Meet the channel manager: Telstra

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This article appeared in the December 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Meet the channel manager: Telstra
Keith Masterton

Keith Masterton has spent a quarter of a century working for Telstra, and the past seven in its channel business. 

Journey

You’d say I’m a Telstra veteran. I worked for Hewlett-Packard for a year in Scotland, then was recruited to work for Telecom Australia in Brisbane in a networking engineering role in 1990. It was a bit of a shock the day I arrived; it was -5°C when I left Edinburgh and 35°C when I arrived in Brisbane. I was met at the airport by my first Telecom boss, so my whole life in Australia has been associated with Telstra.

Working in the channel

I am passionate about channels. I was at a channel course once and the question was asked, How many of you had a parent or immediate family member working in small business? Forty out of 42 attendees put their hands up. That really resonated with me. My dad ran a small joinery business in Scotland and I saw the pressures that came with that. You have some empathy with small business owners and entrepreneurs. 

Telstra’s evolving channel

As IT solutions have moved to cloud, that has been the trigger to change Telstra’s business, to build on our core capabilities with cloud-based application and services. . 

That transformation has been underway for probably three to four years and is picking up pace. The transformation from the traditional telco dealer channel to this cloud integrator, value-added partner is well underway. We are doing that in two ways. One, we are working with our key traditional dealers to transition their capabilities and position them for the future; and two, we are searching for and onboarding new partners.

Types of partners

A good example of the first type would be IMEI in NSW. They were a traditional mobile phone dealer who transitioned their business and are now a managed mobility service provider. From the other point of view, someone like Jasco, which just won Telstra Business Partner of the Year, has come onboard with a lot of Microsoft skills and a lot of integration and professional services skills. Also Byte IT – they won our Business & Enterprise Partner of the Year award.

Two-tier channel

We have about 150 tier-one partners and many more partners managed by four distributors. The four distributors are VExpress, Dicker Data, Aria Technologies and TBS Distribution. 

Partner program

We realised that we have to retool our accreditation program. That is a massive focus. Our accreditation is based around four solution domains – mobility, cloud, complex data, and collaboration – and capability and contribution in those domains. We are looking at what depth of capability our partners have got, and at their contribution and breadth of capability within the domains. 

We are looking for domain experts. It is not about growth in numbers; it is about deepening our partner relationships and generating more business with them. Partner growth and profitability are utmost in my mind.

Awards and conferences

We run annual awards to recognise our outstanding partners. We are starting to see new partners and new skillsets coming through and winning those awards. We do that at our annual conference, which was in Darwin this year. We are returning to our traditional location, Port Douglas, next year. We also have our major customer event, Vantage. This is typically in the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre and we take many of our top accredited partners to that.

Lessons learned

The channel needs consistency and clarity and we have utilised our Business and Enterprise Partner Executive Council as a guide. They give us counsel as we move through this transition. We use BPEC to steer us. We are certainly not perfect and those are things we are continually trying to manage and that is difficult sometimes in a large organisation. 


Resume

Oct 2012–present
Director, business & enterprise partners, Telstra

2007–Oct 2012 GM, channel sales
& development, Telstra Enterprise
& Government

2006–07
GM, channel strategy & management, Telstra

1999–2006
Group manager, industry sales, Telstra

1997–99
Account director, Telstra Europe

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