BEA Tunes In To The Channel

Perhaps even more surprising, the ISV is winning fans for its new, improved partner-friendly attitude.

“In general, our jaws have dropped at how good they are with the channel,” said Deke Johnson, CEO of San Carlos, Calif.-based VAR Aware Technologies. “I am not an easy guy to please, and I can tell you that I&d give BEA an A, while their competition is probably a C+, at best.”

That's right, BEA—known for being adrift in a channel mess of its own making since 2002, after former channel chief Rauline Ochs left for Oracle pastures. As recently as last year, partners described the company&s channel strategy as “horrific.”

Thanks to a long-term appetite for big-ticket enterprise sales BEA was left vulnerable to IT spending fluctuations. The vendor not only had to expand into the midmarket, it also needed to get into more head-to-head technology comparisons, where it often benefits. Since January, BEA has recruited 70 North American VARs, bringing the total to 82, opened nearly 14,000 of its approximately 15,000 accounts to resellers, and added GE Access and Arrow as distributors—it already had Agilysys.

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“We knew we had to build a program where partners can make money up front and not have to go through back-end rebates,” said Rob Ontiveros, senior vice president of Americas channels and alliances at the San Jose, Calif.-based company. “We&re also dedicated to minimal channel conflict and have put a lot of meat behind that.”

That meat lies in the changes BEA has made to how it compensates its direct sales force. Reps in its general territory, for example, are now required to achieve a subset of their quota through the channel. In addition, internal sales reps are paid the same or better rates than if they&d brought in the sale themselves. “We&ve also put in a specific bonus when they engage the channel in early stage opportunities,” Ontiveros said.

It&s made a world of difference, partners say. “In the past, the general reps would just hold onto these deals and think they could manage them. Now they are turning it over to partners, and when that happens one plus one equals three,” said Sam Jankovich, president of longtime BEA partner Enterpulse, Decatur, Ga. “We have three new clients this month that we&ve engaged with because of the new program. These were clients we would never have seen before. This is totally working.”

Now the question remains: Can BEA regain its onetime leadership in the infrastructure software space?

“I have to admit that sales growth hasn&t accelerated at the same rate as other vendors I&ve brought on. But I feel they are a strategic vendor, and I&m willing to stick with them a few years because I believe in them,” said Rob Wolfe, president and CEO of AvcomEast, Vienna, Va.