More companies with roots in network services have realized that, to grow in a cloud world, they must appeal to the evolving profile of channel partner. Often this translates into offering upfront compensation, not just residuals, since that newly evolved partner tends to come from the IT world, where upfront payment has reigned for decades.
That’s not to say that VARs, integrators and MSPs are overlooking recurring commission – they’re not. In fact, they are being forced into accepting residuals as more legacy gear makers move away from on-premises equipment and toward cloud technologies. But IT experts who have been around for a while – those who were not “born in the cloud” – built their businesses on large one-time payments. They can’t make an immediate transition to month-to-month income; instead, they have to phase it in over the course of years. One way they can do this is to add connectivity to their portfolios. After all, cloud requires a network.
That makes sense to IT partners. And yet, finding a service provider that offers upfront compensation has remained a challenge even as IT and telecom have converged and practically become one. MASERGY became one of the first carriers to include upfront revenue in its partner program way back in 2008, when VARs and integrators started to enter the services market. And last year, reseller BullsEye Telecom issued a new agent agreement that lets partners choose their compensation, including upfront, on a deal-by-deal basis.
Still, such moves didn’t ignite a firestorm of imitation among other providers. Rather, master agencies adding IT partners took up the mantle – as two examples, Intelisys debuted upfront commission on cloud and carrier services in August 2013, while Telarus launched a similar initiative in May of this year.
But as providers recognize the important of IT partners’ contributions to their revenue base, it stands to reason that more of them will release upfront payment options. Indeed, hosted UC provider ANPI is the latest to lead the charge – the company last week unveiled a bulked-up Premier Program so it can attract not just more telecom agents, but also MSPs, VARs and integrators.
“We see that segment as a huge growth potential,” channel chief Mike Cromwell told Channel Partners.
In fact, because 25-30 percent of ANPI’s growth is coming from IT partners, ANPI developed two of its three new program tiers for VARs, MSPs and integrators, in particular. ANPI further is offering upfront and residual payments for partners in each level. This accomplishes two goals: one, helping IT partners stabilize their changing compensation methods with a familiar form of income; and, two, helping them to transition to the world of recurring revenue. Of the tiers, the top level is designed for master agents, and includes an upfront element since so many masters are adding MSPs and VARs, said Cromwell. The second tier targets large MSPs and regional master agencies, and the first is meant for VARs. Each version features upfront compensation and “industry-leading” commission rates, although Cromwell did not provide percentage ranges.
The upgraded Premier Program contains other enhancements, too, to attract partners of all kinds. There’s the automated, proprietary OSS/BSS portal named Atlas, for example. With Atlas, partners create quotes, process orders electronically, view provisioning and track orders all the way through to the billing process.
“We tried to emulate a buying experience similar to how you interface with Amazon,” Cromwell said, adding that following an order “looks an awful like FedEx when you’re tracking a package.”
“I’ve never seen a provider give agents 100 percent transparency into the process,” said Cromwell. “This puts the partners in a good spot to effectively manage customer expectations and be in tune with delivery dates. …This is highly relevant for VARs and MSPs because they are accustomed to really owning that customer experience.”
Along those lines, ANPI has upgraded its partner resource library, which contains material from product and sales training to how-to videos produced by ANPI. There’s even a similar portal for partners’ customers, but partners such as MSPs may manage that system for their clients.
Finally, ANPI now guarantees 14-day service installation.
“If we don’t deliver by the stated SLA, the customer gets the first month for free,” Cromwell said. “We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”
The additions come as ANPI aims to distinguish itself from other hosted UC services providers, and stand out among both telecom agents and IT partners.
“I think businesses have to change and adapt,” Cromwell said. “For all cloud-based providers, [the industry] is changing and growing rapidly. If you don’t change with the demands of the marketplace, you’ll fall behind.”