Online Partner Locators: How They Work3:00 PM EST Fri. Mar. 29, 2013
Just about every major IT vendor operates an online partner locator system where prospective customers can search for solution providers. But every vendor's system is a bit different in terms of which partners can participate, the criteria used for searches, and the order in which solution providers are listed.
One thing that's clear: Vendors are increasingly giving preference to their more valued partners, those who invest to become certified or specialized in the vendor's products.
Here's a look at some of the major vendors and how their partner locator systems work.
Also, take a look at our special report on partner locators and their effectiveness, available exclusively on the CRN Tech News App.
Who's In: Open to all 60,000 partners worldwide
Search Criteria: The Cisco system allows a basic search using key words for partner skills such as "cloud security" or industry specialization, a company name, and/or a location or ZIP code. An advanced search allows a user to select a long list of criteria, including level of resale certification (Select, Premier, Silver and Gold) and type of partner (for example, cloud partner, industry solutions partner, services reseller).
How They Are Ranked: A user can choose to see a list alphabetically. But Richard McLeod, director of business development for collaboration, Cisco worldwide channels, said that partners with high customer satisfaction scores get "special designation" in the rankings.
Who's In: Preferred and Premier partners only, not open to Registered partners
Search Criteria: Customer prospects can use Dell's partner locator to perform a simple search based on geography or they can undertake an advanced search based on partner status, Dell certification areas (for example, networking and security, cloud builder, server, storage, etc.) and a partner's customer focus (SMB, government, etc.).
How They Are Ranked: When multiple partners meet the same criteria, Dell gives preference to its Premier partners, then Preferred partners. Listing partners alphabetically is the ultimate tie-breaker.
Who's In: Open to all partners in the HP PartnerOne channel program
Search Criteria: HP's partner locator initially asks searchers to say whether they are seeking a solution for a large enterprise, SMB, home office, federal government, higher education, and so on. Visitors then choose to search by HP product, partner specialization (for example, cloud builder, network security or virtualization), and geographical area.
How They Are Ranked: The partner locator's algorithms give weight to channel partners' competency certifications, although their sales volumes can be factored into the equation. If the customer clicks that he or she wants to see partners within a certain radius of their location, the system lists the closest partners at the top.
Who's In: The complete database of 130,000 IBM partners
Search Criteria: Customer prospects can search for partners based on any combination of specific IBM products or services, vertical industry expertise, solution area (for example, business intelligence, cloud computing or security), and business partner type (for example, VAR, managed service provider, ISV) and geography. Partner type categories also include solution providers owned by minorities, women and disabled veterans.
How They Are Ranked: Premier partners get top billing in the search engine results.
Who's In: 120,000 registered members of the Microsoft Partner Network
Search Criteria: Searchers using Microsoft's Pinpoint can undertake broad searches for partners according to business need (for example, cloud computing, financial management), competency (partners certified in such areas as application development and CRM) or industry focus. Results can be refined to list partners by geography, competency rating, or even alphabetically.
How They Are Ranked: Competency ratings are key. For example, a partner rated "gold" in business intelligence will be ranked over others. Customer reviews and references are also factored in. "It's a very sophisticated ranking engine underneath," said Karl Noakes, general manager of Microsoft's worldwide partner strategy and programs.
Who's In: Open to all 21,000-plus solution providers in the Oracle Partner Network (OPN) Solutions Catalog
Search Criteria: Browsers can search for partners by product (for example, database, applications, middleware, server and storage hardware), by partner accreditations and technology specializations, or by region. They can also search using keywords: A search on "security," for example, turned up 452 partners.
How They Are Ranked: Preference is given to partners who are "specialized" and "advanced specialized" -- that is, certified to work with Oracle products. Qualifying specializations are also critical for partners who aspire to become Gold-, Platinum- or Diamond-tier partners in the OPN program.
Who's In: Symantec's 400 Platinum, Gold and Silver partners in the U.S. and Canada and 1,400 SMB Specialist partners in the U.S. and Canada.
Search Criteria: Searchers start by entering a country and then can search for a partner according to specific locations, by partner specializations (data loss prevention, for example, or managed security solutions), by business need (such as encrypting data to address privacy and compliance regulations), or product name.
How They Are Ranked: Partners identified in a search are listed according to their partner level (Platinum, Gold, Silver). When there are multiple partners at the same tier, the partner with the most individuals with technical accreditations comes out on top.
Who's In: Open to all 55,000 channel partners
Search Criteria: Prospective customers enter a country, then select from a number of criteria including partner type such as corporate reseller or service provider, partner level, solution competency (for instance, business continuity or desktop virtualization), specialization (health care or federal government, for example), and purchasing programs such as volume or enterprise purchasing.
How They Are Ranked: Partner competency level is the key criteria for ranking solution providers with "premier" partners getting the top spots.