New Partner Portal Ignites Massive Channel Growth For Nintex

About a decade ago, Nintex had just spun off as a business division of an Australian systems integrator with a successful Microsoft SharePoint practice.

Today, the company is one of the fastest-growing Microsoft technology partners, with headquarters near Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., sprawling campus and selling workflow automation software to global enterprise customers.

And now the online customer management tools Nintex made available to its channel at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference -- when "we really doubled down on our channel investments" -- are paying off with a surge in partner enrollment, Josh Waldo, vice president of partner strategy and programs at Nintex, told CRN.

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At WPC in July, Nintex unveiled a portal offering a number of capabilities to make it easier for partners to manage their relationships with customers and the vendor. Since then, some 165 solution providers have joined the ecosystem of more than 1,000 total partners.

For a company with 350 employees worldwide, that level of partner influx in less than three months demonstrates the scalability of the partner program, Waldo said.

Some 2,700 employees of channel partners have already started accounts through the portal, enabling them to "register deals, leads, get training, be able to co-sell with us in a more efficient manner, and get sales resources like a demo environment," Waldo said.

And about 40 new users per week are taking advantage of the self-help capabilities offered through the portal's learning center, "which really helps us create this army of people that are knowledgeable on Nintex solutions," Waldo said.

The capabilities of the new portal are necessary to keep pace with the company's recent growth, he said.

It all began in 2005 when OBS, a systems integrator based in Melbourne, Australia, recognized a need in the market for a tool that didn't exist, Waldo said, a tool that would allow nondeveloper customers -- systems administrators, business analysts, workflow specialists -- to build robust workflows.

Sensing an opportunity, OBS poured some money into R&D and built the first workflow automation software with drag-and-drop capability.

The resulting business, Nintex, made the decision before even leaving the shores of Australia that it would scale globally by pursuing a channel model, giving the startup reach into different markets and verticals.

"It understood it would be hard to start with a direct sales model and then try to back a channel into it," Waldo said.

The company is now based in Bellevue, Wash., and sells 80 percent of its cloud-based workflow automation solutions through its channel.

For one partner, Neudesic, a systems integrator based in Irvine, Calif., that focuses on large enterprise accounts, the portal has become "a primary conduit for a lot of our alliance activity," said Mark Jones, Neudesic's CMO and vice president of alliances.

The online tool already has resulted in better joint field traction within both organizations, as well as improvements in lead sharing and addressing the business needs of clients, Jones told CRN.

"Nintex realized they needed to scale," Jones said. "The new global partner program has really elevated the level of engagement which we have with Nintex across the board."

As Neudesic deploys automated workflow processes across verticals like health care, manufacturing, financial services and utilities, the portal means "we can invest more of our time building solutions to bring to market rather than the logistics and work processes of our relationship," Jones said.

The ease and accessibility to data on active Nintex customers, from registered leads to the pipeline, impressed Jones.

"With the new partner portal, information is available at hand instead of having to reach out to my counterparts there," Jones said.

Travis Hargett, president of Eastridge Technology, a solution provider based in Winston-Salem, N.C., that serves customers throughout the Southeast U.S., has been working with Nintex since 2009.

The partnership stemmed from a misguided effort within Eastridge to build its own custom workflows for customers, "which is super cool if you're a bit geeky computer nerd."

It's also time-consuming and expensive, Eastridge's Hargett said. "So we learned very quick that's not going to be a big seller for us, so we went searching for partners."

The advantage of Nintex's solution is that it's easy to deploy, easy to customize, and all part of a "well-known and well-loved ecosystem, which is SharePoint."

The visibility into customers through the portal has transformed the business.

"We can actually see exactly what they bought and when it expires," Hargett said. In the past, when a customer bought new software and needed to move licenses to another server or another tenant, it "was always a game of many emails."

Now Eastridge staff can just log in and see exactly what's been allocated, licensed, and what level of support exists, he said.

"We need it, because selling cloud Software-as-a-Service is different to selling workflow software that lives on a server," Hargett told CRN. "They clearly put a huge investment into their own technology to make it easier for us to sell."

The spin-up demo environment available through the portal also solves a problem that is "the bane of salesperson's existence in the software world," he said.

"Nintex has put a tremendous amount of energy into making it easier for us to provision an entire environment, giving us a script with data to light it up and show a customer," Hargett said.

As Nintex expands its channel, it's also becoming more strategic about its technology partners, linking platforms like Office 365 with Salesforce through its acquisition of Drawloop, a popular Salesforce document automation app Nintex bought a few months ago.

"Building the bridge to Salesforce puts us in a unique situation as far as ISVs, and you can see that's the company's direction," Nintex's Waldo said.

As Nintex continues to grow its channel, it will employ "sophisticated capacity planning" techniques learned from Microsoft, making sure it doesn't add too much capacity in individual markets so as to protect regional partners that have already established practices, Waldo said.