Homepage This page's url is: -crn- Rankings and Research Companies Channelcast Marketing Matters CRNtv Events WOTC Jobs Dell EMC Newsroom Ingram Micro Newsroom HPEZone Tech Provider Zone

Know The Score: We Crunch The Numbers Behind Each Channel Champions Win

Which vendor came out on top in financial satisfaction? In product quality? CRN goes in-depth into the scores that tallied up the overall Channel Champions winners.

This year's Channel Champions trophies were handed out at the XChange Solution Provider conference in Los Angeles last month and the scores, by technology category, are published in CRN and on

But, behind the scenes, a lot of numbers were crunched to get those final results. CRN's research team analyzed more than 6,000 responses to a solution provider survey conducted in January and February covering 31 technology categories and a dozen partner satisfaction criteria. A closer look at this year's Channel Champions data offers some revealing insights about the state of the IT industry and how solution providers perceive the job that IT vendors are doing.

Take, for example, the vendors with the 10 highest scores in product quality and reliability, part of the broader technical satisfaction criteria. Power protection and management equipment maker APC by Schneider Electric had the highest score here both in 2013 (99.0) and this year (103.5), even as it lost the category to Eaton.

[Related: Get CRN On Your Tablet ]

That not only shows that APC by Schneider Electric is doing a top-notch job in the product quality and reliability department, but it shows how much the company has raised the bar for all other IT vendors. Competitor Eaton, who won the category for the first time, rose to the challenge and was No. 2 in product quality and reliability, scoring 102.6.

"If it's great technology, it's much easier to sell," said Alex Solomon, founder and co-president of Net@Work, a New York-based solution provider that works with nearly three dozen IT vendors. "But we also want a company that understands sales and marketing."

Solomon divides the IT companies Net@Work works with into two groups: vendors and partners. Vendors, he said, just see the channel as another way to move their products to market. "The partners look at our customers as their mutual customers," he said.

So what does the 2014 Channel Champions data tell us about who's meeting the channel's expectations?

The average score among the overall winners across the 31 technology categories was 78.0, up from 76.2 in 2013. So the vendors with the highest scores, at least, have upped their game.

Drilling a little deeper, that generally holds true when looking at some of the Channel Champions criteria. Take the technical satisfaction scores, for example. Intel was the top-ranked company in both 2013 and 2014 (for its processors), but this year the company's 2014 technical satisfaction score was 93.5, up 1.8 points. The average score among the top 10 in technical satisfaction this year was 90.3, up from 88.6 last year.

Scores for support satisfaction were likewise up. Last year Oracle had the top score, 82.5 for its middleware. This year solution providers gave Cisco the top score, 84.1, for its converged infrastructure products. The average score among the top 10 in support satisfaction this year was 78.2, up from 76.9 in 2013.

Cisco with its converged infrastructure systems was this year's top scorer in financial criteria (which includes product margins, rebates, price for performance, services-attach opportunities and sales growth) at 85.7, a big improvement over the top score of 80.6 IBM received for cloud applications in 2013. The average score among the top 10 in financial satisfaction this year was 79.6, up from 78.3 in 2013.

Generally speaking, scores for most of the subcriteria in this year's Channel Champions voting were also between 1 and 2 points higher than last year. In pre-sales support, for example, this year's top score of 86.7 (given to Cisco for videoconferencing) was up from last year's top score of 85.6 (Oracle in middleware). In the price-for-performance criteria, this year's top score of 91.1 (given to Samsung for its flat-panel displays) was up from the 89.2 top score Oracle earned in middleware last year. And in enablement and technical training, Cisco beat itself this year with the top score of 84.7 in converged infrastructure, up from the 82.8 it garnered last year in unified communications.

The one exception here was in product compatibility and ease of integration. Seagate's score of 97.0 for SATA hard drives was the highest in 2013. But this year's highest score (Western Digital's for SATA hard drives) was 95.3.

NEXT: Meeting Channel Partners' Needs

In terms of meeting channel partners' needs, Cisco has been tops. The company received the highest partner satisfaction scores in nearly all support and financial criteria -- in some cases by substantial margins. Even more impressive was the fact that Cisco earned those scores in converged infrastructure and videoconferencing products -- two technology categories outside Cisco's core networking hardware portfolio.

The runner-up to Cisco in many of the support and financial satisfaction criteria was Polycom, which scored high in pre- and post-sales support, enablement and technical training, increase in sales, and product margins, rebates and spifs.

In a keynote speech at Cisco's recent Partner Summit, CEO John Chambers argued that the company's competitors don't have "an attitude toward partnering like you see at Cisco." This year's Channel Champions scores suggest that's not just bluster.

"We're very predictable and we're very consistent in our partner support and financial assistance," said Sherri Liebo, Cisco global partner marketing vice president, when asked in an interview about the company's high scores. As for why the high scores in new product areas such as converged infrastructure, she pointed to Cisco initiatives such as the Value Incentive Program that helps partners quickly develop solution practices around new technologies.

That helps explain Cisco’s early success in its dogfight with Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM and other vendors in the burgeoning market for converged infrastructure. Given its sweep of this technology category in this year's Channel Champions scores, Cisco seems to be winning the battle at least as far as partners are concerned.

