The National Broadband Network (NBN) has been on the lips of every Australian since the same time as first iPhone’s launch in 2007.
Yet it took more than a decade for the network builder to formally extend a hand to Australia’s channel community, a period proliferated with much attention devoted to branding the roll-out as a “disaster” and a “litany of broken promises”.
Nevertheless, since the starting gun was fired on NBN Co’s ICT channel program last April, partners have hedged their bets and entered the NBN race.
Now just over a year later, more than 920 channel partners and 2,000 individuals have joined the program from across all corners of the industry, NBN general manager of business channels Keith Masterton revealed to ARN.
Of these, 58 per cent are NBN-certified, while 374 channel partners have earned accreditation, the latter making them eligible to receive marketing support.
“The program has seen enormous success since it was established in 2018 and we are pleased with what we have achieved to date,” Masterton said. “Partner engagement has exceeded our expectations and the volume of customer opportunities supported through our partners is substantial and growing rapidly.”
Initially launched as a pilot at the end of 2017, the channel program counted Westcon-Comstor, Computer Troubleshooters Australia, Telstra and Vocus Communications among its first participants.
Today these are accompanied by a raft of partners from all corners of the industry, including resellers, distributors, service providers, as well as RSPs and vendor alliances.
Alongside Westcon-Comstor, NBN Co opened its distribution stable to include Ingram Micro, Dicker Data and Aria Technologies. It has also added MCR, The Missing Link, Computer Merchants, BES IT, Enablis, Leading Edge Computers, Nexon and Comscentre to its channel roster.
Service providers, in particular, were touted for their capabilities in helping manage complex and multi-site migrations.
On a vendor level, NBN Co also works with Cisco and Dell Technologies, which for Masterton “signals the trust the IT industry has in the program”. Now, as a result of these partnerships, development is currently in final stages for the launch of vendor solution marketing campaigns under the slogan ‘powered by business’.
Small-and-medium-sized businesses transitioning onto the NBN from their legacy network are the primary target for NBN Co’s program. This is an area that was described by Cisco’s A/NZ VP Ken Boal as “low hanging fruit” when the pair recently doubled down on enabling MSPs to target this segment.
According to Masterton, who was recruited to the NBN Co from Testra in 2017, there are now “several thousand” SMB customer sites being supported by the channel program, as the focus now shifts from simple transition to using the NBN’s business products.
“[It’s about] supporting an enhanced customer experience in transition,” he claimed.
“Cisco and NBN Co are investing in digital marketing activities to help share how SMBs can digitally transform their business with Cisco infrastructure, cloud-based applications and services that are powered by business NBN solutions.”
The duo now intends to take their partnership one step further with more programs due to launch that will help partners digitise Australian SMBs.
“It is planned that the Cisco program will reward channel partners when they purchase Cisco start solutions, and the NBN program will reward the channel partner when their end customer connects a business NBN solution either directly or indirectly via their retail service provider,” Masterton explained.
A stronger focus on marketing
Although Masterton is so far buoyed by the program’s progress, there are still areas he is keen to develop further, in particular around “digitising” the partner experience and drive further opportunities through particularly through the vendor alliances.
Meanwhile, the program is now building on the past year with a stronger focus on marketing driven by the appointments of Asher Tarren, who joined NBN Co as program manager from Arrow ECS in February this year. Her appointment was bolstered by former Fortinet marketer, Katrina Fox, also joining the team as channel program specialist.
“Now that we’ve recruited and enabled a large number of partners we want to provide them with the tools they need to generate more opportunities within their customer base and beyond,” Masterton said.
“We are seeing strong engagement from our channel partners in building opportunity pipeline with us, and we have recently bolstered our channel support team to ensure we can support the increased momentum of in-bound partner leads and enquiries.
“We will continue to work hard in this area to ensure we continue to deliver an exceptionally responsive partner experience.”