially as we continue to invest in …

… our security portfolio, especially as we continue to grow our IoT business.

We recently announced our approach with regard to 5G in the business space. And we said it aligns with three pillars: fixed wireless broadband, multi-access edge compute and mobile 5G. Our view of 5G is, unlike other mobile technologies, 5G is going to start in business and then grow eventually to the consumer. Whereas all of the other mobile technologies always started with consumer and then moved into business.

With regard to fixed-wireless broadband, we introduced some services that are powered by LTE today, but the goal is to get these out in the marketplace, and as we continue to turn up 5G across markets we’re going to be able to give businesses the option to upgrade to 5G. Our channel partners can sell the fixed-wireless broadband services today. As we enable 5G, they’re going to be able to do that as well.

The second pillar is multi-access edge compute. We’ve talked about 5G enabling blazing speed, but it also enables very low latency. In that world, businesses can make the decisions and figure out, “OK, what is extremely low latency-sensitive and [needs to be] closer to the premise[s] vs. what is more latency tolerant and [can be] in the cloud?” AT&T has announced its multi-access edge compute product already. The power of it is going to be realized when we introduce 5G in the market, but again — we want to build bridges to eventually be able to get you to 5G.

Rush [System for Health in Chicago] is going to be the first hospital in the country that will be 5G-enabled by AT&T. And that’s going to be a combination of us deploying a multi-access edge node and 5G capabilities.

We’re doing the same thing in the manufacturing vertical with Samsung Austin Semiconductor, by helping to power a 5G “Innovation Zone” in their production facility in Austin, [Texas]. The idea is to work with Samsung Electronics and Samsung Austin to test out use cases over 5G to help understand the real world impact of 5G in manufacturing. We did the same with [AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas].

The multi-access edge compute – or MEC as we call it – that platform is going to be transformed in a big way as 5G is available more broadly. Then we believe that the future of cloud changes from not only a centralized cloud, but edge clouds as well. We would be in a great place to be able to help our solution providers not only get enabled toward selling that solution when it’s available, but also figuring out how to monetize that as well.

The final tenet is mobile 5G. This is all about mobile connectivity as you know it. Today we only have the mobile hotspot for 5G, which will work wherever 5G is available. Within these 19 markets, there’s specific areas where you can actually use it.

Samsung’s working with us. They’re going to come up with a 5G-enabled smartphone that work on AT&T’s network. We’re excited about that, but really you’re looking at early 2020 when we’ll have more of a nationwide 5G network. We’ve built it on standards. AT&T was the very first standards-based 5G network. That’s important because you want customers to be able to go from 5G to 4G LTE to Wi-Fi [and] be able to have backward-compatibility. When you build something that’s not on standards, you’re not going to…

…have that.

CP: Is security one of those topics where partners want more education and training?

ZH: No question about it. Most of our partners want to learn about security, 5G and IoT. Those seem to be top of mind with our partners. AlienVault is a very hot topic for us.

As you heard from Barmak [Meftah] at Fusion, we believe it’s a category-builder. In the security space, you’ve got a lot of point solutions, and AlienVault does a great job giving you a cloud-based solution that essentially consolidates the need to have all of these different point solutions. It’s been really well received by the partners. We’ve actually seen a lot of great activity with AlienVault already.

CP: Any other updates?

ZH: There’s a big update that I’ll share with you.


AT&T’s Randall Porter

We do have a leadership change. Randall Porter was running Partner Exchange for us. He has been with Partner Exchange since day one. A very highly respected leader in the channel. He is known really well there; they’re very close to him.

He is moving on to a new assignment. He is still going to be in national business working for Anne Chow. He is going to be taking over the midmarkets part of our business, which was formerly headed by Chris Percy. Chris Percy is retiring. Randall is going to move to the direct sales side of things. Really sad to see Randall go. He’s such a special leader, and he had been on the indirect side for quite some time. I think he’d add a tremendous amount of value on the direct side of things. And as you know, we’re so closely tied with the direct side in terms of our channel strategy. We believe he’s going to be a tremendous advocate of ours. It’s going to be great for him and our program as well.

Sara Straley, who has also been with Partner Exchange since day one, is going to take over for Randall. She is going to be running all of sales as well as all of marketing. Sara is one of our best marketing leaders in all of AT&T, and she has done a tremendous job leading a big part of our strategy on the indirect side. Randall had everything to do with sales. Sara will take over essentially everything Randall had, but because she’s such a special marketing leader, I wanted to keep marketing with her.

Read more about:


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.

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like