The channel is a constantly evolving industry, prone to the impacts of new technology more than almost any other. But vendor tiering has been a constant - albeit an uncomfortable one - to rely on.
But this tried and tested method has come under fire recently, facing criticism that it does not give the customer an accurate reflection of a partner’s capability. Further, as we move further down the road with technologies like cloud, cyber security and application management, vendors are realising that growing market share requires more than just cozying up to top selling partners.
One company that has experienced both sides of the coin is Wyscom, a Canberra-headquartered managed service provider and partners with the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Dell, Microsoft, Exetel, Veeam, VMware and WatchGuard.
As a mid market-focused organisation, the company sits in a position familiar to many in the channel community, down a rung or two from the top tier partners and struggling for vendor recognition and support as a result.
Wyscom operations director, Hayden Johnston, told ARN the company experienced this lack of concern or commitment from some of its vendor partners which focus on sales results. He said that these company’s tend to pay less attention to capability - demonstrated by certification - than to sales numbers.
He added that this often leaves many partners out in the cold when it comes to vendor attention, but also pointed to a larger problem for the entire industry.
“The IT industry is obviously not regulated at all,” he explained. “Compared to many other service industries where people are required to go to university for three years and then do ongoing training on the job, the industry doesn’t have any of that at all.
“You can call yourself an IT company and start knocking on doors, getting access to networks or servers without having ever done any of this type of work before.”
Johnston said that this highlights the importance of certification. “At least you can show the client that you have expertise in a certain product and the customer can then have faith in the organisation and its ability to deliver.”
For Johnston, the main benefit for certification is to build credibility for the company and team. He said there are a growing number of vendors who were beginning to realise that certification should be given more weight that traditional sales tiering.
He pointed to cyber security company, WatchGuard, as an example of a vendor who actively pushes the importance of certifications to its partner base.
“All of our engineers are certified in watchguard so unless they have a certification, they don’t work on them,” he explained.
“To meet our partnership requirement, we have nearly tripled our eligibility in required staff versus what we actually have. That was a business decision we made because it is quite an advanced piece of kit so you should be certified to use that.”
WatchGuard A/NZ managing director, David Higgins, said the company did focus on numbers the same as any vendor, but it certainly was not the company’s sole focus.
“Numbers are important because if you don’t hit your targets, you can’t make the investment in people,” he told ARN. “Getting cyber security right is not easy and we want our partners to be the go to people for their customers when it comes to an expert on cyber security.
“I could sell you one of our boxes tomorrow and you could install it in your home, but it would just be a box with blinking lights. It needs to be configured so that it matches what you are trying to do in your business.
“Most network engineers will say they know about routers and switches and they will be fine, but to implement the technology properly - remembering that we have approximately nine layers of product in the one box - you need to configure it correctly.
“Certifications are critical to making sure the box delivers. If it is not the customer that is doing it, it needs to be the partner and the partner needs to be certified.”
Higgins said that the way the company has designed its certification program so that partner discounts increase as the level of certifications rise. He added that these discounts - and also resulting sales - more than mitigate the cost outlay for the partner in gaining the certifications.