Xtra pitches for business sector with new channel programme

Xtra last night announced partnerships with eight networking companies in the Xtra Business Network - its most substantial offering to the business community since the arrival of Bob Smith as general manager in May. Xtra says the new channel programme is the most structured of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region. Companies which become certified to the Xtra Business network will supply products and services complementary to those of Xtra in a scheme Smith says aims to "encourage companies to start planning the electronic aspect of their businesses".

Xtra last night announced partnerships with eight networking companies in the Xtra Business Network - its most substantial offering to the business community since the arrival of Bob Smith as general manager in May.

Among the changes signalled by Smith after he replaced Chris Tyler at the Telecom-owned ISP was an emphasis on becoming involved with customers as they began to use the Internet for business and yesterday he reiterated his aim to “encourage companies to start planning the electronic aspect of their businesses”.

The eight companies - Asnet, Computerland, Datacom, Datacraft, Netway, SolNet, Telecom Business Systems and Wang - have been certified under a channel programme that Xtra says is the most structured in the Asia-Pacific region.

Smith predicted that Xtra would sign more than 20 more partners in six months’ time. Xtra Business marketing manager Cliff Booth says the next batch of certified partners in the “staged process” will be either systems integrators or Web developers.

Certfication costs a total $2300 and involves a training regime based in large part on Sun materials, which provide “very good generic IP training”, according to Booth. It will be conducted by SolNet and ComTech.

“Companies wanting to be certfied will need to meet a certain set of criteria. One of those is to have been certified to provide network services by another company - if they’re already Novell-certified we won’t make them jump through hoops. They’ve got to be able to provde an 8.30-5.30 help desk to all the customers they connect to the Internet. Most decent resellers already do that.

“They will also need to have two Xtra Internet professionals on their staff. One of those can auto-certify, one has to go to a five-day course. The auto-certification, is done via a Web-based test. They log into the Website and it generates 50 questions for them, out of a database of several thousand.

“Everybody comes to the last day of the course, which we call the Xtra Day, which is all about dealing with Xtra - it covers issues like sales and ordering, and then they sit the test again, just to prove they didn’t get their mates to do it.”

Booth says the development of the channel structure reflects “a convergence between what IT companies do and what ISPs do. It’s done like this in Europe, but we’re the first people in this region to grasp the nettle and go out and do it here. There are a couple of ISPs which run channel programmes in Australia, but they’re not as structured as this.”

Xtra Business Network will provide “a measure of service delivery” so that service standards are maintained, says Booth, and will also be a vehicle for Xtra special offers like the current one in conujction with Bay and Cisco.

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