What Silos? Telco Veteran Builds MSP AE Backoffice’s Channel Program


Jeff Keane and the telco channel go way back. So what’s he doing at a managed service provider?

Kris Blackmon | Feb 19, 2018

KeaneTel made some waves in the 2000s by paying its sales partners 100 percent of all commissions, spiffs and bonuses paid by the carrier, essentially becoming KeaneTel licensees rather than subagents. After several years, Keane left the family business, and in 2013 began a four-year stint at Broadview Networks.

So it was a departure from his telco norm when managed service provider AE Backofficetapped Keane to develop and run its channel program. But, he says, with the Internet of Things (IoT) explosion creating new markets and new channels, it was a natural progression.

Jeff Keane

“Their IoT solutions intrigued me,” says Keane. “Every carrier has an IoT solution of their own, but really none of them can deliver it. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and certainly none of them have a good channel program for it.”

AEB provides your standard managed services: backup and recovery, cloud solutions, network monitoring, and so forth. But it has also developed a specific niche in construction technology delivering building automation to buildings from luxury highrises in Manhattan to senior citizens residences. When you’re designing systems with Amazon’s Alexa built into the walls so residents can do everything from adjust the temperature to call a nurse just by speaking out loud, you need a connectivity guy.

“By definition, channel partners are trusted advisers to their clients, whether they’re a consultant, a VAR, an MSP or a telco agent,” says Keane. He says partners have always been able to listen to clients’ wants that were outside of their wheelhouse and connect them with someone with the necessary expertise.

“Now, [partners] don’t have to say, ‘I know a guy.’ They can be that guy.”

Keane loves IoT technology because just about any connectivity solution someone can imagine can be created. But connecting the world is a big job, and no MSP or telco agent can do it alone. AEB’s program combines managed services with telecom offerings to create multivertical IoT solutions for the channel.

Taylor Clark, president of smart sustainability solutions provider LED Cents, says there’s no choice but for the two channels to work together. LED Cents started as a sustainability solutions company, and with the advent of IoT solutions, became a smart-city and smart-building solutions developer. When you’re operating on that big of a scale, you can’t do it all.

“We can do solar, HVAC, lighting, but maybe not electrical or maybe not plumbing,” says Clark. “Everybody has to come together and bring the full-service model. It’s too much to take on yourself. You can’t jump into telecom or IoT and know everything immediately.”

AEB fills the gaps that Clark doesn’t have the resources to cover. He knows the solutions he needs, but doesn’t have the bandwidth or the technical know-how to program it all. So Clark designs and sells the solutions, and uses telco partners to backfill on the sensors and advanced connectivity solutions he’s not trained in, like LoRaWAN, a low power wide area network (LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery-operated devices and sensors that targets specific requirements of IoT solutions.

“Stay their trusted adviser,” he says. “Because you’re touching everything – the hardware, software, access, new solutions – you can be embedded like a tick.”