What Silos? Telco Veteran Builds MSP AE Backoffice’s Channel Program
You don’t get much more old-school telco than Jeff Keane. He started his career in telecommunication sales at the start of the 21st century working alongside his father “for the Big Bad Wolf: MCI WorldCom.” It wasn’t long before the two Keanes realized the numbers weren’t quite adding up at the telco giant, so father and son left to open their own master agency, KeaneTel.
KeaneTel made some waves in the 2000s by paying its sales partners 100 percent of all commissions, spiffs and bonuses paid by the carrier, essentially becoming KeaneTel licensees rather than subagents. After several years, Keane left the family business, and in 2013 began a four-year stint at Broadview Networks.
So it was a departure from his telco norm when managed service provider AE Backoffice tapped Keane to develop and run its channel program. But, he says, with the Internet of Things (IoT) explosion creating new markets and new channels, it was a natural progression.
“Their IoT solutions intrigued me,” says Keane. “Every carrier has an IoT solution of their own, but really none of them can deliver it. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and certainly none of them have a good channel program for it.”
AEB provides your standard managed services: backup and recovery, cloud solutions, network monitoring, and so forth. But it has also developed a specific niche in construction technology delivering building automation to buildings from luxury highrises in Manhattan to senior citizens residences. When you’re designing systems with Amazon’s Alexa built into the walls so residents can do everything from adjust the temperature to call a nurse just by speaking out loud, you need a connectivity guy.
A year later, AEB has signed its first channel partners, and Keane says the program is built on the blurred lines that once separated the IT and telco channels. VARs and MSPs have clients increasingly clamoring for IoT solutions, and master agents and subagents are being pressured to deliver managed services.
“By definition, channel partners are trusted advisers to their clients, whether they’re a consultant, a VAR, an MSP or a telco agent,” says Keane. He says partners have always been able to listen to clients’ wants that were outside of their wheelhouse and connect them with someone with the necessary expertise.
“Now, [partners] don’t have to say, ‘I know a guy.’ They can be that guy.”
Keane loves IoT technology because just about any connectivity solution someone can imagine can be created. But connecting the world is a big job, and no MSP or telco agent can do it alone. AEB’s program combines managed services with telecom offerings to create multivertical IoT solutions for the channel.
Taylor Clark, president of smart sustainability solutions provider LED Cents, says there’s no choice but for the two channels to work together. LED Cents started as a sustainability solutions company, and with the advent of IoT solutions, became a smart-city and smart-building solutions developer. When you’re operating on that big of a scale, you can’t do it all.
“We can do solar, HVAC, lighting, but maybe not electrical or maybe not plumbing,” says Clark. “Everybody has to come together and bring the full-service model. It’s too much to take on yourself. You can’t jump into telecom or IoT and know everything immediately.”
AEB fills the gaps that Clark doesn’t have the resources to cover. He knows the solutions he needs, but doesn’t have the bandwidth or the technical know-how to program it all. So Clark designs and sells the solutions, and uses telco partners to backfill on the sensors and advanced connectivity solutions he’s not trained in, like LoRaWAN, a low power wide area network (LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery-operated devices and sensors that targets specific requirements of IoT solutions.
Similarly, where AEB’s telco sales agents fall short, they can turn to the company for managed services. Keane says programs and partnerships like this will become the norm as the two channels work together to connect the world, so that partners can be the all-inclusive technology provider to their clients rather than customers having to shuffle between their MSP and master agent.
“Stay their trusted adviser,” he says. “Because you’re touching everything – the hardware, software, access, new solutions – you can be embedded like a tick.”