Quest Software is overhauling its channel efforts to create a unified program for its 4,500 channel partners and boost partner cross-selling of the vendor's broad software product portfolio.
The new Quest Partner Circle program will replace a disparate collection of partner programs Quest operates today, a legacy from the company's numerous acquisitions in recent years, including RemoteScan, BakBone Software, Surgient, NetPro and ScriptLogic, among others.
"We've really been running with a lot of individual programs, some from our acquisitions," said Michael Sotnick, vice president of worldwide channels and alliances, in an interview. The new program will unite resellers, distribution partners and referral partners under a single umbrella program.
The channel accounted for about 40 percent of Quest's $760 million sales in 2010, up from 38 percent in 2008 and 39 percent in 2009.
"They really needed to revamp it," acknowledged Geno Cenci, who manages the Quest, Microsoft and Citrix practices at ePlus, a Herndon, Va.-based VAR. He praised the nuts and bolts of the new program the company is assembling. "It's the ecosystem of how we're going to be supported," he said.
"I think what they are doing with the Quest Partner Circle will be helpful," said Curt Wheadon, a global vice president with Dimension Data, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based solution provider that resells Quest's software migration tools and other products. While he said the channel program has largely been working in the U.S., it hasn't been very effective internationally.
The Quest Partner Circle will have three tiers: Elite, Premier and Registered. Sotnick anticipates that between 5 and 10 percent of Quest's partners will make it into the Elite category with another 15 to 20 percent categorized as Premier. The remaining 70 to 80 percent will be Registered partners.
Solution providers will have to submit 10 commercial and 5 public sector customer references to become a Premier partner, and 20 commercial and 10 public sector customers to achieve Elite partner status, according to the company. Both tiers must have trained and certified sales and technical staffers -- more for Elite partners.
With those requirements Quest joins other software vendors like Microsoft and Oracle that have upped the partner certification requirements in recent years.
Premier partners also must have semi-annual business plan reviews while Elite partners are subject to quarterly reviews. Premier and Elite partners will both have annual sales quotas -- higher for the Elite tier -- and both must pay a $500 annual program fee.
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Some partners had equally rigorous requirements under the older programs, Sotnick said, while others will have to step up to the new program's requirements.
That's OK with Cenci at ePlus. The new program will better recognize partners who go beyond fulfillment, he said, and help differentiate them from competitors who provide less value around Quest products. "And I think they're getting much better on deal registration," he added.
Registered partners have minimal requirements and their partner agreements are through distributors. They have no program fees.
Partners receive a range of benefits, in addition to margins commensurate with each tier. Premier partners have access to a shared "champion" inside Quest, for example, while Elite partners have a dedicated representative.
"We offer a tremendous amount of marketing support," said Christine McDermott, senior director of partner marketing, in an interview, saying that in the last 18 months the company has "quadrupled" the amount of market development funds it offers partners.
Sotnick said the new program's success would be measured by increased partner sales to new and existing customers, as well as increasing the amount of partner cross-selling across Quest's broad product line. Quest also will leverage the program to recruit new partners, particularly in some regions such as Latin America and Asia Pacific.
Dimension Data's Wheadon sees the channel program overhaul as an opportunity for the company to better engage partners with the broad Quest product line. He added that Quest's top executives have always been easy to work with, and he predicted that if the company brings that same philosophy to the partner program, it would be a success.
Partners who provide services around Quest products, but don't resell them, will be managed by Quest's services organization, Sotnick said.