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While Polycom remade its image and revamped its priorities as a technology provider, another important shift happened a little bit below the corporate surface. Perhaps realizing that Polycom for too long had treated partners as afterthoughts and had provided channel engagement one major solution provider remembers as "loose and unfocused," Polycom executives retrenched and began to remake the vendor's channel go-to-market approach.
New channel leadership has helped. Ron Myers, who became Polycom's global channel chief in 2009, is a former Tandberg sales vice president. Maurizio Capuzzo, vice president of global channels and alliance marketing, joined Polycom soon after Myers and is also a practiced hand in the UC channel. Both were in place before Miller took over as CEO, but they have continued to work on channels under a slew of Miller-era hires that include everyone from Executive Vice President of Sales Tracey Newell and CFO Eric Brown to North America Theater President David Ruggiero.
"When we first talked [in early 2010], the program hadn't been changed for six years," Myers told CRN. "Since then, every year we've made minor tweaks but, overall, partners have seen a behavioral change from a rewards standpoint. We are going to continue to stress the importance of competency development, of partners representing our products and especially services, where partners that invest will see a significant margin differential."
About 95 percent of Polycom's annual revenue -- $1.5 billion for its fiscal 2011 -- touches the channel, and the company now has more than 7,000 solution provider and alliance partners. The challenge now, Myers said, is to keep those partners both loyal and profitable and insist on incremental business opportunities to expand their sales, especially as it pertains to services.
Navin Mehta, who joined in August 2011 as senior vice president, global services, is leading the charge on evolved Polycom services programs that reward partners for work in areas such as network assessments, as well as make them more money in bread-and-butter services areas such as maintenance renewals, Myers said.
Services are a tricky topic in the Polycom channel. Mike Brandofino, executive vice president of AVI-SPL, the $550 million Tampa, Fla.-based integrator and managed services provider, said that it's good Polycom understands it needs to orient its channel toward services on top of box-selling. But he's concerned Polycom will end up either competing with AVI-SPL for services or better enabling smaller competitors to resell Polycom services and take hard-won business away from his company.
"My concern is how deep Polycom will go into delivering services in a way that competes with us," Brandofino said. "We'll be paying attention because we spend a lot of time and money differentiating ourselves from mom-and-pop shops selling boxes. Polycom is doing what it needs to do to survive but its strategy might not be as good for some partners."
AVI-SPL, like other major A/V integrators, has built and acquired significantly in the past two years to create both breadth and depth in its services portfolio, from VNOC to multimedia presentation display, managed video networking and digital signage. AVI-SPL's goal is to derive one-third of its business from services revenue, which would put it way ahead of what industry association InfoComm pegs as 3 percent for most integrators in the space.
It's a natural discussion because for A/V integration partners, there's little choice but to embrace services, Brandofino explained.
"You could say that Cisco artificially commoditized this space thanks to its distribution model," he said, referring to Cisco's aggressive marketing of Tandberg and other video products through its global legions of partners, which include AVI-SPL. "But the problem with video is that it's still a tough sell. It's still a 'push' product, in which you don't have the demand to just fulfill orders like you do a 'pull' product. We're not yet at a point where single-digit margins on video are made up for in volume sales."
All told, said Brandofino, Polycom has been a good partner in the past two years and with 26 percent of AVI-SPL's revenue in infrastructure, its Polycom sales are increasing and Polycom is considered a strategic line.
"Their approach to partners has been pretty good overall," he said. "What we're going to look at is the software [strategy] because there's not a whole lot there just yet in terms of how to pursue it with customers."
NEXT: What's Coming For Polycom's Channel