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2018 Channel Chiefs: The Partner Pulse

As the IT landscape transforms and solution providers make the necessary shifts to stay current, today's channel chiefs must have that 'adaptable mind-set' as well. Here are the executives who know how to create a partner program that delivers.

Customer demands are continually changing: Businesses are looking to solution providers for a broader, deeper range of IT services, from core implementation to high-level consulting in digital transformation. Business models are changing: Traditional reselling and software licenses are giving way to subscription-based sales and recurring revenue. And channel companies themselves are evolving into a wide array of VARs, strategic service providers, MSPs, systems integrators, referral partners and more.

Oh, and the pace of IT development is accelerating. Got AI?

All this means that demands on channel chiefs are continuing to grow as well. Offer a multi-tier channel program? Check. Have a partner portal? Check. Provide deep sales and technical training, partner enablement tools, and marketing resources and funding? Uh, let me check.

"We, as channel chiefs, need to evolve along with what's going on in the industry," said Sergio Bea, who recently became vice president of global enterprise and channels at Accedian, a network performance technology developer in Montreal. He's now building the foundation for the vendor's first global partner program.

"Maintaining an adaptable mind-set is critical," said Scott Erickson, senior vice president of worldwide channel sales at document and information management software developer M-Files in Plano, Texas. "You need to keep a constant pulse on what partners need to keep on growing."

Erickson's to-do list of late has focused on helping M-Files channel partners develop subscription-based revenue models and educating them about the changes in business processes. Erickson is also deeply engaged in providing M-Files' partners with tools and enablement resources, such as training, marketing collateral and channel sales managers in the field.

"All are designed to help partners sell our technology more effectively," he said.

With more IT solutions becoming "virtualized" through cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service, IT delivery models are changing, Bea said. "And that requires a completely different model" from traditional programs that emphasize tiers and discounts, he said.

Bea notes that smaller companies like his are increasingly competing against major vendors like Cisco for partners' attention. That means offering a disruptive, industry-leading product. "To me, it's all about relevancy. You always have to fight for relevancy with the partner ecosystem," he said.

Ensuring that partners -- and the channel organization -- are bringing value to an IT vendor remains a challenge, said Geneva Lake, vice president of worldwide alliances and channels at MapR Technologies, a big data software developer in Santa Clara, Calif. "We need to be constantly re-evaluating what we're doing," Lake said.

And that, she added, means "understanding which partnerships are really moving the needle for us."

Here we present the 2018 Channel Chiefs, CRN's annual list of the top channel executives and what they've been doing to "move the needle" on their channel programs. Our 50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs of 2018, are an elite group drawn from the larger pool of Channel Chief honorees that represent the cream of the IT channel crop.

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