It includes enhancements to address the evolution of the channel.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

April 10, 2019

7 Min Read

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — CenturyLink has aligned all of its various partner types under a single agreement.

The announcement was made at this week’s Channel Partners Conference and Expo. The new agreement includes enhancements to address the evolution of the indirect sales channel, the market and the industry, the company said.

CenturyLink conducted a lengthy review process during which it sought input from its partner community to capitalize on mutual areas of strategic opportunity, such as how the community can better leverage CenturyLink’s solutions portfolio and on-net assets.

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

“CenturyLink has always been a leading provider in their commitment to channel partners,” said Richard Murray, Telarus‘ COO. “This new program, and specifically the new agreement, is representative of that continued commitment. CenturyLink is creating programs, refining the processes, and openly engaging us in ways that are truly unique in this space. Having been a CenturyLink partner for nearly two decades, I can honestly say that I have never been this excited about the opportunity in front of us with CenturyLink.”

“The most successful business relationships are those where all parties feel a sense of support and optimism about the collaboration, and there is willingness for open conversation,” said Rick Dellar, co-founder of Intelisys, a ScanSource company.


CenturyLink’s Garrett Gee

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Garrett Gee, CenturyLink’s senior vice president of indirect and alliances, and Lisa Miller, CenturyLink’s president of wholesale, indirect channels and alliances, talk about the significance of the new agreement and latest opportunities for partners.

Channel Partners: How did the new partner program agreement come about?

Garrett Gee: Through integration (of CenturyLink and Level 3 Communications) over the last year, we’ve been spending a lot of time working with our partners so it was a very collaborative effort to really try to reach out and understand what was important to both our partners as well as CenturyLink, and we’re really pleased to announce that we’ve largely got most of our partners signed on the new agreement at this point.

CP: What are some of the details or areas in the agreement that signal an improvement?

GG: One of the things that we really focused on was building an agreement that provided incentives to our partners to focus in the areas that we wanted them to really spend time and effort, so things like on-net services or focusing on our platforms like security and SD-WAN [and so on]. So those are really some of the areas that the new agreement focuses on.

Lisa Miller: It was a great collaboration. We worked with all of our top masters to make certain that …

… what was going to incent them in the right way to do business with CenturyLink was really addressed. And so we were really trying to drive to make certain that we were the partner of choice and incenting our partners appropriately.

GG: It was very important for us to create some parity for our partners, so we wanted consistency with our agreement. So of course coming from former Level 3 and CenturyLink, we had a lot of different flavors of contracts, and so what we created was a standard contract that everybody could get behind, and really the only difference in the contract is pay for performance based on tiers. So the more that a partner commits to CenturyLink, the more commitment comes back their way.

CP: Is this agreement indicative of the overall direction in which CenturyLink is heading?

GG: It just further emphasizes our investment and focus in the channel. I think the terms are favorable to our partners and I think you’ll see that as information comes out about the new agreement, that partners view the agreement favorably.


CenturyLink’s Lisa Miller

LM: A lot of the top masters worked hand in hand with us, and where we didn’t get it right, we worked together to say, “OK, how does this work for you, how does this work for us,” and I think we came to a really good spot. And it really is a contract that allows us to grow because one of the things that we wanted to look at with this contract is we didn’t want it to be good for two years, we wanted it to be good for 10 years. And so there was a lot of thought on both sides to make certain that we ended up with a contract that allowed for that.

CP: How are CenturyLink’s latest technologies creating new opportunities for partners?

GG: We’ve obviously had a lot of exciting announcements recently, whether it’s our SD-WAN platform – we offer three different types of services there, Meraki, Versa and Viptela – and I would say as well our platform around networking, which allows for things like dynamic connection so we can actually provide services in the way that the consumer or our enterprises are seeking to receive those services. So a lot of that is where our focus is, whether it’s cloud or security, or UCaaS type services, but a lot of development going on in our product teams right now.

CP: Some companies in the channel are struggling financially, with Windstream filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy, Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) planning to file next month and Fusion Connect considering it. Are partners at all concerned about CenturyLink’s financial stability?

LM: We feel that we are very committed to the channel, that we’ve got strength and growth in our company. Everything that we have been doing financially within CenturyLink has been to make the company stronger, to make the balance sheet stronger, and we feel very good about where things are growing. And I feel that our partners feel …

… really good with not only the capabilities, but the financial stability of our company going forward.

CP: Anything coming on the horizon that will be beneficial to partners?

LM: I have responsibility not only for the channel, but also for the SMB, and so when we start looking at new product launches, we’re doing new things with Fiber+, which is a solution bundle. We are launching SD-WAN all the way down into small markets. We’re coming out with new security offers. We’ve got security, whether that’s network-based security or premises-based security. So how we’re really trying to look at the market is to say what is any enterprise customer need, from the smallest to the Fortune 100, and say we’ve got a product set to play with that. But we’re one of the providers that can say regardless of the solution, we create them for a global scale and a global audience, and as we look at the enterprise customer, there’s hardly an enterprise that isn’t playing globally, so that’s what we’re really excited about.

GG: And we’ve got a lot of initiatives around improving ease of doing business with our partners. So whether it’s staffing up our support teams or whether it’s improving your digital, external experience with us through our portals and quoting tools, a lot of focus and energy is being placed in that area. We know if we make it easier on our partners to work with us, they’re going to gravitate toward our solutions. We know we have excellent solutions, but we need to make it easy for our partners to work with CenturyLink.

CP: Is security a growing part of CenturyLink’s business and is your company increasing its position in the competitive landscape?

GG: Absolutely. Our focus is both in the cloud and on the premises side, and we can offer hybrid solutions to our customers as well. But there’s an increased focus in general on security, and a good example is our investment on our overlay teams. So we’ve got overlay security specialists that actually help us in the channel, so when channel partners identify opportunities and this may be a new space for them, whether it’s a DDoS opportunity, we can bring in these specialists to assist our channel partners and our channel managers with that opportunity. So big investment in that area.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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