The New Collaboration Imperative

Posted: 06/2001

The Letter

The New Collaboration Imperative

Of all the bottlenecks that must be broken to realize the full potential of a new generation of IP-based services, the most significant is the cultural bottleneck of resistance to change within the end-user community. That’s why the sales channels that are closest to the customers are suddenly at ground zero in the strategic plans of major players in telecom and data who are counting on demand for advanced services to deliver payback on vast investments in networks, data centers, software systems and an endless array of intelligent devices distributed across the backbone, access and premises segments of the emerging broadband infrastructure.

Carriers, applications infrastructure
providers, content delivery network providers, managed service providers, applications service providers and communications ASPs are all courting demand from the vast pool of small to medium-sized businesses and major enterprises for the kinds of network services that can serve as the focal point for future productivity gains. And these entities know they will fall short of their lofty revenue expectations without the cooperation of sales channels that can both understand the intrinsic benefits of these new broadband services and provide the expertise to tailor an integrated bundle of communications, content and applications to fit each customer’s needs.

To articulate this realization is to suggest just how far this brave new world of web-oriented suppliers has to go before it can hope to succeed on the scale anticipated by its often simplistic supporters in the research and investment communities. For if the sales channels are to be truly persuasive in evangelizing the business community as to the wisdom of moving to a network-based integrated communications and applications model, then a way must be found to bring together the know-how of the disparate communities of telecom agents and
resellers, ISPs, equipment-value-added resellers, and software and hardware systems integrators who comprise the local channel infrastructure. And they must be brought together virtually on a case-by-case basis, teaming as needs require to serve each new contract. Today, such cooperation is virtually nonexistent.

It’s a daunting task that has only begun
to be addressed by the major players in telecom and applications services. As reported in this issue
("Partnering Models for Apps
), some carriers are taking action to help these channels find each other and to ensure that the full range of expertise is brought to bear in efforts to sell end users the clusters of services which these carriers have gone to such lengths to enable. And aggregators from the applications arena that, until now, have focused their channel collaboration efforts on the ISP, SI and VAR sectors are beginning to recognize that the channels that have expertise in telecommunications services are vital to the equation as well.

But none of this will mean much without a push from the channel level in the direction of reaching beyond traditional skill sets to find the partners who can make a richer package of service offerings possible. As John Dupree, vice president for business marketing and general business sales at Sprint Corp., put it at the recent AgENt conference in Las Vegas, “The most important thing a channel can do is to treat each customer with an expectation of dynamism in the range of services they will require. You’re making plans that will make or break your business over the next few years, and the collaborative aspects will be critical.”

It’s a new way of thinking that many people in the telecommunications community are not ready to embrace, notwithstanding their appreciation that reliance on the old voice-based revenue models won’t work. With their core suppliers now moving to facilitate collaboration and partnerships across many once separate lines of business, agents have a chance to aggressively seize the initiative in breaking the cultural bottleneck of small business resistance to network-based applications. To wait for that resistance to be broken by other channels in other niches is to risk losing the role of lead supplier of network services in the new broadband marketplace.

Fred Dawson
Editor in Chief

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