Going to Pieces? AT&T also is deep in the throes of partner education, and for good reason. While its long-distance business continues to slide and shareholders continue to attack the companys breakup plan, AT&Ts data business is growing at a staggering pace. The companys data and IT operations posted $9 billion in revenue last year, and its currently growing in the mid-30 percent range. Its IP business is growing more than 100 percent.
"Education is the No. 1 investment Im making," says Keith Olsen, VP of global channel management at AT&T. "Even the applications guys dont know how to leverage hosting. When you find one that does, its like finding gold dust."
AT&T has constructed an entire university program that spans everything from technology to sales training and revamping business plans for business partners. "You can win mind-share with education, but you win heart-share by leveraging that education into real profits," he says.
Those profits come from a variety of different skill sets, all of which need to be integrated into customer solutions. That means merging everything from asynchronous transfer mode, frame relay, data hosting and a broadband infrastructure all the way out to an integrated Web front end and wireless communications and multiple layers of security.
It also means that to play in this market, youll need some strong allies because no one can do it all. In some cases, this scenario is so complex that it spans well beyond a single company or government entitys boundaries.
AT&T, for example, acts as a global network operation center for the president of the United States. "When the president is in New York City, our data center is his bomb shelter," says Olsen.