CA Technologies Partners See Progress In Vendor's Channel Efforts6:00 PM EST Tue. Oct. 16, 2012
CA Technologies' evolution to a more channel-friendly company remains a work-in-progress. But CA's sales and channel executives say they've come a long way in the 18 months or so since the software company launched its channel initiative. And channel partners agree.
CA Technologies held a two-day North America Partner Summit in Boston last week where about 90 channel partners met with company executives to get the latest on the vendor's strategic direction.
"It's night and day," said Bob Schwartz, managing principal at Digital Celerity, a CA premier partner, referring to CA's alignment with the channel today versus just a couple of years ago. "CA is realizing they couldn't do so well without companies like Digital Celerity who sell enterprise and growth [company] applications," he said at an interview at the summit event.
"There has been a dramatic transformation," agreed Andre Maxwell, president and CEO of Information Security Xperts, an Atlanta-based solution provider and premier CA partner that develops IT security solutions and services based on CA products, also in an interview at the event.
As an example of CA's embrace of the channel, Maxwell noted that compensation plans for employees in CA's sales, service and education operations have been changed to encourage cooperation with partners. "The message has definitely gotten through from senior management that this is the new model," he said. "Comp plans dictate behavior."
Prior to 2011, CA was hardly known as a channel-friendly vendor, given its aggressive direct-sales business model and focus on selling to large companies. Channel efforts were focused on a limited number of products, including the vendor's popular ARCserve backup and recovery software and ERwin data modeling software.
But, last year the company changed course and began putting more focus on the channel to reach smaller companies -- a strategy outlined at the company's CA World show in Las Vegas last November.
The most significant aspect of CA's change is the company's decision to focus its direct sales efforts on large enterprise customers with annual sales of $2 billion or more. Customers with sales between $300 million and $2 billion, which CA calls "growth" companies, are being turned over to channel partners with the goal of eventually making that customer segment almost exclusively a channel play, said David Bradley, CA senior vice president of global partners, in an interview at the partner summit.
George Fischer, executive vice president and group executive of worldwide sales and services at CA, also cited that goal in a summit speech in which he estimated there are 14,000 potential mid-size customers in that market space. "We want 100 percent partner fulfillment there," he said.
NEXT: Focus On Domain Expertise And Cloud Computing
The changes within CA began in earnest on April 1, the start of the company's fiscal year, when the company began shifting the role of its direct sales force. In North America, the company hired about 40 new territory account managers (TAMs) to help develop opportunities in cooperation with channel partners and turn them into joint sales deals. Those TAM hires either had direct channel experience and/or came from channel-focused vendors such as Microsoft and Red Hat.
While San Francisco-based Digital Celerity has worked with CA since 1996, Schwartz said Digital Celerity's sales pipeline today is more than double what it was this time last year -- due at least in part to assistance from the new territory account managers.
CA has consolidated all its channel programs, including those for resellers and volume distributors, under a single global program with standard contracts, a partner portal and a deal registration system. The vendor has also stepped up the services it provides partners, such as funding for business development and demand-generation, partner training courses and services for developing partner business plans.
"You should anticipate from us, and our partner sales leaders, that we're just going to continue turning the dial up on the quality and the richness of those plans," CA's Bradley promised in a speech to partners at the summit.
Today CA has about 200 premier and select partners in its Technology Partner Program with another 50 or so in the pipeline, according to Bradley, with about 300 being the overall goal. Many more resellers are affiliate members of the program.
"We're not out recruiting thousands of partners. That's really not our strategy," said CA's Fischer, addressing the summit attendees. "We want quality [and] enduring relationships."
A constant theme throughout the summit was helping partners evolve as their customers increasingly adopt cloud IT services as an alternative to installing on-premise IT management tools. A key element of CA's push in that area is Nimsoft, the cloud-based IT monitoring and service desk software the company acquired in March 2010.
And as cloud computing reduces the need for deep implementation skills among solution providers, CA executives repeatedly emphasized the value of "domain expertise" -- whether in vertical industries or practice areas like project management -- among channel partners the company is working with most closely.
CA's channel efforts haven't been without their hiccups. Fischer, for example, noted that he still hears of conflicts between partners and CA's services organization, something he's working on. "Our strategy is to have an effective services team that leverages partners. We do not want to have a giant services team. It does not work for our financial model," he said.
NEXT: There's Still Work To Be Done
During a Q&A session at the summit, one partner complained that the company's product organizations remain siloed and resellers meet resistance from product managers when partners try to combine multiple products to create solutions. And Bradley acknowledged that the partner portal still has some "content and update issues."
"We're always aware that this is a journey and there's a lot of work to do," Bradley said in the interview.
But, the channel work the company has done so far is paying off. Information Security Xpert, which works with CA security products such as SiteMinder and IdentityMinder, sells to many customers that fall into the $2 billion-and-above category and Xpert's Maxwell said he has even seen a willingness by CA employees to work with his company when such "enterprise" deals call for a joint effort.
"They've bent over backwards to help us," said Marc Landry, CEO of CorePlus, who also cited the vendor's willingness to do joint sales calls to close deals. CorePlus is a Dallas-based solution provider that offers cloud management services that incorporate CA's 3Tera AppLogic platform.
About $3 billion of CA's annual sales come from the vendor's line of mainframe management tools -- products that are largely sold direct by the company. Most channel partners work with what CA calls its "distributed" software products that account for about $2 billion in annual sales.
PUBLISHED OCT. 16, 2012