BlackBerry unveils new Crisis Communication channel specialization around AtHoc platform

The invitation-only specialization is designed to create a relatively small nucleus of focused Crisis Communication experts within the BlackBerry Enterprise Partner Program.

Richard McLeod, BlackBerry’s Global VP of Enterprise Software Channels

BlackBerry has announced a new specialization for their channel partners.  The Crisis Communications Specialization, built on the AtHoc crisis communications platform, is part of BlackBerry’s strategy of both doing more business through partners and encouraging deep focus and specialization among them. Entry into the specialization is by invitation only, and will be focused on partners with a deep focusin health and emergency management, or those prepared to invest in developing one.

“Within our Enterprise Partner Program, we have laid the ground for specializations we are laying on top, like our Workspaces specialization we announced late last year,” said Richard McLeod, BlackBerry’s Global VP of Enterprise Software Channels. “Now we are announcing a Crisis Communications Specialization built around our AtHoc platform.”

“Athoc, which we acquired in late 2015, has been fully incorporated into the BlackBerry platform,” McLeod said. “It makes possible real-time secure contact and communications between an organization and its partners. Beginning with the first step in a crisis of reaching personnel who will likely be dispersed in a crisis, it provides for guaranteed message delivery, it notifies them that there is a crisis with a pre-set alert. It then gathers information from individuals on their status, and collects that into tables with escalation capabilities, through wired, wireless, direct, and social media channels. It then opens API capabilities into other software systems, like HR, Microsoft Active Directory, and workflow applications.

“We have had tremendous success with the product, including its being part of the emergency notification system in Mexico around earthquakes, and its having large footprints in the U.S. federal government,” McLeod indicated.

“Just as cybersecurity is increasingly top of mind, crisis communications and accounting for personnel is becoming top of mind as well,” he said. “The Crisis Communications Platform accounts for people and helps keep them safe. We think this platform and crisis communication will develop deep expertise for specialist partners, and and provide them with differentiation in the market.”

While the specialization is still being built out, and will formally roll out In January, McLeod said the goal is to have it limited to a relatively focused few, not the great mass of BlackBerry’s 1800 plus channel partners.

“AtHoc had a channel, but there were less than 100 of those who will have full-scale capabilities to be specialized partners in crisis communications,” McLeod said. “We see this as a deep practice for high value partners, who are deeply rooted in business continuity and health and emergency management. We are looking for partners who have that skillset.”

BlackBerry is highlighting as an example of such a partner the Australian-based crisis communications firm Crisis Shield.  With BlackBerry, the partner developed an initiative known as The Melbourne Shield which lets Melbourne-based organizations and institutions with a duty of care to stay connected with one another during an emergency.

“Entry into the specialization is by invitation only,” McLeod said. “We are looking for partners who will invest in developing the skills around crisis communications. In some cases, they will come from our current partner base. In some cases, like Crisis Shield, they are being recruited to come in.

“Partners who are application-centric will be good candidates for this,” he added. For some large integrators like EY, Wipro and Accenture, it is a new extension into a different part of their practice. Some other partners are more focused, and this is all they do for a living.”

The specialization is not required to sell the AtHoc solution. BlackBerry partners at the Authorized level or above who want to resell it, along with BlackBerry services and support, will be able to do so. The specialization is for partners who want to provide a more advanced end-to-end service, wrapping their own services and expertise around the platform.

“The partners who are specialized in this will be our primary go-to partners around the platform,” McLeod stated.

Required training for BlackBerry Crisis Communication Specialists includes both online training and labs as well as instructor led classes. Returns to the partner include branding and recommendation by BlackBerry.

“As we roll out our new Partner Locator, they will be branded as Crisis Communications Specialists to the market,” McLeod said. “They also get access to tools, assets and best practices in crisis communications, deal registration and preferential engagement with our sales and marketing team.”