CenturyLink welcomed 1,000 of its partners to San Diego for a first-of-its-kind event, Feb. 22-24.
Held at the Hilton Bayfront on Mission Bay, the channel stalwart focused on all of its alliances – its systems integrators, strategic partners, Software Alliance and its traditional Channel Alliance – introducing partners to new leaders and previewing what’s still to come in 2017.
Among the highlights: a new tiered channel program, the formal launch of the CenturyLink Software Alliance channel program, and an expansion of strategic partnerships.
The show featured a rock ‘n’ roll theme, topped off by a private concert performed by Van Halen legend Sammy Hagar and his band The Circle.
Channel Partners was there from beginning to end. Click through our image gallery for a recap.
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The event began the evening of Feb. 22, featuring a welcome reception, which gave partners an opportunity to meet and interact with CenturyLink Alliances employees, as well as their peers.
Dynatrace and NetApp were among the CenturyLink strategic alliance partners on hand for the Ascend Showcase during the welcome reception. Partners got the chance to interact with these vendors and learn more about their products and services.
A cool, but comfortable San Diego morning made for a nice breakfast overlooking Mission Bay before the conference began.
About 1,000 partners and CenturyLink employees piled into the ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront to hear from a string of channel executives.
Partners from 39 states and three continents attended the event.
Bill Corbin, senior vice president of strategic partnerships and channel operations, was brought in 10 months ago to oversee the alliances programs. Only the CenturyLink Channel Alliance existed less than a year ago when Corbin joined the company.
Now there are three more.
“You guys are really our rock stars,” he told a receptive audience. “We’re here to facilitate business for you; we are here to enable you.”
Corbin outlined his three main goals:
Corbin says this is the first time that the channel mission at CenturyLink has been supported by everyone in the company — all the way up to the board of directors.
Corbin welcomed Dean Douglas, CenturyLink’s president of sales and marketing, to the stage for a “fireside chat.”
Discussing the company’s pending acquisition of Level 3 Communications and its potential impact on partners, Douglas said the strategic reasoning behind pursuing Level 3 was to build on CenturyLink’s network — and “there’s no company better to join forces with than Level 3 [from that standpoint],” he said.
“We’ll be 75 percent enterprise post acquisition,” Douglas said. “There is no other telecoms company more heavily weighted toward B2B. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us, with you all, to drive significant [revenue] in that enterprise space.”
Douglas also touched on why CenturyLink decided to put more emphasis on its channel and restructure it into four alliances.
“Basically, we pushed the restart button,” Douglas said. “… I’ve seen an extraordinary amount of value in the [reseller] world. The challenge you face when you start talking about partnerships is that it can mean all kinds of things. What we’ve done is create four distinct routes to market that allow us to differentiate ourselves across [those.] It’s very difficult to talk about [all these types of partners as one.]
“You’re going to see us invest in resources dedicated to our channel partners, pre-sales and post-sales,” Douglas added. “If there’s no value in dealing with our direct teams, then there’s no need … you’ll have a resource pool.”
After seven years at CenturyLink, with some of that as an area vice president with the Channel Alliance, Dave Dyas last year stepped into the role of VP, Systems Integrator Alliance (SIA).
Dyas wants partners to think about “how we create a vision,” outlining three tenets for his organization: empowering people, enabling technology and turning innovation into reality.
“IoT and data-driven applications are all becoming the norm,” Dyas told the crowd. Applications are driven by partnerships, by people making bold moves. At the heart of every idea, there’s one person bold enough to start a conversation. My commitment to you: If you have a bold statement, a creative thought, we’re here to listen — to take your idea and make it a reality.”
Read our Q&A with Dyas here.
Another new member of the CenturyLink channel community is Gahn Lane, who was recruited from Westcon Group last year.
Lane had two key announcements:
“A lot of partner programs I’ve been a part of were a one-way street,” said Lane. “I have an opportunity to build an alliances group and a path to market almost from scratch. I want to make sure that profitability is a focus,” he added. “That’s what we’re here for, right? We’re here for profitability.”
Read our Q&A with Lane here.
Terence Gleeson has been with the CenturyLink family of businesses for a long time, but only recently was named VP of the company’s Strategic Partner Alliance (SPA).
The SPA is aligned with key vendors such as VMware, NetApp and Cloudera, with the goal of offering customers “industry-leading IT solutions.”
Gleeson highlighted the analytics derived from artificial intelligence and cognitive computing as opportunities for partners right now.
“More data is going to be sent and fed in the future than ever before,” Gleeson told the audience, “and you know how much is being sent now.”
Success in this area is dependent on two things: a solid network and reliable security.
“We’re all a key part of this,” said Gleeson. “CenturyLink has tremendous core assets and we’re growing. Our partners bring tremendous technology [expertise]. Companies like CenturyLink and our partners can usher in this fourth era of productivity, and we’re already doing it (smart cities, big data projects, etc.).
John DeLozier took over the reins as VP of the CenturyLink Channel Alliance (CCA) from longtime channel chief Blake Wetzel last summer.
“We’re going to surround you with support so you can be creative and innovative with your businesses,” he told partners from the stage at CenturyLink Ascend. “I tell my people all the time, ‘Make me say no to something.’ We’re going to reward you for success.”
DeLozier introduced new program tiers – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond – that “offer a clear path to ascend to the next level.”
Intelisys, TBI and Agent Alliance were all recognized as Diamond partners, achieving $7 million or more in billings.
“We’re at the crossroads of convergence. Partners are driving the train, and we’re trying to lay the tracks down, putting the [programs] in place to get you [to your destination],” DeLozier added. “I promise you we will never every quit on you. As long as I’m here, when failures happen, we will step up and step in with you. The thing I ask from you is this: … Give us a shot. Come rock and roll with us. This isn’t just talk.”
Click here to listen to our podcast featuring a conversation with John DeLozier.
CenturyLink went outside of the industry for its keynote speaker.
Music photographer Rob Shanahan regaled the audience with stories about the surviving Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Sting (on screen) and more.
And there was a business lesson as well: “Always be ready for that opportunity,” he said, noting how many of his greatest shots wouldn’t have been as great if they had been staged.
Rock legend Sammy Hagar (second from left) briefly took the stage to answer questions about music, but also offer some lessons in business.
Several years ago, he sold his tequila business – the second-largest in America at the time – for more than $90 million. He recently announced he’s getting back in the tequila business with fellow musician Adam Levine.
CenturyLink honored a number of channel partners and members of its strategic alliance with awards at a dinner on Feb. 23.
For the Channel Alliance, master-agent Intelisys was named Partner of the Year, while Acuity, Intellys and TBI all garnered recognition.
Read the entire list of winners here.