As part of its broader effort to refashion itself into a channel-driven company, Red Hat plans to go live this week with a new partner portal Web site, the Red Hat Partner Center.
The site replaces an earlier, more rudimentary Web site for partners that North America channel chief Mark Enzweiler describes as "not good. No, really, it wasn't good." The new site marks a happy change -- partners who have tested it out in previews say they're impressed.
Troy Webb, a managing partner of Morrisville, N.C., Red Hat partner Incentric Solutions, said streamlined navigation is the biggest improvement in the new Partner Center. Hunting through Red Hat's Web site for product specs and other materials used to be an exercise in frustration, he said. Now, product information, pricing details, training material and marketing collateral are all easily accessible.
"If I have a customer on the phone, I can get into this really quickly, get to product material and almost read off it to answer their questions," Webb said.
Enzweiler cast the Partner Center overhaul as one of many reforms he's implementing to "really shift Red Hat into a channel-centric kind of company." Enzweiler, a longtime channel executive with IBM and then with Lenovo, joined Red Hat last October to oversee North America channel sales. The Raleigh, N.C., Linux vendor drew more than half its sales last quarter through the channel, a figure it aims to increase to 60 percent.
Red Hat's portal overhaul was done in close consultation with channel partners around the globe, Enzweiler said. In addition to drawing on feedback from a focus group of a dozen close partners, Red Hat incorporated advice from channel executives and partners in Europe and Asia-Pacific, two regions that traditionally outpace the U.S. in indirect sales.
"In the U.S., we were lagging behind those two in channel adoption," Enzweiler said. "They added some phenomenal input, having always been channel-centric geographies. It's things we otherwise wouldn't have known."
Red Hat's Partner Center is launching in eight languages, including Chinese, French, Japanese and Spanish. Right now, the site is primarily an information clearinghouse, but Red Hat plans to build up its transactional functionality. Eventually it intends to integrate the portal with its Salesforce.com-based partner relationship management software, allowing partners to work on lead management and renewals.
Incentric's Webb can't wait for that to happen. He'd like to see Red Hat implement an opportunity-registration system, a common channel-program feature the company currently lacks. He would also like to see more live data and analytics made available through the Partner Center.
"I would like to see my sales volume with them," Webb said. "I have a sales goal I have to meet, and I'd like to be able to track that by the month."