Nortel Networks is revamping its North American channel program to help partners that provide high-end services distinguish themselves from the pack. The Nortel Networks Partner Advantage program, scheduled to go live in January, creates three partner designations: Advantage Elite for top-level solution providers, Advantage Premium for midlevel partners and Advantage for entry-level partners.
Partners become eligible for Advantage Elite status by meeting both volume requirements and a checklist of 36 service competencies that include earning a qualifying number of Nortel certifications, staffing a 24x7 network operations center, and providing first- and second-level technical support, said Christine Durham, vice president of channel marketing at Nortel, Brampton, Ontario. "By making those investments and meeting those requirements, obviously those partners are going to be able to provide a higher level of support than others," Durham said.
In return, Advantage Elite partners receive higher discounts, dedicated marketing, sales and sales engineering support, and more training credits, Durham said, declining to disclose the discount levels associated with each designation.
Advantage Premium partners will offer the same checklist of services but at lower levels, while the Advantage level will likely include new partners that have yet to build up their services portfolios, she said.
"We're incredibly excited about it," said Kevin DiPaolo, senior vice president of Frontrunner Network Systems, a solution provider in Rochester, N.Y.
Partner Advantage will help Nortel partners differentiate themselves through professional services, DiPaolo said. "They now recognize that the market is heading that way, and that's where the margins are going to be," he said.
The new program will replace Nortel's current Partner Support Program, which offers two partner designations determined solely on sales volumes.
Partner Advantage also offers additional discount opportunities for partners that maintain high customer satisfaction ratings, participate in beta testing and customer trials, or exclusively represent Nortel's product line.
Taking a cue from rival Cisco Systems, Nortel also plans to offer Expert Advantage designations for partners that achieve high-level proficiencies in areas such as security or IP telephony.
Cisco's channel program dropped its volume requirements and added technology specializations as a prerequisite to certification in 2001.
"We only have a value program. There is no volume in it," said Paul Mountford, vice president of worldwide channels at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.
Nortel's optional specialization programs will be open to all partner levels and provide additional incentives around training and lab and demo equipment.