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CRN Exclusive: RSA Unveils Revamped Partner Program With Incremental Growth, Incumbency Renewal Incentives

RSA's partner program retooling comes after the company doubled the channel's slice of the revenue pie from 35 percent in 2014 to 70 percent today.

RSA has rolled out updates to its channel program that reward incremental growth with existing clients, incumbency renewal, and partners with strong marketing proposals.

The Bedford, Mass.-based security is also adding a managed services program for its RSA NetWitness security incident event management and threat detection and response offering that provides MSPs with dedicated technical resources and a more flexible business model, according to Ted Kamionek, RSA's global head of sales.

The partner program retooling comes after RSA doubled the channel's slice of the revenue pie from 35 percent in 2014 to 70 percent today, Kamionek said. That expansion was largely driven by RSA's acquisition of primarily direct companies and subsequent introduction of their products to the company's channel programs, according to Kamionek.

[Related: RSA To Update Channel Program To Reward Partners That Bring On Net-New Customers]

RSA has doubled down on partner relationships that will help them achieve their overall strategic goals, investing more money into the company's most valued relationship, according to Terry Dolce, GRC technologies risk principal at Chicago-based accounting, consulting and technology firm Crowe Horwath.

"RSA has reinvented their channel program over the past couple of years," said Dolce, who spent three-and-a-half years as an executive in RSA's sales organization.

The company will measure the effectiveness of the changes to its channel program by monitoring: retention rates; the evolution of the number of partners in each tier; the increase in deal registrations amount incremental new business; and the amount of closed business coming from additional business growth, Kamionek said.

Headlining the channel changes is RSA's shift from a tiering model based purely on aggregate business to one that factors in both aggregate business as well as incremental net new sales, Kamionek said. RSA plans to incent net new business by setting lower qualification thresholds for incremental business than aggregate business, according to Kamionek.

RSA's partner program changes take effect this week in conjunction with the start of Dell Technologies' 2019 fiscal year. As part of a tighter alignment with Dell EMC, the three tiers of RSA's partner program will be renamed from strategic, elite and focus (with strategic being the highest) to titanium, platinum and gold (with titanium being the highest).

The company in time expects to have more channel partners at the titanium and platinum levels since there are now multiple ways to qualify, but RSA doesn't expect to see any huge changes out of the gate, according to Faraz Siraj, director of Americas channels.

Partners are being reassigned to their appropriate tier this week based on their performance over the past year, Siraj said, and tier assignments will be evaluated quarterly. The amount of aggregate business a partner needs to do to retain their current tier position has been increased due to the addition of incremental business as a qualifying factor, according to Siraj.

This change, though, will not result in a dramatic number of partners dropping a tier, Kamionek said. Despite the change in qualifying metrics, Kamionek said the movement of partners among tiers would be fairly consistent with the ebbs and flows of previous years.

Dolce praised the company's decision to treat organizations that can drive incremental growth differently from companies that are just transacting with RSA. Crowe Horwath has an 800-person risk practice with deep specialization and subject matter expertise across all components of governance, risk, and compliance, according to Dolce.

"I think these changes make a heck of a lot of sense for the marketplace," Dolce said. "If I'm driving more incremental revenue from my company's perspective, I want to have some return on that."

RSA will additionally allow partners that have been active in an account to register the renewal in advance to provide them with greater protection, Siraj said. Incumbents will benefit from more advantageous pricing, Siraj said, making it more likely that they will keep the business.

The company previously offered incumbency renewal only for its SecurID identity and access management offering, Siraj said. This enhancement will add incumbency renewal protection for both RSA NetWitness as well as the Archer governance, risk and compliance offering, according to Siraj.

Incumbency renewal should incent partners to continuing focusing on existing accounts rather than moving onto net new accounts, Kamionek said. By protecting existing revenue, partners can focus their time and attention on upselling or cross-selling additional modules or use cases within the same account.

Partners that brought new customers or new business to the table should not be treated the same as everyone else when it becomes time for renewal, said Dolce, who is very happy to see RSA bring expanded incumbency renewal protections to the table.

MSPs without a security operations center (SOC) of their own can take advantage of a formalized program around RSA NetWitness that provides dedicated technical resources, specific trainings, and business model flexibility, Kamionek said.

RSA NetWitness has up until now operated under a perpetual business model, according to Kamionek, forcing MSPs to shell out money upfront for a license. But MSPs typically offer RSA NetWitness to their customers as a subscription or as part of a term-based plan, meaning their income comes in on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, Kamionek said.

The RSA NetWitness program is designed to align with an MSP's business model since it doesn't require a huge initial overlay, Kamionek said. MSPs participating in the new program need to have knowledge of the security market as well as a history of providing high levels of service, according to Kamionek.

RSA has three or four MSP partners selling RSA NetWitness today, according to Kamionek. Through the new initiative, Kamionek said the company plans to add a few more MSPs of any size that can bring expertise and differentiation in the marketplace.

Rolling RSA NetWitness out in more of a managed environment should make the offering more accessible to the masses, Dolce said. Specifically, Dolce noted that many Fortune 1000 companies outside of the Fortune 50 could use a boost when it comes to responding rapidly to detected threats.

"It broadens the scope and availability of a product that was maybe out of reach for a majority of the customers they are targeting," Dolce said.

Finally, RSA plans to double down on its shift from co-op funds to proposal-based marketing to strengthen the correlation between marketing investment and meaningful returns, Kamionek said. The company implemented proposal-based marketing last year, requiring partners with an idea for spending marketing funds to document their anticipated ROI around leads or expansion of the incremental business.

The added level of inspection and change management associated with proposal-based marketing has quickly increased the level of creativity, thought and detail around the marketing initiatives being pursued by RSA partners, according to Kamionek.

High-touch events with C-level customers tend to be a practical use of marketing dollars, Kamionek said, as do specific campaigns targeted at distinct customer segments with a clear message and differentiated website. Golf events and t-shirt purchases with no clear method for measuring ROI tend to be less effective, according to Siraj.

Titanium partners will continue to receive co-op dollars, Siraj said, while partners at all levels will be eligible to submit proposal-based marketing initiatives. Before 2017, RSA made co-op funds available to the top two tiers of its partner program, which at the time were called strategic and elite.

Although RSA plans increase the percentage of marketing funds available through proposal-based channels, Kamionek said the company does not have any definitive plans to phase out co-op money altogether. At this moment, RSA continues to feel the need to make both proposal-based and co-op marketing funds available to partners, according to Siraj.

Crowe Horwath can track marketing ROI by person and outcome, which Dolce said allows the company to provide value and achieve good business outcomes for RSA. As a result, Dolce believes his company should benefit from more targeted and direct investment from the vendor.

"This helps reward companies like mine that conduct very directed, surgical marketing events and activities," Dolce said. "Folks that can provide value should get more of a fair share."

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