Motorola Solutions Looks To Get Granular With Specialized Partners, App Developers

Motorola Solutions partners have been consistent in their praise that since the old Motorola split into two separate companies, the partner-focused Solutions company that emerged has been a lot more in touch with the channel and how to incentivize partners than ever before.

That's why Juliann Larimer, who became Motorola Solutions' global channel chief in October, sees no reason to mess with something that's obviously working.

"Think of it this way: We're a new company," said Larimer in a recent interview with CRN. "The channel business actually grew faster than our sales business overall, and our partners are critical in the way we go to market. Our channel today is very diverse and made up of organic growth as well as through partners by acquisition."

It's been a full year since Motorola officially became Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility, the latter of which is currently in the process of being acquired by Google. The roughly $8.5 billion Solutions company, which houses the former Motorola's channel-facing businesses, has been substantially streamlined, having sold off wireless infrastructure assets to Nokia Siemens and its two wireless broadband networking units to Vector Capital several months ago.

Sponsored post

Larimer said that if she has one goal to communicate to Motorola Solutions' roughly 2,500 North America partners, it's to make the company's well-received Partner Empower program that much more effective for the channel. That will be crucial to continuing what Motorola Solutions describes as a more than 10 percent compound annual growth rate in its North America channel sales.

"Part of the goal of Empower was to make sure we were getting out a single point of view from a strategy and a program perspective," said Larimer, whose title is vice president, global channels. "We're a lot better now at accommodating the differences in the product portfolio and in the partner business models."

Larimer and her team will use next month's Motorola Solutions Channel Partner Conference in Las Vegas to communicate the next stages of Empower, including an update to the wireless solutions part of the program and a retooled application developer program that will replace Motorola Solutions' current, outdated ISV program.

PartnerEmpower, which was piloted nearly two years ago under Motorola's former Enterprise Mobility Solutions group, is divided into three tracks covering Motorola Solutions' principal product areas: Radio Solutions, Mobile Solutions and Wireless Network Solutions. How it works is that partners are awarded points based on their levels of partnership and also their various technology specializations within the portfolio, and whether they focus on particular verticals such as health care or federal government.

As PartnerEmpower unfolded over the last 18 months or so, Larimer said a big challenge was rationalizing all of Motorola Solutions' internal systems so it could more easily keep track of what partners were accruing points where, and in what technology and vertical segments their specialties were. Larimer said Motorola Solutions changed its technical infrastructure so it has a simplified view of where partners sit in its channel ecosystem -- it's no longer relying on pieces of partner data in silos.

Another focus for Motorola Solutions has been to change how it engages with carrier partners. Mark Kroh, the former global channel chief and since Larimer's promotion, vice president, North America channels, is focused on managing carriers in a group of channel relationships Larimer describes as "nontraditional partners," which also includes large systems integrators. Another difference from before is that Motorola Solutions' carrier relationships are now managed by region instead of in one pool by the global team.

Next: Motorola Solutions Turns Attention To Developers

Motorola Solutions' investigation into the types of partners it has also turned up another interesting class of partner, Larimer said, that had an opportunity to sell Motorola Solutions products but didn't need a full-time affiliation with Motorola's channel program because those sales were more opportunistic.

While some other vendors look to prune those types of partners as dilettante resellers, Motorola Solutions has designated several of them "registered affiliates," which mean they can have a recognized sales relationship with Motorola without being formally attached to PartnerEmpower and have access to some classes of Motorola Solutions products with limited channel partner benefits.

Still other types of partners didn't fit the existing PartnerEmpower definitions either, Larimer added.

"An application developer doesn't resell our product, and neither, really, does a consultant, or an academic. But those are people with domain expertise. They're talking to our customers," she said. "We want them to be aware of the solutions and opt into a conversation with us if they want."

The most obvious program changes, at least in the short term, will be in Motorola Solutions' app developer program, she said. Motorola's former ISV program focused primarily on partners developing applications for Motorola's mobile computing devices.

But with the launch of other products and services such as Motorola Solutions' ET1 Android tablet and the associated RhoElements application framework for developing and deploying mobile apps, Motorola has more resources for the app dev community than previously. Newer initiatives such as Launchpad, which is Motorola Solutions' developer community and online format, are the start of that expansion, Larimer said.

"Phase one is get the developers talking to each other on how to get to that customer more quickly," she said. "We are working on a strategy around how do we create an environment where it's easy to get enterprise customers applications similar to what they're used to in the Android Marketplace and the Apple App Store, and in the consumer experience."

A minority of Motorola Solutions partners cover the entire company product portfolio, and Larimer added that it isn't necessarily Motorola's goal to grow more of those.

"Asking our partners to take on the entire portfolio just to say they do doesn't make sense for them, for us or for our customers," she said. "We're using specializations that can be defined around solutions. Are you good at RFID? Are you good at data capture? Are you good at managing IP networking in a retail location, or converged communications? We really want [the partners] to be logically grouped."