Emerging U.K. SaaS Provider Automates Partner Program Certification, Rebate Tracking For Channel Giants Like Cisco, Microsoft, HPE

As channel programs become increasingly complex, particularly those offered by large vendors, solution providers often spend valuable time and resources staying compliant with certification and back-end rebate requirements.

Vortex 6, a U.K-based vendor that specializes in business enablement SaaS for the IT industry, aims to alleviate some of those burdens for partners with V6 Fusion, a cloud-based management software that automates tracking of compliance- and rebate-related requirements.

CEO Peter Olive said V6 Fusion allows solution providers to improve their bottom lines by reducing the administrative costs associated with managing channel program compliance and working to ensure they receive maximum benefit from incentives like Cisco's Value Incentive Program (VIP).

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"The whole thing is designed to make the channel partner more profitable," Olive told CRN.

Founded in 2009, Vortex 6 initially developed its flagship software for the Cisco channel after the company – formerly a member of the networking giant's Learning Partner program – realized how many solution providers had trouble juggling its intricate stipulations. Much of the tracking work was carried out manually, Olive said, with partners logging copious amounts of data on spreadsheets.

Also, the tools provided by Cisco and other vendors vary and are often not all-inclusive, putting the onus on partner to develop expertise.

Those problems led to the birth of V6 Fusion, which until recently was primarily designed for Cisco support. Within the past several months, however, Vortex 6 has quickly enhanced support for its 80 partner clients with HPE, Microsoft, Juniper, Oracle, VMware, RedHat and Citrix partner portal integrations. Olive said he hopes to add Dell EMC, IBM and Amazon Web Services to the list, as well.

The SaaS solution allows partners to manage and track compliance across all those channel programs through the V6 Fusion dashboard. From the dashboard, solution providers can check their existing compliance status within each vendor program and forecast whether any potential issues might arise in the upcoming weeks and months.

Olive said they could also enhance planning efforts by leveraging the platform's what-if analysis function. If a partner were to move up one tier within the Cisco program or add a technology specialization, for instance, V6 Fusion automatically calculates the would-be ramifications.

"That exercise can usually take one to two working days per vendor for a partner to do. Our software automates that and does it in seconds," Olive said.

The platform has reporting features that allow partners to track their capabilities and business skills, as well, allowing a company to more quickly respond to information and proposal requests.

Another channel program challenge solution providers often face revolves around resource constraint. Some larger partners can afford to hire a full-time partnership manager who then manages certification and rebate data on spreadsheets, but small and mid-size IT companies tend to rely on employees who have other responsibilities.

When staff turnover occurs, partners may not have a contingency plan in place, which can result in a significant financial loss via missed rebates. Olive said V6 Fusion helps users maintain business continuity with its built-in training, program specifications and certification exams.

Dana Steffey, president and CEO of O'Fallon, Ill.-based Secure Data Technologies, said the company needed six months to prepare for the initial certification audit to become a Cisco Gold Partner. Ensuring his businesses remains in that top-tier is another rigorous task made easier by using V6 Fusion, he said, particularly if he loses any technical expertise on short notice.

"People come and go. You can't necessarily control that. It's very expensive to certify engineers, and the idea of losing a $500,000 check because of an employee departure would make me throw up," Steffey told CRN.

Previously, Steffey said the 50-person Secure data had to rely on "many" employees to manually check its certifications and VIP requirements.

Vortex 6 has received "significant" interest in the software, according to Olive, who said IBM plans to integrate all of its partner specifications into V6 Fusion. Ingram Micro is helping onboard North American-based Microsoft, HPE and Juniper solution providers onto the platform, he added.

The vendor plans to expand its support and capabilities around V6 Fusion, as well, including new services and features such as modules that help partners manage infrastructure nearing end-of-life.

For busy solution provider executives like Steffey, whose companies are already facing significant pressures to adapt in a fast-paced IT world, being able to automate such a time-consuming, detail-oriented task is "huge."

"If a person's certification on a single test goes out of compliance, it puts me in a bad situation and could potentially cost me Gold or forfeit me back-end rebate dollars," Steffey said. "This allows me to track and keep a forward-looking view on my goals at the partnership level. I can say, 'In the next 120 days, does anyone in any field, any specialty go out of compliance?' It gives me that look so I'm not rushing at the last minute. I have time to proactively fix these."