The 2013 Partner Program Guide: What Has Your IT Vendor Done For You Lately?

In a year marked by major IT changes, these vendors' programs keep their partners in step

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The IT industry is undergoing some major shifts. Businesses are adopting cloud-computing models while their employees are embracing mobile devices with a passion. Trends like "big data" and social networking offer opportunities and challenges for vendors and solution providers alike.

Solution providers are racing to keep up, transforming themselves by becoming more savvy in business processes, developing expertise in new technology areas like cloud computing and business analytics, and moving into managed services.

Amidst all this upheaval, what has your IT vendor done for you lately?

The 2013 Partner Program Guide offers solution providers the information they need to evaluate IT vendors they already work with or are considering working with. The guide is based on detailed applications vendors submitted outlining all aspects of their partner programs. All applicants are listed on the following pages.

UBM Tech Channel Research crunched the numbers and designated some programs as 5-Star Partner Programs.

The 5-Star Partner Program rating recognizes the elite subset of Partner Program Guide vendors that give solution providers the best partnering elements in their channel programs. The 5-Star rating is given to programs whose overall rating is among the elite segmented by company size--enterprise (annual revenue of more than $1 billion), midsize (revenue between $100 million and $1 billion), small (revenue less than $100 million) and emerging companies (founded in 2007 or later).

For many IT vendors, the channel is a critical aspect of their go-to-market strategy. And that means their channel program is equally critical.

Take Cisco Systems, for example. The Cisco Channel Partner Program, which earned a 5-Star rating in the Partner Program Guide, has more than 60,000 participants worldwide who account for 80 percent of the manufacturer's sales (and almost 100 percent of its SMB "commercial" business).

Like other vendors, Cisco in recent years has been stepping up its efforts to encourage partners to add value to Cisco products by becoming "specialized" in the company's technology and providing value-added services. Specializations, customer satisfaction and other criteria--but not sales volumes--are used to certify partners as "select," "premier," "silver" or "gold" in the partner program.

"That's a big deal. I think we're one of the few vendors that doesn't use sales volume as a criteria for certification," said Edison Peres, Cisco senior vice president, worldwide channels, in an interview.

NEXT: Separating From The IT Vendor Pack

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