This column was used in one of our July issues to argue that Telstra needs to embrace the IT channel. As you can see from one of our front page stories this week, those wheels are very much in motion.
Although I would love to take some credit for strategy over at Big T, the truth is it has been planning a move into the IT channel for about five months in conjunction with Express Data. But what do these developments mean for the IT channel and how are Telstra's advances likely to be received?
The partnership holds a lot of potential for integrators that have built a business around acting as a trusted technology adviser for a well defined base of SMB customers. While reselling access to Telstra Business fixed and mobile broadband services is not going to make anybody rich in a hurry, it will help integrators expand their sphere of influence with existing customers and make it easier for them to build end-to-end mobility solutions. That can only be a good thing.
Even more interesting are the plans Express Data has to work with ISVs that are developing applications for specific vertical markets. While some of these developers are likely to resell the broadband plans themselves, most of them will be keen to partner with integrators that can take the applications they are developing to existing customers.
Another recurring gripe in this column is that vendors, particularly major ones such as Microsoft and IBM, need to do a better job of connecting their reseller channel to ISVs. Both sets of partners are made up largely of SMBs that potentially have much to gain from working together but experience great difficulty in finding each other. Express Data is planning to build this ecosystem on behalf of Telstra and it will be very interesting to see what success it has in making it work during the next couple of years. This could go a long way towards helping smaller integrators create vertical specialisations.
Of course, reselling Telstra Business broadband won't be for everybody. It is still a relatively new division of the national carrier, created to fill the massive void that has existed between its enterprise-grade and consumer offerings. Many resellers and integrators, however, will have heard many customers complaining about Telstra service levels over the years. So much so, in fact, that I suspect many would rather sell them a couple of tin cans connected with string than include Telstra in their services portfolio. That perception is probably going to take a long time to break down in the minds of many.
Still, Express Data is only going to appoint about 300 integrators for now so broad appeal is probably not top of its agenda. There will be plenty of time to expand the model further down the track if it is successful with this initial group. There is no doubt this partnership will get plenty of focus at ED because Ross Cochrane and his team have been working to establish the business as an ICT distributor for some time now. In the months ahead we will see how many integrators embrace the vision.