Cisco also swept the enterprise networking infrastructure, videoconferencing and unified communications technology categories. But it was denied a sweep of the SMB networking hardware category in which Dell/SonicWall scored higher in financial satisfaction. And Cisco came in fourth place in a field of five in midrange servers -- a marked change from its No. 1 spot last year.

Microsoft swept this year's partner scoring for business analytics, a technology category in which the company has been battling hard with SAP, IBM and Oracle for years. Microsoft also took most of the top scores in CRM software. Perhaps most heartening for Microsoft is the top overall scores it won in cloud security and cloud office productivity -- a sign the company's efforts to move into cloud services is paying off.

In cloud office productivity, in fact, Microsoft earned high scores in richness of product features/functionality, enablement of technical training, marketing support, services attach and increase in sales.

"The primary message is that we continue to invest heavily in cloud-based incentives," said Phil Sorgen, Microsoft corporate vice president, worldwide partner group, in an interview. He said the vendor helps partners transition to cloud business models, provides technical and presales assistance for cloud products, and offers partners internal-use rights for Microsoft cloud products. And he said the company doubled the incentives it paid out for cloud-related sales over the past 12 months.

As for Office 365, Sorgen said the cloud application suite is Microsoft's fastest-growing product and reached the $1 billion sales mark faster than any other product in the company's portfolio.

CRN reported that starting Jan. 25 Microsoft reduced the fees it pays partners from the Online Services Advisor Incentives program, angering some partners in the process. That could have been a factor in that while Microsoft won the overall cloud office productivity category, IBM scored higher in partner financial satisfaction.

The 2014 Channel Champion scores also provide some insight into what's happening in the competitive markets for midrange servers (more than $25,000 in price) and volume servers (priced less than $25,000).

IBM took most of the top scores in midrange servers with HP coming in at No. 2 (and No. 1 in financial satisfaction). That's a big jump for IBM, which was No. 3 in 2013. This technology category was also Cisco's only real stumble this year: It was No. 1 last year, but tumbled to No. 4 this year because of lower technical, support and financial satisfaction scores

NEXT: Break Out The Broom

Things could get interesting in the volume servers category where HP was No. 1 both this year (sweeping the category) and last, and IBM was No. 2. IBM, remember, is selling its x86-based server business to Lenovo (No. 4 here behind HP, IBM and Dell) for $2.3 billion. Watch this space next year

Desktop and server virtualization is another dynamic technology category with eye-opening Channel Champions scores. VMware, not surprisingly, was the overall winner in 2013 and the company swept the category this year. But this year Red Hat, which held the No. 5 spot last year, substantially improved its scores across the board and surged to No. 2, knocking Microsoft from No. 2 to No. 5. (Citrix and Oracle retained the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, respectively.)

Another vendor that wielded a broom in this year's Channel Champions survey was EMC, which swept the backup and recovery software and SMB network storage technology categories. The company also nearly swept the enterprise network storage category, but Dell scored 0.3 points higher in financial criteria.

"We have a broad product portfolio in those categories," said Fred Kohout, EMC's vice president of global partner marketing, in an interview. "We're always looking to create distinct market value with and for partners." He specifically cited the vendor's VNXe unified storage system, a channel-exclusive product, as an example.

That's all the more impressive given that EMC is in the midst of a partner program overhaul, a time when uncertainty can pull down partner satisfaction scores. The company plans to launch the new program next month but, in the meantime, Kohout said, EMC has developed more enriched, more targeted rebate programs and offers market development funds based on demand-generation proposals from resellers.

IBM swept the data and information management product category and improved its standing in other areas (middleware, enterprise network storage, midrange servers, backup and recovery software).

IBM's major focus in the channel right now is "helping partners move to a higher-value business, moving from selling point products to selling more cross-product solutions," said Mike Gerentine, IBM marketing vice president for global business partners, in an interview. Also on the agenda are efforts to help partners sell more to front-office executives rather than IT departments, and move to a recurring revenue business model.

For the latter, IBM piloted a program last year to help partners identify their strengths and weaknesses before moving to cloud computing. Gerentine says that program will be scaled up this year.

HP swept the cloud backup/recovery and volume server technology categories, topped most scores for network security appliances (Cisco scored higher for technical satisfaction), held at No. 2 in notebooks (behind Lenovo), and came in at No. 2 to Cisco in the hot converged infrastructure category.

Meanwhile, Dell was No. 2 in SMB networking hardware and network storage but scored at or near the bottom in converged infrastructure, enterprise networking infrastructure, network security appliances, networking security software, backup/recovery software and other product categories. And it was in the middle of the pack in enterprise network storage, midrange and volume servers, and notebook and tablet computers.

But Solomon at Net@Work has high praise for Dell. "Dell is a good example of a company that's doing everything it can to go from being a vendor to being a partner," he said. The company is taking steps, such paying its sales force higher commissions for channel sales, toward its goal of making more than 75 percent of its sales through the channel, he said.

"They're putting their money where their mouth is," he said, noting that in March Net@Work did more business with Dell than it has previously done in entire quarters.

So can we look forward to higher Channel Champion scores for Dell in 2015? Maybe, if other solution providers are having the same experience as Net@Work. Dell, like many successful IT vendors, understands that upping its channel game is a never-ending challenge.

Back to Top



sponsored resources