Motorola Retools Channel Program For Points-Based Partner Classifications

Dubbed PartnerEmpower, the program will debut at Motorola's partner conference in Las Vegas Monday. It will address all of Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Solutions (EMS) partners under a single framework, instead of individual programs for individual segments. It will designate partners at bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels -- with successively greater rewards and incentives for each -- based on points awarded to partners.

"We've done our due diligence and taken a look at how customers want to work with channel partners," said Janet Schijns, vice president of global channels for Motorola EMS. "Before, our programs were a simple model of products-sold-times-volume-equals-partner-level, and there were generally certifications involved around product access and simple levels of competency."

The existing programs, however, don't adequately address partners that have particular specializations in vertical markets like health care and government, Schijns declared, nor do they reflect partners' experience with various technologies.

That meant the program had to change, especially since the combining of Motorola's enterprise mobility unit with its government and public safety units into the current EMS in 2009 brought all of its networking VARs under one umbrella.

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"Product expertise, plus satisfaction, plus vertical domain expertise, plus location -- that's what matters most to an end user," Schijns said. "Unlike our older models where you earned your level by product-access-training-times-volume, you'll now earn it by points. You get points for customer satisfaction, customer engagement, volume, deal registration participation and certification. It's a value-based, not a volume-based, model."

PartnerEmpower has three different program tracks: wireless network solutions, mobility and radio. Within each of those tracks are various certifications -- each with its own set of program benefits -- and designations of PartnerEmpower Specialist and Elite Specialist.

That way, said Schijns, a solution provider that for example is a wireless infrastructure specialist with a focus on government deployments will have a program and certification offering targeted to those areas.

The changes won't be immediate, Schijns said. Rather, they'll be phased in over the next 18 months, with existing Motorola partners grandfathered into particular partner tiers based on the certifications and specialties they already have.

Schijns said Motorola account managers will be working one-on-one with solution providers this year to transfer their standing with Motorola to an appropriate account and then steer them toward certifications and training suited to their focus.

"We can either do it fast, or do it right," Schijns said, referencing complaints she said she heard from partners in rival vendors that had watched channel programs change overnight and gotten lost in the shuffle. "For the smallest partner to qualify for the top area is pretty difficult. But it allows the value partner to play up the chain."

Schijns said Motorola in the past year had tripled its investment in certifications, in part to help build out Motorola's ISV relationships. Motorola will also incorporate third-party testing into some of its certifications -- a request from end user customers, Schijns said.

"ISVs in every area of the world have become a critical element," she said. "They need to know they're validated on your solutions. We need to be able to rate them, rank them and open solution centers that value their solutions."

She added that Motorola will withhold the platinum level of PartnerEmpower for the first year of its existence, in part to let the "truly elite" Motorola partners emerge over time.

Overall, PartnerEmpower will help Motorola better know its channel and thus where -- what verticals, specialties and segments -- it has gaps in its partner community.

"We increased our channel centricity in all of our portfolios in 2009," she said. "So we need to understand our partners' capabilities and know the customer satisfaction they provide. We do have some gaps. I don't need more partners, necessarily, in my core markets, but health care is a great example of an area where we can add partners and help them make money."

Another goal, Schijns explained, was creating better interaction between partners, and helping solution providers collaborate with ISVs and service providers in the Motorola channel if a particular situation calls for it.

Overall, she said, Motorola solution providers will see the new program reflected in everything Motorola EMS does. All of Motorola's product teams, for example, have undergone "channel immersion" training to better understand how to build and market Motorola products for solution providers.

"It's not 'smart' that wins the business, it's 'wise.' Smart means you sat through a million classes. Wise means you can apply what you learned to your customers," Schijns said. "Having a model that backs partners in the local market with local expertise is really where I think everybody needs to go. And we're changing our go-to-market messaging, Websites, everything, to talk about the power of the partner."

She said Motorola would continue to offer promotions for partners, too. One of the more recent, a lead generation campaign through which Motorola Premier partners saw their number of high-quality leads doubled (or were paid $100 for each lead they didn't get), was "very successful."

Similarly, Motorola's ongoing ISV rewards program has been robust, and Motorola will continue to offer back-end rebates and other solution rewards.

Gary Fish, CEO of FishNet Security, a Kansas City, Mo.-based solution provider, described PartnerEmpower as an "important evolution."

"By making it easier for us to conduct business with Motorola and gain recognition for our investment in developing specialization, PartnerEmpower will help us build sales momentum, enhance our position in the marketplace and pave a path toward growth," Fish said in a statement e-mailed to

The channel overhaul comes as Motorola's corporate structure undergoes changes of its own. In February 2010, Motorola confirmed that it would split into two separate, publicly traded companies: a consumer business, to include home and consumer mobile devices, headed by Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha, and Motorola Enteprise Mobility Solutions and Networks, headed by co-CEO Greg Brown.

The official split is expected to happen in the first quarter of 2011.