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Further complicating matters, Citrix isn't inviting partners to take part in High Touch deals at anywhere near the rate the channel had expected. One partner that had nearly 200 of his customers added to the High Touch list told CRN he ended up being invited into just one of these accounts.
"Needless to say, that doesn't give me a favorable impression of the [High Touch] program," said the source, who requested anonymity.
Citrix's Fouts, however, insists that the High Touch program has been consistent since its inception. "With High Touch accounts, invitations to partners cannot be assumed," he told CRN. "In many cases, invitations are based on the progress of the sales cycle, where a partner's capability is most needed, as well as the specific partner skill set and ability required."
"For High Touch accounts, Citrix leads the sales motion through our sales teams. Based on the progress of the sales teams, we'll engage and insert partners where the most leverage can be gained," Fouts told CRN.
Citrix certainly isn't the only vendor to decide that handling large customers directly is the best course of action. Some partners see the High Touch program as part of Citrix's goal of becoming a $5 billion company by 2015.
Whatever the reason, Citrix's High Touch program is attracting attention because the vendor has a solid channel track record and hasn't previously shown a proclivity for direct sales.
"It is strange to see Citrix take a direct sales approach when other vendors in the data center are going the other direction," one partner told CRN. "This threatens our trusted advisor status and may eventually cause us to look at other vendors."
Despite the friction the High Touch program is causing, some Citrix partners believe it's working as advertised. Paul Kunze, director at IntraSystems, a Braintree, Mass.-based solution provider, says the program is helping separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to partners adding value to enterprise accounts.
"If a Citrix partner provides value through technical capabilities in an account, rather than acting solely as a fulfillment arm, then they will receive program benefits," Kunze told CRN. "In a positive way, the High Touch program limits competition in accounts where we have strong customer relationships in place."
With the High Touch program, Citrix is setting what appears to be a high bar for partners. While there is still plenty of SMB and midmarket business for the channel, partners that want to go big game hunting in the High Touch program will have step up their skills investment.