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AT&T Restructures SMB Partner Program

In keeping with a new mandate to move from a regional to a national structure, AT&T Inc. also is reorganizing its partner program focused on small and midsized business accounts, PHONE+ learned at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo.

The change in corporate strategy was announced last week internally, but there was no press release. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the moves will impact duplicate executive jobs, but AT&T did not say how many would be cut.

According to John Nordberg, assistant vice president indirect channel marketing for the company, the corporate changes will trickle down to the partner program. The company will split the SMB and enterprise channel programs. The latter still reports to Bob Sloan, vice president of select segment and indirect channel marketing, while the SMB group now reports to John Irwin, senior vice president of major accounts and indirect channels.

Nordberg, who also is new to his post, came from the product marketing on the direct side. He reports to Tim Bannecker, vice president of marketing for SMB direct and indirect sales.

In addition to the leadership changes, the SMB program will be restructured to reflect the national focus, rather than a regional one. Nordberg explained that while the enterprise channel has had a national focus, the SMB channel has been organized around five legacy RBOC regions that now make up the new AT&T local footprint, as PHONE+ reported in its January issue cover story on the post-merger program.

No changes were reported to the enterprise program, which essentially comprises the legacy AT&T footprint, he said.

We take this as a positive sign for solutions providers because, No. 1, we are very focused on this channel and intend to grow this channel. We are doing everything we can to improve our ease of doing business with them, Nordberg said.

To this point, Nordberg, said agents will not have to join two programs. An SMB partner can sell into an enterprise account under his/her existing contract and have support from his/her existing channel team. We still pay you and support the deal and work it out on the back end, Nordberg said. Thats one indication that we are trying to be easier to do business with that we dont force people to sign up in multiple programs.

Another way AT&T is planning to simplify the program is with a single contract and compensation plan. Today, there is a single incentive program. In addition, there is a core contract and core compensation plan, but there are addendums for partners operating in each region. Nordberg said those likely would be eliminated, but didnt offer any details or a timeline when that would be completed.

Its a process, not an event, he said. We cant just wave the wand and say, Hey, we are the friendliest program in town. We are going to knock down the hurdles.

Nordberg said the existing local support structure would remain in place, but how it will look is a work in progress.

We will look across our regional entities and take best practices from them, he said. While its too early to say which are the best practices, we understand there are different ways of doing things and there are different levels of satisfaction among the solutions providers in the different regions.

Nordberg stressed that these changes would not cause disruption for the current partners. Its not about making any impact at the local level, its about enabling us to bring things together like common contracts or compensation plans. It will enable a common look and feel rather than five looks and feels, he said.

Nordberg said the changes in part were the result of feedback from the partner advisory board. We listened to them and tried to act on their suggestions. To the extent that they brought up anything about being easy to do business with, we heard them loud and clear, he said.


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