Nortel looks for closer partner ties

Nortel looks for closer partner ties

Networking vendor plans to step up investment into select SMB and enterprise partners to try and increase their share of customer wallet

Building closer ties with top SMB and enterprise partners is driving Nortel's channel strategy this year.

National channels and marketing manager, Neville James, said the local team is working with distributor, LAN Systems, to identify its top 20-25 SMB resellers. It has also appointed ex-Cisco staffer, Luke Power, as a dedicated account manager within LAN Systems to focus on partner marketing and support.

The realignment is designed to better recognise and reward top-performing partners investing in Nortel's suite, he said. The vendor has about 75-80 SMB resellers in Australia including Commander's franchise network.

"We're not discouraging our other partners; it's about focusing our investments on a few larger players doing a lot more business," he said.

On the enterprise side of the fence, Nortel is pushing its nForce partners to skill up in order expand its share in the burgeoning unified communications market. Over the past year, the vendor has introduced a UC specialisation to identify partners with high-end skills.

Nortel also recently appointed James Lind as dedicated specialist in its Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA) with Microsoft. He is tasked with developing customer pipelines, James said, and will assist partners selling the vendor's UC solutions.

From this month, Nortel will also offer nForce partner training on an "all-you-can-eat" basis. For an annual training subscription fee, partners can now put as many staff through as many courses as they can handle, James said.

Previously, organisations paid per staff member per training set. This meant some larger partners were investing more than $100,000 just to get staff certified.

"We've established this regime to try and make it extremely cost-effective to cross-train new and existing resources across Nortel's suite," James said. "Rather than pay for each training set, this is an annual fee per annum and substantially lowers cost."

Partners can opt to use marketing funding to pay for training, he said.

The training regime will be followed by the launch of bridging courses for partners with existing technical know-how in another vendor's product set. The shortened "delta" certification courses can be completed online or face-to-face and should be launched globally by the end of Q1.

James said Nortel was also stepping away from awarding partner status based on accreditation in favour of recognising broader certifications.

"In the past partners needed to meet certain accreditations for channel status, and they had to do certain courses. Over the next 12 months we will move away from these accreditations to certifications," James said.

Nortel's expanding market share and broadening product lines were opening up new opportunities for its channel, he said.

"We need to get more skills in the market place - last year we grew substantially but we're now feeling the growing pains," James said. "I think the partners we have today can more than address the market opportunities out there. The challenge is to get a bigger share of customer wallet."

Nortel's top enterprise integrators include 3D Networks, Alphawest, Telstra and Commander.

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