3Com Livens Up Partner Program

"The view very much is centered around creating a program and an architecture that rewards partners and encourages partners to invest in training and building expertise, positioning themselves in the marketplace around their area of expertise," Nick Tidd, vice president of Americas channel sales at 3Com, said in an interview with CRN. "We really want to move partners away from revenue as a measurement."

Some of the more than 260 solution providers at the event said 3Com is hitting the right chord with its efforts to revamp its channel.

"I'm seeing a lot more energy from them than I have in a long time. They seem to be back to paying attention to the channel now," said John Lowry, CEO of Intelesys, a 3Com partner in Madison Heights, Mich. The company's 3Com sales are up 50 percent year over year, driven primarily by VoIP and LAN products, Lowry said.

Among 3Com's changes is the creation of a new security authorization program within the vendor's Focus Partner Program. Partners that want to sell the UnityOne security products must apply for and earn Silver- or Gold-level status in the new security program, Tidd said. 3Com picked up those products earlier this year through its acquisition of intrusion-prevention vendor TippingPoint.

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"We have defined and are rolling out this week the requirements to be a security reseller and have access to the UnityOne product family, and those requirements are measured in the number of sales certifications you've got to have and the number of technical certifications," Tidd said.

3Com will be drawing from current and newly recruited partners to sell UnityOne products, as well as the existing base of about 80 North American TippingPoint partners, he said.

The Marlborough, Mass.-based networking vendor also is developing plans to move the TippingPoint products through distribution, which should be finalized by the end of this summer, Tidd said. Before the acquisition, TippingPoint had a distribution partnership with Synnex. 3Com is evaluating Synnex and other distributors as potential partners, Tidd said.

Later this year, 3Com plans to launch products that will push TippingPoint's intrusion-prevention technology down to the small- and midsize-business market.

Tidd said 3Com also is mulling a summer launch of a deal-registration program designed to help protect partners' margins. The vendor is collecting partner feedback to help determine what the program--which first would be offered for TippingPoint products--should look like, he said.

In addition, 3Com is readying a new partner portal that would give solution providers a view of their status in 3Com's MDF and 3Earnings rebate programs. Over the long term, 3Com plans to use the portal to conduct collaborative planning with its partners, Tidd said. The portal is scheduled to launch in the next few weeks for 3Com's VoIP partners, with rollout to the broader partner base set for the company's first fiscal quarter.

"It shows you your previous four quarters' revenue, your target to get bonuses and your actual sales so far," Don Gulling, president of Verteks Consulting, a 3Com partner in Ocala, Fla., said after seeing a demonstration of the portal at 3Com Live. "It's right there in black and white. If we have any disputes, we'll be able to nip it in the bud."