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One fan of Cisco's partner training and certification programs is Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider that works with the manufacturer, as well as several other major IT vendors such as Symantec, EMC and NetApp.
"Cisco seems to be as concerned with their partners' growth as much as their own," said Hayes Drumwright, Trace3 CEO, pointing to Cisco's rigorous training and certification efforts. "The great thing about Cisco's partner organization is that it helps to mature your entire organization. That's what makes them stand apart."
To meet Cisco's standards, for example, Trace3 had to make some improvements to a number of internal business processes, including how it manages subcontractors and measures customer satisfaction. "It's almost like a mini-ISO [International Organization for Standardization] certification," Drumwright said.
Dell, once known for its direct-sales-only business model, is another 5-Star designee in the Partner Program Guide. To learn how far Dell has come, just talk to Nathan Austin, business development vice president at MyTech Partners, a Minneapolis-based solution provider.
MyTech once worked with Dell, but ended the relationship six or seven years ago before Dell became serious about the channel. The solution provider became a Dell Partner again one year ago when the computer manufacturer acquired SonicWall, the security software developer with which MyTech partnered.
Austin has been pleasantly surprised in how far Dell has come. "They've been doing a good job in aligning their goals and their comp plan for the company's inside salespeople with the channel," he said. "They're now incented to work with the channel, which is huge from my perspective. In the past, if direct came into conflict with the channel, direct always won."
As always, solution providers are grateful for market development funds, spiffs and other assistance they receive from their IT vendors.
Jim Bittle, CEO of Commputercations, a Frederick, Md.-based solution provider, recently got a call from a marketing firm working on behalf of Hewlett-Packard informing him that he was eligible for $5,000 in telemarketing assistance from the vendor.
"I'm definitely going to look into it," Bittle said in an interview. His wish is that vendors would do more of that kind of outreach given that time-crunched solution providers rarely have the resources to keep up with channel offerings. "Frankly, we don't have the time to research all the programs that vendors have to offer," he lamented.The Partner Program Guide is designed to help fill that gap.
The PPG applications from IT vendors also provide an interesting snapshot of the current state of vendor partner programs and offer some insights into channel trends.