Cloud News

NetSuite's Channel Structure, Partner Ecosystem Evolving With Its Products

Joseph Tsidulko

NetSuite's channel structure is evolving with its product portfolio, and a new initiative introduced to partners this week at the cloud software vendor's SuiteWorld conference aims to modernize how those partners are evaluated and recognized.

The initiative, called Partner Altitude, implements a data-driven scoring system for measuring channel practices across several criteria, and recognizing success accordingly with program status and credentials, Craig West, NetSuite's channel chief, told CRN.

The new approach helps NetSuite identify partners that are maturing their practices, not just driving large sales, as the core technology evolves and a more diverse base of partners enters the fold, West said.

[Related: NetSuite Previews For Partners More Customizable, Intelligent ERP And Commerce Platform]

"We want to acknowledge the partners that are really broadly firing on all cylinders across the big things we can measure," West told CRN. "And it sets us up to start adding additional benefits and tweaking benefits."

The "four pillars" of Altitude, West said, revealed to partners at the start of the conference in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, were determined through market research and analytics. They are: commerce, how much they're selling; competency, certifications they're earning; customers, success with renewals and retention; and collaboration, how well their business aligns with the vendor.

Scorecards, posted in real time and updated via the partner portal, will determine if solution providers are recognized with Premier or Elite status in the program, West said.

One advantage of the new system is its portability across partner communities, with only slight tweaking needed to differentiate between solution providers and global system integrators, he said. The first evaluation of Altitude scores will be done in January, with sales considered for the previous 12 months.

John Hughes, a co-founder of NetSuite partner ManageForce, said the solution provider based in Chicago welcomes any system of scoring partners with specific objectives and criteria.

When the NetSuite Channels team was recruiting ManageForce to join the program late last year, a repeated message was that they were making a concerted effort to cut "dead wood" partners who joined the program but weren't engaged or active in bringing to market the product, and replace them with more capable and committed partners, Hughes told CRN.

"So we’re confident that results will follow and that ManageForce should rank very competitively against other partners," Hughes said. "We expect to continue this type of commitment and, in doing so, would expect to thrive in NetSuite’s new program for managing and ranking partners."

NetSuite, which is projecting a $1 billion run rate, drives roughly 40 percent of sales through more than 300 implementation partners.

The program changes were partially motivated by an evolving base of technology that's encouraging partners to target "micro-verticals" by creating highly specialized industry solutions, West told CRN.

The custom solution capabilities made possible by NetSuite's platform approach are changing the makeup of the company's channel.

"We're really seeing the notion of NetSuite as the platform that's really driving non-traditional VARs to our program," West said.

Some of those VARs previously were independent software vendors in the NetSuite ecosystem, selling through the SuiteApps marketplace.

Metafile, a 35-year-old information management software company based in Rochester, Minn., is such a vendor -- a NetSuite ISV partner now making the transition to join the vendor's implementation channel.

One Metafile product, MetaViewer, brought the company into the NetSuite ecosystem a couple of years ago as a third-party add-on vendor, said Nick Sprau, the company's vice president of marketing and sales.

A second product, focused on nonprofits, called ResultsPlus, is motivating the change to the reseller model.

"From a business standpoint, as we were contemplating the next generation of ResultsPlus, we saw that in order to completely revamp that whole platform was going to take such an internal resource drain that we started looking at alternatives," Sprau said.

The company needed to recast the aging product suite in a modern, hosted environment, and the business case for doing that internally didn't make much sense.

Then Metafile realized the expertise it had already developed as an add-on software vendor coupled with its internal NetSuite expertise in integration and implementation created a new opportunity.

"We can recast the next generation of ResultsPlus on the platform of NetSuite, rather than reinventing that platform internally," Sprau said, then focus on the nonprofit vertical as a value-added reseller.

"We would rather resell the NetSuite platform, build our expertise and bundle on top of that, and share the revenue with NetSuite," he said. The first release of the revamped product is due later in the year.

The evolution to reselling NetSuite's enterprise resource planning software along with its own custom solution for the nonprofit sector was natural because Metafile already had a team of NetSuite experts on staff, highly experienced with implementing its own products, Sprau told CRN.

Another new partner announced at SuiteWorld, CohnReznick, fits more squarely into NetSuite's traditional deployment model based around the notion of a trusted adviser.

The large New York-based accounting firm joined NetSuite's channel in January, and is already seeing a stream of incoming business from customers across several types of industries, said Mark Friedberg, senior manager of the CohnReznick advisory group.

NetSuite lines up well with the company's client base, made up of many midmarket growth companies, Friedberg said, and those companies have yet to embrace cloud.

Many are still doing spreadsheet-based accounting, or their general ledger and accounting systems aren't integrated with the front office. Some need greater visibility into how the business is performing.

CohnReznick has alliances with several on-premises ERP, business and financial systems, Friedberg said, but the company has been impressed with the ease and speed of working with NetSuite, and the marketing, sales and customer support resources the vendor makes available to its channel.

"In the medium term we'll be building custom solutions," Friedberg said, adding that customization and specialization happens more around the bottom of the enterprise than in the midmarket.

"You hear the word customization a lot at this conference," he said. But the power for solution providers to have available to them a unified global platform -- one that enables scripting, custom fields and integration capabilities, along with a marketplace of third-party solutions -- cannot be overstated.

The Partner Altitude program will enable solution providers like CohnReznick to focus on driving customer wins, developing NetSuite Certified consulting resources, and ultimately delivering stellar implementations, Friedberg told CRN. Partner Altitude is a critical component in ensuring NetSuite's top position as a cloud-based ERP developer for midmarket growth companies and global enterprises, he said.

New partner ManageForce comes into the NetSuite ecosystem with a long history of deploying ERP systems.

In its first decade of existence, the company worked primarily with Oracle, and a bit with Salesforce, Hughes told CRN.

But ManageForce added a NetSuite practice a few months ago, responding to customers looking for an enterprise-class ERP that had matured in the cloud. The company was drawn to NetSuite because of the rich platform, maturity of the solution and breadth of the product, Hughes told CRN.

In that short time, ManageForce has already closed several NetSuite deals.

"It feels like they're really going stronger upmarket, not just serving the core constituency of SMB," Hughes said. "They have the components to do that."

About 30 percent of ManageForce's business involves the creation and customization of unique solutions.

"We've seen sales situations where the customer needs new application functionality," Hughes told CRN. "Because of the platform, we're very comfortable building it out on NetSuite."

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