Polycom Channel Chief Nudging Partners Toward New Cloud, Software Wins

Polycom in 2014 is making it a priority to drive new recurring revenue opportunities for partners, a goal the San Jose, Calif.-based company hopes to achieve through a new suite of cloud-based and virtual videoconferencing solutions.

"We traditionally have been heavily focused on hardware-based appliances," said Mike Conlon, vice president of Worldwide Channels at Polycom, in a recent interview with CRN. "Now we are making a shift toward software."

Conlon said this shift, along with partners' own shift toward the recurring revenue sales model, emerged as a major theme at the TEAM Polycom global partner conference last month. "What the partners will end up seeing from us is a shift in compensation, and it will go to more of an annuity-type of stream," Conlon said.

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To do that, Polycom unveiled at the event RealPresence One, bundled video, voice and content collaboration software customers can purchase as an annual subscription, rather than as a one-time up-front cost.

What's more, Polycom is readying a channel launch of its new RealPresence Cloud Managed Services (CMS) offering, which will provide partners with a go-to-market cloud-based videoconferencing service, and then wrap additional managed services opportunities around that sale. Conlon likened CMS to cloud-based meeting-room solutions on the market, but said Polycom's will be "more robust and dynamic."

Conlon said Polycom currently has a pilot partner program with two partners around CMS. The company, however, is hoping to scale that program to include between 15 and 20 partners by the second half of the year, and build it out incrementally from there.

Brad Johnston, COO of Solutionz Conferencing, a Brentwood, Calif.-based solution provider and videoconferencing specialist, said CMS really rounds out the RealPresence portfolio with a robust, cloud-based option.

"We are getting a lot of traction with CMS, and what I really like about it relative to the Polycom story is that you can talk to clients about a hardware solution for the RealPresence experience, a subscription-based software with the RealPresence One offering, a cloud solution, or a hybrid of any of the above," Johnston said. "It's a really extensible story."

Johnston said Solutionz has signed on 15 customers for RealPresence CMS since adding the product in October, with an additional 50 to 60 customers that are currently on a 30-day trial right.

Conlon, who became Polycom's worldwide channel chief in September, following a year in the North American channel chief seat, said another goal of his is to revamp the Polycom Partner Network program to leverage more of a value- rather than volume-based partner ranking and rewards structure. He said, for instance, Polycom will likely start categorizing and compensating partners based not on their sales volumes, but on the number of Polycom technical certifications they hold.

Conlon also said Polycom is considering letting partners test out of certain certification exams if they hold certifications from Polycom technology partners like Microsoft or VMware.

"In the Unified Communications space, I think the partner really needs to understand the total environment," Conlon said. "And when a partner is talking to a customer about their total environment, there are some other accreditations in the marketplace that I think hold a lot of weight."

Conlon said any major changes to the Polycom Partner Network program would likely occur later this year, in the July time frame.

Polycom today has roughly 3,400 solution provider partners in North America and 7,000 worldwide. Conlon said his goal moving forward is not necessarily to increase the number of Polycom partners, but to work more efficiently with the ones it already has.

"I think, right now, we are on the right course," Conlon said. "We are very focused on the partner as a whole, and that’s not just coming from me -- that’s coming from Polycom through and through."