Having spent nearly five years at ARN, I’ve seen my fair share of channel program “trends”.
When I started, most vendor channel rebate schemes and reseller offerings were based around selling a certain amount of kit, and achieving quarterly or annual targets. Vendor partner structures were also painted with a broad brush, with the likes of Cisco and Microsoft awarding“Gold” or “Silver” status to resellers bringing in the most revenue. These resellers tended to be the goliaths, or those with a national presence and more customer scope.
As some of their technologies matured, and hardware became increasingly commoditised, “selling solutions” became the buzzword, and smaller partners got into the limelight.
Vendors recognised they needed to differentiate the various types of resellers they worked with not only by size, but also by niche vertical or technical skills. This led to a raft of partner specialisations being introduced.
For example, Microsoft partners today can choose to be accredited in anything from software asset management through to SharePoint,
Exchange, unifi ed communications or SMB. Cisco partners can skill-up for certifi cations in LAN switching, VPN technology, voice, advanced datacentre, routing and switching, or security.
The downturn in the economy has largely contributed to a new partner education trend, described using one word: Enablement.
As the global economy slows down, corporate customers are increasingly basing IT decisions around mitigating risk, driving cost effi ciencies and improving productivity. As a result, it’s become even more critical for vendors and their channel partners to sell technology in the context of business requirements.
The way vendors have chosen to handle this from a partner messaging perspective, is to focus on “enablement”.
There are plenty of examples in this week’s issue highlighting the phenomenon. For instance, strengthening partner knowledge and channel commitment was a key theme at Trend Micro’s Partner Affi nity Summit (page 12). The security vendor has also increased its headcount by 20 per cent in a bid to provide partners with more dedicated resources and assistance.
IBM is also on the enablement bandwagon and kicked off a national partner roadshow based on this subject last month (see page 6). VMware (page 6) and NetBox (page 8) are other vendors introducing more online training tools and sales support in the name of enablement.
“Enabling” customer deals is also important. On Cisco’s partner portal, there are nine programs aimed at encouraging partners to fi nd new customer deals, train their staff, and sell around value propositions, along with all kinds of enabling tools like marketing development funds, solutions and opportunity incentives.
Trend Micro’s Affi nity partner program also includes rebates around new customer wins and selling services.
New delivery platforms, such as software- as-a-service, will not only change the way customers consume IT, but also the channel’s role as we know it today.
Buzzwords aside, it’s great to see vendors recognising partners play an ever-increasing role and taking a proactive approach to helping them evolve.