The agent of the future embraces nimbleness and flexibility, says AT&T's Chris Jones.
Jones, who serves as vice president of sales channels for the AT&T Alliance Channel and ACC Business, says the best agent partners must adapt to the expanded network edge that COVID-19 has helped shape.
"They need to be understanding how the landscape is changing. What is a business owner worried about? Prior to March 2020, no one was worrying about the things that we're worrying about now," Jones said. "How do I have a distributed workforce? How do I shrink the amount of real estate I have, and how do I get more security spread out all over the place?"
Jones was speaking during a keynote at Channel Partners Virtual on Tuedsay. He and Rick Chapes, AVP of AT&T Partner Exchange, talked about trends they see for partners in 2021 and beyond.
Chapes pointed to an increasing priority on connectivity.
"Before COVID-19 hit, companies didn't focus on connectivity as their top priority," Chapes said. "What they looked at was transforming business applications and streamlining software. But when COVID-19 hit, businesses had to connect workforces and groups seamlessly."
For example, a large regional insurance provider needed a one-to-many connection that allowed its employees to access data and applications faster. AT&T brought together fiber and wireless offerings while using SD-WAN to centralize and simplify the connectivity.
"The businesses that go down these lines of integrating fiber and wireless technology with SD-WAN are becoming more successful than businesses that are waiting and seeing," Chapes said.
Jones gave partners major kudos for weathering the storm and quickly migrating customers to a new work environment. He envisioned the pandemic occurring in 1992, when he first entered the workforce. Consider going through it without ubiquitous email and high speed connectity.
"Think about what 2020 would have felt like in any other time. Had our children not been able to Zoom into school. Had we not been able to do work the way we do in this distributed environment," Jones said. "The mess that 2020 was would have been catastrophically different had we lived through this in 1992."
Businesses initially emphasized speed in 2020, and understandably so. We were all rushing to enable remote work. But Jones said we must ask how we can secure these distributed workforces. Unfortunately, threat actors know how to take advantage of our haste.
Jones pointed to the proactive efforts of one of AT&T's midsize customers. The customer determined to not make the same mistake as a member of its buying consortium, which had suffered two consecutive ransomware attacks. The ransomware victim did not address its security vulnerabilities after hemorrhaging $1 million the first time.
The AT&T customer, on the other hand, got a cyber risk assessment to learn about its weak spots. Jones said this assessment opened the door for the subagent to offer several new products and services.
"The relatively small investment the company made in a risk assessment turned into a sale that's probably $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 a month," he said.