Andy Horn, Head of Colt’s SME Division says his company has made significant progress in developing their SME business in the UK this year but that they have ambitious plans for maintaining this momentum into 2009.
“In particular, we have put a lot of focus on developing our partner channel with the promise that partners can ‘expect more’ from COLT. Our UK strategy is built around four pillars: being consistent in our commitment to the channel, caring for partners, communicating effectively with them and offering attractive commission.
We have added 100 new resellers across Europe and 36 in the UK this year – all with data and managed services skills that complement our own. These include vc-net, Norisco and Corporatec in the UK.
We have also boosted our professional services capabilities by doubling the size of the team and improved partner tools by launching a new self-service partner portal which they now use to view orders, bills, tickets and services for their own Colt account and the accounts of all end customers they manage. Partners can also use the portal to download product information and whitepapers, review commissions (for agency partners) and check whether prospective customers are on the Colt network.
We have also enhanced and re-launched our online learning management system for partners so that they can achieve certification for specific product groups which their organisation actively promotes.
We also believe it’s important to develop SME and reseller products that are specifically designed for use by smaller organisations. To this end, we have launched a set of four new product bundles and introduced our SIP trunking service, ‘VoIP Access for Resellers’. This is ideal for resellers looking for opportunities to grow revenue by migrating an existing base of carrier pre-selection customers.
Finally, we have ended the year by releasing details of a new pan-European partner programme, ‘Community’ that will shape our partner strategy in 2009 and beyond.
Community offers a range of benefits to Colt partners, based on their accreditation as a Platinum, Premium or Select partner. As partners progress to achieve higher accreditation, they will be eligible for an increased number of Community benefits, including the Executive Sponsorship Programme that provides platinum partners with direct support from Colt’s senior management team.
What is the outlook for 2009? With the uncertain economic climate, there is no doubt that we are going to see a sharper focus on efficiency next year. We will see businesses looking to reduce costs, streamline processes and maximise organisational efficiency. We are seeing evidence of this already as organisations are seeking cost comparisons against their current tariffs for both voice and data services, striving to save money wherever possible. The balance between opex and capex may well result in an increasing move towards hosted and managed services in this market.
In this cost conscious market, we are aware that many smaller organisations may want to buy safe or from more recognised brands. For this reason, we have seen an increase in the amount of co-branded proposals and partners leading on the strength of the Colt brand as a trusted provider of business communications solutions.
We think that the market offers a good opportunity for Colt and forward thinking resellers to deliver highly efficient as well as technologically sophisticated communications solutions. In particular, we expect to see increasing interest and growth in the Managed Services area as this essentially gives businesses the chance to reduce their operating costs and improve efficiencies by out-tasking aspects of their skills, technology and infrastructure.
We will remain committed to developing our channel in 2009. As part of our Community programme, we will be building on our online partner portal so it includes shared pipeline management, automated pricing and offering, online ordering and tracking, plus account management features. We will also be developing our portfolio of products and looking to add new partners to our community as well.