Ericsson is increasing its focus on the channel-partner business. Cooperation with successful channel partners will be essential for the vision of 50 billion connected devices by 2020.

As a world leader in telecom networks and services, Ericsson is helping create the Networked Society.

But the scale of the task associated with creating a connected world – where all sorts of organizations, from transport companies to utilities, municipalities to healthcare providers, are running private networks – is best met working with channel partners who have established relationships in these areas.

The partnerships create powerful win-win situations for Ericsson and channel partners: they enable Ericsson’s competitive products and brand to be combined with the channel partner’s customer relationship and ability to drive sales beyond the traditional telecom-operator segment.

Over the years Ericsson has worked with channel partners in various ways and at various levels. To properly address these new opportunities beyond telecom operators, it is now increasing the number of partners, formalizing its relationships, and offering an enhanced, restructured support package.

Mats Frisk

Mats Frisk, Head of Channel Management at Ericsson, says: "In the past, it’s been a bit ad hoc. Now, with the new Channel Partner Program, we’re providing a coordinated, structured platform to help drive the business."

Jonas Fogelkvist, Ericsson’s Channel Partner Program manager, says channel partners will be provided with dedicated support contacts in their regions, new tools and portals, a new e-shop, and invitations to both regional and global partner events where they can attend workshops, share information and network. From Ericsson’s perspective, the new emphasis is going to be on enabling and empowering partners. And where the business justifies it, joint Ericsson-partner visits to customers are possible.

A first global channel partner event was held in Stockholm in February 2012, with about 30 channel partners from various regions taking part.

Anna Runhellen, Director for Indirect Sales Marketing, says this type of event, which Ericsson plans to hold annually, is important for strengthening the channel partner community and to enable the channel partners to share experiences and best practices. Existing channel partners spoke positively at the event about the benefits of partnering with Ericsson.

"Ericsson is a global brand, and with that comes a certain prestige. We use that to the fullest extent when we are selling," said Mohammed Salem Bata, CEO of Unitel in Jordan.

Paul Mascitti, General Manager, Sales and Business Development, of Australian partner CommTel Network Solutions, said he expected the benefits of partnering with Ericsson to increase further for his company, which builds telecommunication networks for non-telecom companies in Australia.

"Partnering with Ericsson allows us to access the products we need, when we need them," he said. "But more than that, now that Ericsson is broadening its partner program, I believe we will be able to work with them in a more strategic, planned and long-term way. Ericsson is a huge company with a vast pool of expertise, and we can really use that to benefit our customers."

New focus lifts channel partners

As part of the new partner program, Ericsson is launching a pilot scheme across Region Western and Central Europe (RWCE) in March 2012. This will offer channel partners a new kind of relationship based on working with Ericsson as either a Select, Premier or Strategic partner, where Select represents the entry level. Mat Frisk says partners will be allocated to the different levels depending on their network, commitment and the sales-volume targets they have agreed to.

"It’s going to be an entirely new way of working," he says.

Ericsson intends to be selective about the new partners it invites into the scheme, but is seeking to build a global network of 400-500 partners. Jonas Johansson, CEO of Swedish partner company Relink Networks, says the chosen partners can look forward to significant business benefits.

"The Ericsson brand is No. 1 in telecoms, and is a real door opener for us, so I would absolutely advise people in this market to talk to Ericsson. I would really be an ambassador for that," he says.