Channel programs News

Splunk Streamlines Reseller Partner Program, Launches Tracks For MSPs And Professional Service Providers

Rick Whiting

Operational intelligence software developer Splunk is expanding its channel operations, adding programs for professional service and MSP partners and upgrading the resources it offers reseller partners.

The changes, announced at the company's sales kickoff and partner summit in Las Vegas this week, take effect March 1. Splunk, largely focused on direct sales since its 2003 founding, has been pursuing a more aggressive channel strategy in the last year.

"The Splunk channel program is indeed maturing from an execution and go-to-market perspective," said Jim Kinney, president of Kinney Group, an Indianapolis-based solution provider and Splunk partner, in an email to CRN.

[RELATED: As Sales Approach $1 Billion, Splunk Makes Its Pitch To The Channel]

Splunk's moves come as the big data company maintains its fast-paced growth and begins a fiscal year in which it expects, for the first time, to exceed $1 billion in sales. Splunk currently has 749 active partners, but the company doesn't disclose the percentage of its sales that go through the channel.

Partner bookings grew 60 percent year over year in fiscal 2017 (ended Jan. 31), said Brooke Cunningham, area vice president of global partner programs and operations, in an interview with CRN. And the vendor's top 25 partners reported 99 percent bookings growth.

Cunningham, who joined Splunk in April, spent much of last year listening to partners and developing plans for expanding the company's partner programs: This week's announcements are the result.

"We need to deliver profitable business models for our partners," she said, citing the principles of simplicity, predictability and profitability as the drivers behind the vendor's latest channel moves.

"They listen. They have asked their partners to make a commitment to them. And our company feels that has been a good investment," Jeff Swann, director of solutions architecture at OnX Enterprise Solutions, a Mayfield Heights, Ohio-based solution provider that partners with Splunk, said in an interview.

For reseller partners, Splunk is implementing new rules of engagement for closing customer deals, renewing subscriptions and resolving disputes that Cunningham said will make it easier for partners to work with Splunk. Also being implemented is a streamlined deal registration process.

The company is simplifying its discount structure, which Cunningham described as "very complicated" and made discount predictability difficult for partners. Other rules that kept some partners from reaching maximum discount levels, such as the requirement that a sales engineer participate in sales deals, have been dropped.

"We've really focused it around the sourcing of the deal," Cunningham said of the discount structure. The company has also developed a discount schedule for partners who provide post-sale services.

"Discounts for partners are simpler, and so is the Partner+ Program in general," channel partner Kinney said of the coming changes. "Ease of doing business with Splunk was stated as a 'top five' priority for the upcoming year. I have faith that the Splunk channel team will make this happen," he said.

Swann praised the improvements to the deal registration improvements, saying it provides a more consistent process and promises faster approvals from the vendor.

Splunk, as part of what Cunningham described as "significant improvements" to its partner program infrastructure, is also developing a new partner portal – a prototype was shown at this week's events – with plans to launch it sometime in the middle of the current fiscal year.

Going forward, Splunk plans to create partner councils in each region of the globe where the company operates and survey partners about their profitability and customer successes.

"The No. 1 priority for Splunk this coming year is customer success – again, another testament to the health of the Splunk culture," Kinney said. "This priority really aligns well with our company and other channel partners that pride themselves on solving problems for customers.

"Probably the biggest channel challenge for Splunk will be getting their sales force to truly pivot to leverage what the channel can bring to the table. This is a two-fold challenge, with accountability lying both with the Splunk sales force and with channel partners themselves," Kinney added.

Splunk is also creating a partner track for professional service companies that work with the vendor's software. The program centers on providing service companies with Splunk's "stamp of approval" through technical and sales certifications, customer references and other requirements, Cunningham said.

The vendor currently has 5,381 technical certifications that it has awarded to partners, up 74 percent in one year, and 2,692 awarded sales certifications.

"The technical depth of the Splunk platform requires a different level of investment from partners to be successful," Kinney said. "Partners that have grown up executing the minimal amount of training to sell and deliver a platform cannot take that same approach and be successful with Splunk. Partners that invest in both sales and engineering expertise on the platform will be richly rewarded. Our firm has made this investment and our revenues from Splunk grew fivefold over the past year."

Splunk also launched a partner track for solution providers who want to offer its software as managed service providers. Cunningham said Splunk has "a ton of pent up demand" among solution providers -- both current and new partners -- who want to go the MSP route. Some plan to use Splunk's software for managed security applications and others for data center monitoring.

"I see this as a huge growth area for our partners," the channel executive said.

OnX has an MSP business and while Swann said his company had not made a decision whether to join the new MSP program, he praised the initiative as evidence of Splunk's interest in the MSP channel.

The professional services provider and MSP programs follow Splunk's creation of a technology alliance program in September for ISVs who develop applications that work with the Splunk software, Cunningham said there are 270 partners in that program and another 471 in the process of joining.

Rick Whiting

Rick Whiting has been with CRN since 2006 and is currently a feature/special projects editor. Whiting manages a number of CRN’s signature annual editorial projects including Channel Chiefs, Partner Program Guide, Big Data 100, Emerging Vendors, Tech Innovators and Products of the Year. He also covers the Big Data beat for CRN. He can be reached at

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