New Fortinet Channel Program Promises More Flexibility For Partners

‘The existing Fortinet partner program is probably about a decade old, and it was really well structured for a resale channel,’ says North American channel chief Jon Bove. ‘We have evolved beyond that, and so it was time to evolve the program.’

Fortinet will launch a new partner program at the start of 2020 that better aligns with the technology strategy and go-to-market motion of each solution provider.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based platform security vendor said the new program will also be customized to more fully support channel partners based on the market segment they're selling into, according to Jon Bove, Fortinet's vice president of North American channels.

"The existing Fortinet partner program is probably about a decade old, and it was really well structured for a resale channel," Bove told CRN. "We have evolved beyond that, and so it was time to evolve the program."

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Fortinet publicly announced it was working on a new partner program Tuesday at Accelerate 19 in Orlando, Fla., and plans to spend the next several months working through concepts with partners and aligning where each solution provider will fit in the program, Bove said. The company intends to have the new program take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, according to Bove.

The company will start by changing the nomenclature around its tiers from precious metals—Silver, Gold and Platinum, with Platinum being the highest—to Advocate, Advanced and Expert, with Expert being the highest, Bove said. Tier assignments will still be based on revenue and certifications, Bove said.

Fortinet will also add a new global tier for partners that meet the revenue and certification requirements for Expert but also have a presence in multiple regions of the world, Bove said. This will be made possible by Fortinet fusing together the two channel programs it currently maintains—one for North America and one internationally—into a single worldwide partner program, according to Bove.

Having a single global program will allow for a better synchronization of benefits and alignment of discounts across different regions, Bove said.

"The previous program was a little bit too ambiguous as to 'What is the value of being a medal partner?'" Bove said. "And this is going to have a little bit more wood behind the arrow around some very specific go-to-markets that are very key to my continued growth in North America."

As far as go-to-market is concerned, Bove said solution providers will be classified as being either on-premises, MSSPs, cloud partners or consultants. And from a technological expertise standpoint, Bove said channel partners can be identified as experts in SD-WAN, the Security Fabric, the data center, OT (operational technology), the cloud, or SOC (the security operations center).

As for market segments, partners will be classified as serving small business, enterprise or service providers. This is similar to how Fortinet already goes to market in North America, Bove said, where the company currently has separate sales units focused on SMB, commercial, enterprise and service providers.

Bove hopes the new program will result in further development of partner competencies, Bove said, enabling solution providers to position the Fortinet Security Fabric as the leading offering in the channel. He also expects the program will drive more growth in partner-initiated revenue by rewarding the acquisition of new customers as well as the expansion of overall wallet share within existing customers.

The detailed segmentation of Fortinet's channel community will make it easier to ensure that partners are receiving relevant investments and resources as well as the proper support as they build a solution to take to market, Bove said.

"We are seeing such a shift in the market today that, if we do not talk to our partners differently about our expectations for them, we could potentially miss the mark," Bove said. "And we don't want to do that."

Dimension Data has already seen how Fortinet can reward partners for investing in high-growth areas like OT, said Warren Small, vice president of transformation for the solution provider's security business unit. Fortinet has added value around OT by providing Dimension Data with access to the right people, offering lucrative margins, and remaining open to deeper collaborations, Small said.

Small would like to see Fortinet's new partner program provide documented co-investment plans for net- new business to ensure the engagements are successful and achieve the intended goal.

"Not everything is equal," Small said. "There need to be incentives."

Meanwhile, as a smaller integrator, Innovative Integration only has the resources to take on so much, according to Larry Taylor, director of the Indianapolis-based solution provider. Having a core technology competency in the new partner program will allow Innovative Integration to hone in on the areas that are most relevant to the business, Taylor said.

And being able to tailor the program specifically to partners that are more focused on SMB like Innovation Integration will be helpful since their budgets are very different than the enterprise.

"I think it's going to be great," Taylor said.