Channel to play a vital role in Telstra-Microsoft T-Suite alliance

Both companies expect big things from their channel partners

Telstra has added Microsoft Online Services to its T-suite repertoire in order attract a broader customer base with channel partners playing a critical role in ensuring success.

The telco’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform was launched in June to deliver software to organisations on a monthly subscription basis with a 30-day trail period for all applications. While the T-Suite was geared towards Australia’s 1.9 million small to medium businesses (SMBs), Telstra expects this Microsoft addition will appeal to enterprise users as well.

Microsoft Online Services includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.

Telstra is the primary distributor of the standard suite Online Services, excluding Microsoft Office Live Meeting, in Australia. SME can purchase the products through T-Suite portal while enterprise customers can buy through a facilitated purchase with Telstra.

Channel partners will be vital to the success of this strategic alliance, according to Microsoft communications sector director, Kevin Brough. Telstra has already begun leveraging the software vendor’s affiliate base to gain traction in the SME space. Along with 50 of the telco’s traditional reseller, 115 Microsoft partners have registered interest in selling Online Services through T-Suite.

The telco is employing sales staff in its channel and partner management workforce and also into its direct sales force, which has direct accountability for T-Suite’s results.

While Ovum analyst, Steve Hodgkinson, has voiced concerns over SaaS platform’s ability in breaking into the SMB market, Telstra is unperturbed.

Telstra director of T-Suite, Marcus Bartrum, said the portal’s performance is meeting expectations.

He also said the subscription-based design and single-point delivery of services onto a single bill were compelling propositions to SMBs.

“Customers we have touched, that we drive awareness into, are going into the 30-day trial and buying the software,” he said. “The challenge is driving awareness more broadly into the market, which is why the combined marketing of Telstra and Microsoft is important.”

Bartrum already has plans to further develop T-Suite, by integrating the platform with Telstra’s core telco offerings. This includes combining the services with Telstra’s mobility offering to eventually deliver a “business-in-a-box” type solution.

There are also plans to expand the T-suite menu through collaboration with independent software vendors (ISV).

The telco is in discussions with 60-100 ISVs to become part of the catalogue. Sixty per cent of them are local.

Internal training by Telstra and Microsoft will be crucial in aiding partners and ISVs to drive T-Suite forward.

“It is still early days and we are going to learn a lot as we go,” Brough said. “With our focus in building the service ecosystem, it is going to be very compelling offering.”