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Back in July, Polycom reorganized its various channel programs into one global umbrella program, the Polycom Partner Network, that buckets partners in seven categories: Strategic Alliances, Technology Partners, Developers, Two-Tier Distributors, Solution Advisors (covering traditional VARs), System Integrators and Service Providers (covering transport and MSP partners).
In addition, it's continued to fine-tune the upper-echelon Polycom partner tiers, especially Platinum, and add more benefits. The higher partners are categorized, the higher the revenue thresholds and the more specializations that are required in key Polycom areas such as RealPresence Solutions. But those partners also see better discounts and access to Polycom sales, marketing training and engineering resources, as well as attractive services compensation, Myers said.
Top-level Polycom partners can earn as high as 25 points on some services packages -- a "significant margin delta that only a select few have," he said. Through Polycom support services and portals, partners also will soon get more help keeping track of services contracts that are about to lapse.
Polycom is beta-testing that offer with a handful of solution providers, Myers said, and expects to formally debut it and other programs at Polycom's TEAM partner conference in early February.
"Partners know that the ability to renew contracts before they lapse is very important," Myers explained. "It's a challenge to recover them after the fact if they do lapse, but it can also be a big challenge to keep track."
Overall, according to Myers and Miller, partners will see more programs that specifically reward demonstrated loyalty to Polycom. Several of those have been well-received already, Myers said, and include offerings such as Polycom Preferred, a deeper deal registration program that went live in 2009 and has seen a 300 percent increase in pipeline business over the past two years.
Polycom's also seen channel benefits from various strategic partnerships, including with vendors Adtran and ShoreTel, but particularly with Microsoft and its Lync UC platform. By tightly aligning with Lync at both product interoperability and channel strategy levels, Polycom has widened its channel net to include software-centric partners not traditionally inclined toward communications and video but seeing those technologies as natural extensions of the software UC platform.
Polycom is thinking about channels differently these days, said Myers, who saluted the work done by global sales chief Newell to bridge the divide between Polycom's direct sales apparatus and the partner field. "She's done a fantastic job of supporting the channel and encouraging the AMs and territory managers to understand partners and identify how and when they should be developing territory plans with partners," Myers said. "I have never seen better high-touch sales alignment between the channel and the organization. What we can develop more than anything now is a road map."
By and large, the Polycom channel community feels more comfortable about the future, even if they don't see the company's challenges -- starting with vicious Cisco competition and a shaky spending climate for video overall -- going away.
"There's a lot more now we can anticipate," said Buck Baker, president of ScanSource Communications, Polycom's top global distributor. "The improvements have been in planning and resources and the way they're enabling us to get more of the partners aligned."
"There's no question they have become a better partner," said the top executive at a national solution provider, who requested anonymity. "But the fact that the Polycom offering is by itself limited and they do rely on partnerships with Microsoft and the others to get them into bigger UC deals makes you wonder how much they can really grow. Look at Avaya: They were buddies with Polycom, but now [since acquiring Radvision], they don't really need Polycom. When you go in with Cisco, they own the whole thing so they can make adjustments to everything from the endpoints to the software to the services programs. That's still what Cisco has that Polycom does not have here."
AVI-SPL's Brandofino said Polycom will need to continue to find ways to protect and reward its most strategic partners, especially as they attract more solution providers that are looking to add videoconferencing market strength via acquisition.