After a short hiatus, Dan Foster is back at MegaPath Inc. with a new title and greater responsibility but a continued commitment to the channel.
Foster returned to MegaPath May 1 after leaving in January to take a job in the clean-energy sector. He becomes president of the business markets group, a post vacated by Bruce Chatterley in mid-April. Chatterley assumed the job following the mergers of MegaPath, Speakeasy and Covad Communications. Industry scuttlebutt has it that Foster a 10-year MegaPath employee was aiming for the same position, but it went instead to Chatterley, who had led Speakeasy as its CEO.
I kind of felt like I was on the 10 yard line when I left,” Foster told Channel Partners in an interview in late May, implying that his re-entry into the telecom game is a chance to make a big play and score. And the channel, he said, will be a big part of his playbook.
Even though I am going to take on a GM role and the P&L responsibility of our largest division (about 80 percent of our revenue), I am going to continue to be very involved [in the channel],” he said. The channel is a passion of mine, and I think folks want to feel that in the business, that there is complete alignment, not just at a sales and marketing level.”
Chris Gellos, senior vice president of sales, will continue to managed the indirect sales channel as he has since January, with Foster serving in the role as channel chief.
The channel contributed nearly 40 percent of the revenue to the business markets group in the first quarter of 2011.
Thats where we are looking to scale. We are not getting our fair share in the market,” Foster said. Honestly, I set out on an odyssey to build that. Over the last year, we have been incredibly focused on building the channel both deepening the relationships with the partners we have and adding a few more.”
The effort is starting to pay off, he said, citing metrics from one of the master agents, which reported tripling the number of partners actively quoting and closing MegaPath during 2010.
Foster points to some of his goals for the Business Markets Group as part of his strategy to increase penetration in the channel across the board.
One of those goals is innovation in products and services. Specifically, Foster points to initiatives to roll out Ethernet over copper on a nationwide basis; adding fiber aggregation to target upmarket customers; and leveraging its data center to provide infrastructure as a service in an effort to expand its cloud services.
Weve actually been [in the cloud] for some time,” said Foster, citing the network-based managed security and hosted voice services the combined company has been offering since 2005.
Another goal is scalability for its voice, access and managed services products.
We hit a record this month with voice seats,” Foster said, noting that MegaPath deployed several thousand voice seats with good customer service. Our partners let us know that the customer service levels four months ago were not acceptable. Now, we are getting accolades. Its not mission complete by any stretch, but thats one of our core and fundamental strategies.”
Another key strategy is expanding distribution, Foster said. For example, he is working with master agencies on ways to better enable IT VARs and interconnects to sell network services.
Lastly, he said he is pushing for the merged company to fully integrate the MegaPath brand across all customer-facing channels, from field service trucks to wireless network IDs to portals to hosted phones.
Regarding the merger integration, Foster said MegaPath has had its difficulties, but it is delivering a more consistent experience today.
We have a ways to go, and we know that,” he added. CEO Craig Young set the goal for the integration to be 90 percent completed in 12 months, he said, noting that the company is on track to make that milestone in September.
The partners are top of mind here as well, Foster said. When a partner is disappointed, obviously, there is a ripple effect across a whole set of customers. Its important that we keep the partner in mind,” he added.
Two new projects on the table include a second phase of the partner portal and an upgrade to the companys back-office. The new partner portal will enable process from quoting through ordering to commissioning. It also will have APIs for agents that want to use them to hook into their own systems. The effort, which involves internal systems as well as MasterStream from Salestream Software Inc., is expected to be completed in August.
The back-office called Singularity is designed to automate the order to install process to case management to trouble ticketing. The system is operational, but so far partners only have visibility to some products within the system.
The strategy Im rolling with here is all products, all channels,” Foster said. What that means is the same experience for all customers and all partners.”