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The CRN 2021 Partner Program Guide: Forging A Path To Success

In 2020, the pandemic’s impact was felt all across the channel as vendors quickly adapted to their partners’ immediate needs. But now it’s 2021 and vendors are looking through a different lens and stepping up their partner program incentives, training and more.

Helping partners meet customer demand for work-from-home IT products and services, providing financial flexibility amid the sudden economic uncertainty, and creating ways for partners to market and sell their products and services in a no-contact world—these were the goals of just about every channel chief in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leading IT vendors, including Dell Technologies, SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cisco Systems, quickly adapted their partner programs in 2020 in response to the pandemic. But now it’s 2021 and IT vendors and their channel chiefs are looking beyond those emergency measures and stepping up their channel game. And that means a renewed focus on their partner programs.

Dell Technologies, which relaunched its channel program as the Dell Technologies Partner Program in 2019, has continued to expand its offerings. In February the company made it possible for partners to transact VMware licensing deals through the program. It also launched an Incentives Center that gives partners a single place to view all their incentives, developed an Online Solutions Configurator that improves pricing transparency, and debuted a Power Up initiative to give partners more access to Dell accounts.


“From my perspective, the partner experience is everything that we’re actually aiming toward improving—from tools and automation to improving the way we do business and how partners do business with us,” said Rola Dagher, Dell’s global channel chief. “We’re doing continuous simplifications around the partner experience because we’re living in a world where it’s all about the experience and the personalization. The partner experience is what we’re focused on [in 2021]—anything that’s going to make it easier, simplified and more profitable for our partners.”

And partners appreciate the help. Josh Lee, sales director at VirtuIT, a Nanuet, N.Y.-based Dell Titanium partner, praised the partner program upgrades. “It’s going to make the ease of doing business with Dell Technologies a lot better and a lot easier,” he said. “The faster we can turn around proposals to customers, the easier it is for an end user to do business with Dell partners.”

Intel, meanwhile, in February 2021 launched its long- awaited Intel Partner Alliance, a completely new program that consolidates elements of three older channel programs. Because it represents a far broader group of partners, from OEMs and resellers to FPGA designers and manufacturers, the program’s Member, Gold and Platinum tiers include role-specific criteria for different partner types.

“It’s truly an entirely new construct that widens the aperture of the partner ecosystem that we’re seeing,” said Eric Thompson, Intel’s general manager of global partner enablement. Other elements of the new program include an online marketplace to increase collaboration among partners and direct customers to partner solutions, a new Intel Partner University and a revamped Intel Partner Marketing Studio.

Solution providers face strategic decisions about which IT vendors to partner with, and the quality of the services, support and incentives provided through vendors’ partner programs are a big part of that decision.

The CRN Partner Program Guide is based on detailed applications IT companies submit outlining all aspects of their channel programs. To assemble the annual Partner Program Guide, The Channel Company’s research team analyzes the vendor applications and designates some of the programs as 5-Star based on a range of criteria including partner incentives, margins and discounts, partner profitability, sales and marketing assistance, and subscription- and consumption-based pricing availability. The criteria also includes sales leads, deal registration, pre- and post-sales support, programs to help partners grow their services attach, training and education offerings, specializations and technical certifications. The 5-Star designation recognizes an elite subset of partner programs that offer key partnering elements in their 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 what their partner program goals are for this year. More details about each company’s partner program are available online at

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