Ruckus' New Channel Chief On Revamped Partner Program, Arris Acquisition And The Future Of Ruckus

A New Leader At Ruckus

Ruckus'' new channel leader Raelyn Kritzer is preparing partners to hit the ground running once Arris acquires the networking vendor next month. Kritzer was critical in launching Ruckus' revamped Partner Program unveiled on Wednesday along with new specializations and heavy investments to support the channel.

"We've increased the amount of sales folks who are supporting our partners by three-times over the last year. So we have a really strong sales organization ready to support our partners and provide them with the leads to make them more successful … as we transition [into Arris]," said Kritzer, currently senior director of worldwide partner programs and enablement for Brocade Communications, in an interview with CRN.

Kritzer takes a deep dive with CRN into the new program, Arris and her channel vision.

What is your vision for Ruckus channel partners?

My strategy is to have a strong year and keep my partners engaged. We are 100 percent focused on our channel. We've got a pulse on what they're going through right now and we're just trying to minimize the disruption with their business. So my hope and goal is that we're going to continue to do that. We're moving through this. We're going to come out of this stronger than ever before. We want to make sure that those partners who have stayed loyal to us over the years are still with us, and maybe even attract a few more – maybe at the expense of our competition.

Are you looking to add on Arris partners to your new partner program?

Arris partners are more than welcome to come in and register for the Ruckus program, and vice versa if any of the Ruckus partners are interested in reselling more of the Arris technology. The idea is that Ruckus is going to be operating as a separate business unit. We can provide more details on that once it's closed.

What are differences between the old program and this new revamped program?

We have simplified it quite a bit by taking out the mid-tier level and bringing it down to two levels. So we have Select and Elite [tiers]. We have a dedicated program for our distributors. Our distributors are critically important to us. About 51 percent of our business is focused on the SMB and we can't scale to accommodate everybody. So we made investments in distribution to our programs and through enablement so that those distributors can act on our behalf.

Some of our distributors said that partners are saying Ruckus' strength is really around our ability to provide more of a high-touch to our partner community. We've been able to achieve that through our direct-touch sales teams as well as through our distributors acting as Ruckus. We will continue to invest there.

How can partners increase profitability in this new program?

We are really trying to promote the cross-sell between wired and wireless in this program. With Brocade's acquisition of Ruckus, and with the pending divestiture – we are a complete wired and wireless company, and we know when those products are sold together, there's more profitability in it for the partner. Partners can increase their profitability by 40 percent when selling these together. We're doing a lot of the incentives through some of our spiffs and promotions to really encourage that cross sell. A lot of the education that we've come up with now is really promoting that solution together, which makes us a strong and more viable competitor for some of the other folks out there that are just doing wireless today.

What does it take to become a Select partner?

We don't have that completely open philosophy where anybody can sell our technology. We authorized every single partner that sells our products. Select partners come in and have to go through an authorized process. They get an interview with us, and then they have 120 days to purchase demo equipment, sales and technical training. We do this because we want to provide our partners with the ability to really represent our technology and provide the best experience to customers.

What does it take to become an Elite partner?

It has a revenue requirement. There's a contract involved. There's pre-sales technical and technical certifications required as well. Those partners are entitled to more of the top tier benefits of the program – things like rebates, MDF, high-touch approach from our direct sales team. We've increased the amount of sales folks who are supporting our partners by three-times over the last year. So we have a really strong sales organization ready to support our partners and provide them with the leads to make them more successful.

Why did you create a new Smart City/Large Public Venue Channel Specialization Program?

So Ruckus has several deployments already of smart city. For example, we have the city of San Jose. We have Paris [and] New York City. There's some cities in India and South Africa that we have already done deployments in. It's absolutely part of IoT. There's a lot that we're doing already there. We have some great outdoor access points, where we are really differentiated. With our technology, we also have the ability to provide great service within a high-density environment. That's really where we're expanding.

We also have several stadiums that we've launched our technology in, as well as some outdoor events – things like Loolapalooza, where you have a lot of people in one space at one time. So that's an area where we've already had a lot of success in, and where we're going to continue to build on. That's why it's really important for us to be able to put the right partner enablement and partner programs in place because Ruckus is 100 percent channel focused.

What benefits does a Smart City/Large Public Venue Specialization partner receive?

Our marketing organization is going through this enormous transformation of putting in effort to driving leads especially in some of these key verticals. The idea here is that these partners who have demonstrated their ability to do these large deployments, will receive those leads as the top priority from the sales organization. For the Smart City/Large Venue program, we're offering dedicated marketing development funds. The idea is that these partners would work with their dedicated account manager to come out with a plan to promote their business to customers. Providing them with the funding to go to that is critically important.

What benefits does a Higher Education Specialization partner receive?

On the higher education side, we're really looking to kick this off with 50 partners worldwide. We will provide them with some proposal-based MDF dollars that we would be working with them to help build out their brand. We also offer them case studies, videos, things of that nature that are featured on all of our communication vehicles. Also any advertising that we would be doing or promoting of higher education – they would get the lead preference there as well. Another kicker is that they would receive the rebate eligibility. So they would basically be participating in a growth rebate program.

Why are you launching these all new programs right now?

It's really intended to make it a lot easier for partners to be able to work with Ruckus. We've seen a lot of situations out there where there's multiple levels in the program, very high thresholds – our goal here is to retain the partnerships that we have, as well as to make it really attractive to new partners to want to work with Ruckus.

Why should partners be pumped about Ruckus in 2018?

Ruckus is just such an exciting company. There's lots of great energy here. It feels good be a part of this and be able to have the freedom and flexibility to create these types of programs and to make it easy for our partners to engage with us.