Tech OEMs focus on upskilling IT Channels

With the changing IT landscape, OEMs are now slowly evolving their traditional partner programs and using them as a means to upskill their partners to sell better.

In January 2018, Riverbed announced a new partner program, Riverbed Rise. Moving away from traditional competency-based channel partner programs, Riverbed Rise is an innovative, flexible dividends-based program. Is this the new face of channel programs? Will OEMs slowly discontinue certification-based tiered programs and move towards level playing competency-based partner programs?

While channel partners seemed to be in two minds about the new competency-based programs, we reached out to a few OEMs to ask for their views. While none of them have really made a radical change towards a performance-based partner program, most OEMs are now focusing on training and upskilling their partners.

Anil Sethi, VP-Channels at Dell-EMC India, explains that prior to the merger, Dell had a quarterly audit system while EMC had a half yearly targeted system. However, the new Dell-EMC program retained Dell’s quarterly audit system and is based on three tenets - simple, predictable and profitable.

“The erstwhile Dell program was profitable in terms of backend rebates, which have now been included as a part of the new program. The quarterly audit makes the program predictable and the current program also includes EMC’s strong training component,” he adds.

Our partners are now able to unlock new business opportunities and deliver more value to their customers by taking advantage of all that OPN has to offer

Srikanth Doranadula

Senior Director and Head – Alliances and Channels, Oracle India

At Oracle, the emphasis clearly is on partner upskilling and reskilling to ensure customers are happy. The Oracle PartnerNetwork Cloud Program was launched in February 2016 and has managed to sign up 2,600 unique partners.

Srikanth Doranadula, senior Director and Head – Alliances and Channels of Oracle India says, “A lot of our partners went through a transformation phase with an enhanced focus on cloud.” Oracle is helping its partners develop their businesses by giving them access to partner-specific training, resources, go-to-market tools, and support. These enable partners to participate in programs that reward and recognize their particular expertise.

“Our partners are now able to unlock new business opportunities and deliver more value to their customers by taking advantage of all that OPN has to offer,” adds Doranadula.

Forcepoint’s current partner program is competency-based and is focused on achieving goals, with four categories – Associate, Silver, Gold and Platinum. “Every partner begins as an Associate. Depending on the skills accumulated in terms of certifications and business achieved, they get promoted to the next tier,” says Ajay Dubey, National Manager - Partners and Alliances of Forcepoint.

The company awards partners at the higher levels by including them in their marketing budgets and plans, and listing them on their website. These partners also become the default choice for the company when recommending to customers. “Channel success will ensure that they in turn invest a good amount of time, effort and money in the business,” he adds.

Customer first

With the lines between distributors and VARs blurring by the day, the need to enhance partners to be able to distinguish themselves has increased in the market.

“To provide an enhanced customer experience to customers and grow revenues with a business-first approach, it is extremely important for organizations to prepare a roadmap for successful transformation,” says Sethi. This is where a comprehensive training and certification program for channel partners comes in.

At Dell, partners are provided with training, either face-to-face or via webinars with training modules focused on not just external stakeholders but also internal teams. Additionally, the company is reducing the go-to-market time for our customers using specialized resources to help configure faster.

To provide an enhanced customer experience to customers and grow revenues with a business-first approach, it is extremely important for organizations to prepare a roadmap for successful transformation

Anil Sethi

VP-Channels, Dell-EMC India

“We have simplified and unified training requirements with the roll-out of eight solutions competencies in 2018, starting with software-defined infrastructure, hybrid cloud, and connected workforce competencies in Q1,” he adds.

Oracle’s current focus is extremely cloud based. The company recently launched a Cloud Excellence Implementer (CEI) program that helps customers to make a smooth transition to the cloud with the support of Oracle implementation partners. This new program recognizes and rewards those partners who have invested in building their Oracle Cloud expertise. Additionally, it also demonstrates a proven track record of delivering high-quality cloud implementation projects across Oracle’s customer base.

“We firmly believe that both VARs and VADs have their own unique strengths and market focus to address - with customer needs as the single most critical aspect,” says Doranadula. The company conducts regular training programs, delivered through virtual classrooms, organizes hands-on implementation workshops, and hosts partner-focused boot camps.

Forcepoint believes in empowering its partners to move up the value chain and become a solutions provider in their own right. “We have focused on building capacity and partner-profitability to ensure that partners are investing in hiring and retaining top talent in the market,” says Dubey. With customers increasingly choosing partners based on skills and responsiveness towards their business needs, the company constantly works towards enhancing its channel partners.