One year into a two-year plan to revamp its partner program from a volume-based model to one stressing value, Nortel Networks promises it will continue to deliver on its outlined plan of record over the next year.
When the Toronto-based networking vendor launched the revamp of its partner program two years ago a key consideration was laying-out a two-year plan of record to give partners visibility into the coming changes, and the opportunity to plan their investment with Nortel. Continuing to deliver on that plan is key, vice-president, North American channel strategy for Nortel, David Wilkinson, said.
"One of the things we heard loud and clear from partners when we began to undertake this change was Nortel had traditionally done a poor job of having a predictable roadmap for the partner program," Wilkinson said.
A key thrust behind the revamp has been to move to a value-based program, and that's reflected in the way Nortel is handling its new specialisations. To qualify, partners will need to demonstrate a mix of technical and practical competencies, director of channel management and development for Nortel Networks, John Stasick, said.
In its plan of record Nortel committed to launching six to 10 specialisations by mid-2008. Specialisations in advanced services, unified communications and SMB have already been launched, and Stasick said an advanced data specialisation would be launched in 30-60 days.
Focusing on products like Nortel's Passport WAN family of products and its secure routers, as well as applying that data infrastructure to support applications like VoIP, Stasick said competency requirements for the specialisation would include things such as certifications, labs and technical gear on the technical side, as well as a certain customer base with certain solutions and customer satisfaction ratings on the practical side.
"We want to make sure a partner that goes after the data networking specialisation truly has data as a core piece of their business model," he said. "It's not necessarily a point solution or just some of the lower-end data products, but some of the higher-end data products and how those data-products play in a converged environment."
Wilkinson said it was hoped that the specialisations would give Nortel partners the opportunity to differentiate themselves in the partner community and to customers. He said the move to a value-model Nortel also recognised it needed to change how it works with its distribution partners.
Each distributor has a different business model, Wilkinson said. Some wanted the ability to target specific sets of resellers with value offerings that would generate payback on investment. Trying to align that with Nortel's opportunity and the level of support Nortel wanted to provide itself versus through the distributors was a challenge, WIlkinson said.
Launching in March, he said Nortel's new stocking distributor program would provide the distributors more opportunity for differentiation. Partner satisfaction will also become a part of distributor compensation, and distributors will be asked to carry similar competencies to those carried by the partners they're supporting.
The vendor will also offer purchase-order financing that lets resellers leverage the purchase order and the customer's credit to obtain third-party financing, so a smaller partner doesn't need to walk away from a big deal for financial reasons.
Wilkinson said partner and analyst feedback had long identified financing a gap, and Nortel wanted to make sure when it launched a program it got it right.
"I think we got to it as fast as we could, given the priority of some of the other things we were trying to do," Wilkinson said. "There were a lot of things we knew we needed to rework to get the growth we need to get out of this business, and this was one of the critical ones."
Changes are also coming to deal registration. The program was initially launched last March focused on net new customers, and Wilkinson said based on partner feedback it would be expanded to include net new business with existing customers.