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Partner Programs Are The Glue That Bond IT Vendors And The Channel

While vendors rely on partners to expand their market reach, solution providers rely on IT vendors, their products and the related services their customers need. Here are the programs that tie these two together.

Some of the IT industry’s biggest vendors have launched significant revamps and expansions of their partner programs in recent months including cloud platform giant Amazon Web Services, chipmaker AMD, computer systems manufacturers Dell Technologies and Lenovo, and software and cloud behemoth Microsoft.

While those and other recent launches of new and updated IT vendor partner programs differ in the details, there are several common themes among the announcements: simplifying partner engagement, supporting evolving partner types, providing partners with training and certification in new technologies, helping channel partners adapt to new customer buying practices like as-a-service, and creating new ways for partners to increase recurring revenue.

Dell, for example, recently launched a new partner program for its fiscal 2023 that brings together solution providers, cloud service providers and OEMs; offers new incentives aimed at driving partner profitability in midrange storage, client systems and VMware solutions; seeks to drive as-a-service sales, streamlines the Partner Experience Center and Online Systems Configurator, and invests more in the channel than in fiscal 2022.

“We have a robust reseller ecosystem operating in a traditional capex model who have impeccable momentum right now. We have emerging and evolving partners co-engineering around OEM, edge and telecom. These partners have positioned us for the future,” Dell Technologies’ global channel chief Rola Dagher told CRN in February. “We have partners who have been providing managed services with Dell infrastructure long before as-a-service was cool. And those are the partners we’re seeing providing so much more value than just shift-and-lift.”

Data integration and analytics platform developer Qlik devoted 2021 to re-aligning its channel operations and updating its partner program to support the company’s shift to a software-as-a-service model.

“2021 was about enabling partners to build profitable and thriving recurring revenue businesses on our cloud platform, and I’m proud of our successes in that area,” Poornima Ramaswamy, Qlik executive vice president of global partnerships,” told CRN. “We continued to build momentum behind our SaaS-first focus to completely modernize our partner program, which now includes a dedicated Cloud Services track. This is helping channel partners move beyond the traditional reseller model to an expanded emphasis on a recurring revenue, customer lifecycle-based co-sell model that matches how customers want to consume through the cloud.”

AWS unveiled a major overhaul of its partner program in November including introducing five partner paths to streamline the program, simplify engagement and expand partner access to benefits. AMD introduced in February a new partner program with aggressive rebates for commercial systems sellers. And last year Cisco Systems launched the biggest changes to its partner program structure in more than a decade with an increased focus on lifecycle, managed services and everything-as-a-service opportunities.

Some IT companies have spent the last year implementing partner program changes and reaping the benefits of those changes. Juniper Networks saw partner-initiated business grow 110 percent in the year since November 2020 when the company unveiled a plan at its Partner Summit to invest heavily in the channel.

“We went on a journey with the partners,” channel chief Gordon Mackintosh told CRN in November of Juniper’s channel efforts in 2021. “We invested in them and got staggering results. Really, what the partners have been asking for is more investment, joint investments, and alignment with Juniper to work more closely with us than ever before.

At OpsRamp, a developer of IT operations management tools, channel chief Paul Brodie oversaw a major revamp of the company’s channel program in 2021. “We had a partner program, but it was kind of table stakes and we needed to do a refresh,” said Brodie, who became vice president of global channel sales earlier in the year.

San Jose, Calif.-based OpsRamp, which sells 100 percent through the channel, updated its partner program to offer what the company described as “a more partner-friendly profit-sharing model,” along with enhanced lead sharing, more comprehensive sales assistance, and other resources.

It‘s not just the major vendors that have recently undertaken partner program initiatives. Multi-cloud networking startup Prosimo launched its inaugural partner program in January while cloud security company Netskope did likewise in March. IT infrastructure automation company Puppet debuted a new competency-focused partner program in January with the goal of empowering its 200 global partners to be more competitive.

IT vendors rely on partners to expand their market reach while solution providers rely on vendors for the IT products and related services their customers are asking for. Partner Programs are the glue that hold those relationships together.

The annual CRN Partner Program Guide is based on detailed applications submitted by IT companies – more than 300 this year – outlining all aspects of their channel programs. The complete Partner Program list can be found here.

The Channel Company’s research team analyzes the applications and designates some of the programs as 5-Star, an elite subset of partner programs with overall exemplary ratings, providing the incentives, resources and assistance that channel partners need to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace.

The 5-Star criteria include partner incentives, margins and discounts, partner profitability, sales and marketing assistance, and subscription-based and consumption-based pricing availability. The criteria also include the availability of sales leads, deal registration, pre- and post-sales support, programs to help partners grow their services attach, training and education offerings, specialization and technical certifications.

Snapshots of the 5-Star designees can be found in a series of slide shows, organized according to product/technology category, offering insights about each company’s partner program and, where provided, their goals for 2022.

The slide shows include companies that provide products and services for systems and data centers, cloud platforms and infrastructure, networking and unified communications, software, security, devices and peripherals, and data storage and backup. While many companies provide products and services that span multiple technologies, we’ve assigned each vendor to the slide show for the technology category in which they are most prominent.

CRN also has slide shows of 5-Star partner programs from distributors and from emerging vendors – startup companies founded in 2016 or more recently.

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