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The Channel Raises The Bar: 2020 Partner Program Guide

Solution providers are upping their game as customers demand the hottest technology and the latest in consumption-based pricing. The right vendor partner program will be key to their success.

As resellers evolve into solution providers, strategic service providers and MSPs, so must the partner programs that link them to their IT vendor partners. And not all vendor partner programs are created equal.

Given the importance of IT vendor channel programs, CRN each year develops its Partner Program Guide to provide the channel community with a detailed look at the partner programs offered by IT manufacturers, software developers, service companies and distributors.

Recognizing that technical service capabilities can be a more important benchmark for partner success than sales volume, VMware, for example, went live with a new partner program in early March that dramatically changes the way the virtualization technology giant engages and incentivizes its thousands of channel partners across the globe. VMware Partner Connect, the company’s first new channel program since 2009, emphasizes technical services over sales thresholds and will incorporate the channel programs of recently acquired Pivotal Software, Carbon Black and VeloCloud.

“Regardless of business model, partners can gain access to the full breadth of the portfolio—that’s the guiding principle,” said Richard Steeves, VMware senior director of worldwide partner programs, in an interview with CRN. “Partners get to choose their own adventure in the program. They get to differentiate based on their investment strategy and business model.”

The new program allocates the most rebates, incentives and co-selling opportunities to partners who attain VMware Master Services competencies, a fact appreciated by Worth Davis, executive vice president and CTO at Computex Technology Solutions, a Houston-based VMware partner.

“The Master Services competencies make sense,” Davis said in an interview with CRN. “At a partner level, we’re trying to do the right thing for a customer. That might be two to four Master Services competencies at any given time. If I’m selling as much VMware as I can across multiple competencies, that’s a good thing. We’ll have all of them here at Computex.”

Solution providers are adopting a recurring revenue model and delivering more comprehensive, higher-value services to meet customer demands, said Geoff Ashley, vice president of partner strategy and programs at application developer Acumatica, in an interview with CRN. “The channel itself is becoming more capable. The channel itself is raising the bar.”

Acumatica sells its cloud ERP applications entirely through the channel and relies heavily on partners to market the Acumatica brand and to acquire and retain customers. The company has been steadily expanding its partner program capabilities of late, offering extensive on-boarding and training for new partners and providing services, dedicated account managers and self-service content to help partners develop their brands around their core competencies and improve their sales capabilities.

In September the company launched an enterprise partner initiative, recruiting a small number of solution providers and systems integrators to go after customers with annual sales of more than $500 million.

The Partner Program Guide is based on detailed applications IT companies submit outlining all aspects of their partner programs. To assemble the Partner Program Guide, The Channel Company’s research team analyzes the vendor applications and designates some of the companies as 5-Star based on a range of criteria including partner incentives, margins and discounts, partner profitability, subscription- and consumption-based pricing, sales leads, marketing support, pre- and post-sales support, programs to help partners grow their services attach, training and education offerings, technical certifications, and more.

The 5-Star designation recognizes an elite subset of partner programs that offer key partnering elements in their channel programs. The 5-Star rating is given to programs whose overall rating is exemplary. They are denoted on our listing next to their company name.

IT vendors are listed alphabetically on the following pages along with a sampling of the partner program data.

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