F5 Agility Forum 2012: Vendors must enable complexity for partners

Vendor should not become integrator; partner must be the trusted advisor

Vendors must make sure not to intrude on channel partners’ integration and advisory roles, and allow them to operate on and with complexity, F5 Networks worldwide partner organisation and security sales senior vice-president, Dean Darwin, said at the vendor's annual Agility Forum.

F5 hosted its Agility Forum 2012 from October 29 to 31 at the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Over 240 partners and customers attended the event.

See also: F5 Agility Forum 2012: F5 roadmap to focus on telco, channel, security, mid-market

Darwin told ARN that he is not a fan of what is happening in the industry as many systems integrators (SIs) are no longer being allowed to fulfill their roles entirely in tackling complexities as vendors are moving into the integration role in an attempt to upsell and secure large deals. This not only deters revenue streams, but prevents partners from developing the trusted advisor status with customers.

“Integrators made their money when there was complexity,” he said. “It allowed the systems integrator (SI) to go in and help customers understand the roadmap and decipher the problem. Now the vendor is going in, saying the SI isn't smart enough to fix it, and doing it itself."

Darwin sees this as a critical problem as the partner invests in the vendor, gets charged a lot of money, and then sells the product; if the vendor intervenes, there is natural strife between the parties.

Observatory Crest (an F5 distributor) co-founder and director, Martin Christmas, concurs with Darwin’s perspective, stating that, “There’s always a fine line vendors walk between being providers of expertise and capabilities that enhance a partner in a customer’s mind, as distinct from detracting from it; it’s a tightrope walk.”

“The trusted advisor status that every partner wants to have with a customer needs to be maintained, and vendors have to be very careful not to seek to become the advisor in place of a partner,” Christmas added.

Westcon Group (F5’s global distributor) vendor alliances director, Tony Heywood, and Distribution Central (DC; an F5 distributor) managing director, Nick Verykios, both said that complexity presents key business opportunities and contribute to customer relationship longevity.

Darwin, who is adamant in maintaining partners’ roles, said that, since joining the company, he aimed to keep vendor-partner tension out of F5 by creating partnership interaction transparency.

As an example, he said, “With our Unity Program, we are creating fair and transparent opportunity and protection with every registered deal; every opportunity is registered to avoid diluting benefits for partners.”

The goal is to allow partners to keep track of their negotiations with both vendor and customer by offering definitive responses from F5 as it is able to present conclusions rather than predictions.

Nermin Bajric attended the F5 Agility Forum 2012 as a guest of F5 Networks.

Follow Nermin Bajric on Twitter: @nermin_au

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Tags infrastructureF5 Agility Forum 2012distribution centralObservatory Crestsystems integratorchannelDean DarwinpartnerF5 NetworksTony Heywoodnick verykiosCloudWestcon GroupvendorMartin Christmas

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