Intel unifies partner programs

Intel WebshotLAS VEGASIntel kicked off its Intel Solutions Summit 2011 conference at the Venetian here with the introduction of a new, unified channel partner program.

The new program will merge the company’s partner communities from its Channel Partner program for system builders with those in its Technology Provider program for resellers, retaining the latter’s branding but combining elements of both.

CJ Bruno, general manager of Intel Americas, announced the new program in front of more than 400 of the company’s current Premier partners. Bruno said the new program will allow all of the partners with which the company works to be recognized for all of the Intel products they sell, regardless of the individual partner’s business model.

Steve Dallman, general manager of Intel’s worldwide reseller channel organization, said the need for evolution in the channel program has been apparent for some time, particularly as partners have moved away from old business models towards new, more lucrative and specialized business models. Those shifts in focus were creating an unfortunate and unexpected consequence for a number of partners, he said. While those partners were doing more Intel business than ever, they were slipping down the ranks because the work they were doing did not fit into Intel’s existing slios.

The new program includes three tiers:

  • At the base level, entrance is simply a matter of signing up. At this tier, Dallman said the goal is to get as many partners as possible, including consultants and others who do not directly resell Intel products, but influence those sales.
  • Gold status includes a different level of service, resources and support from the chipmaker. Making Gold status requires partners to accumulate points by going through online training. The company will also collect more information on Gold partners and how they go to market, which will be used to personalize the resources and services available to those partners.
  • Platinum is the new top tier, and will require partners to complete more Intel and third-party training and certification, as well as introducing marketing investment requirements and sales clip levels.

For the moment, partners will largely retain their current levels, being grandfathered into the program for 2011. But to qualify for 2012 or subsequent years, or to upgrade their status within the program over the course of 2011, partners will have to meet the new qualification levels. While Dallman said he expects some “shuffling of the deck” in the company’s channel ranks for the 2012 qualifying period, he said he believes that most of that will be upwards mobility, as partners are recognized for all their Intel-related sales and skills under the new program, not just the portions thereof that were represented under the narrower view of the previous program.

While the new Technology Provider program is being announced worldwide today, it will have different “effective dates” around the world, with launches largely coinciding with the dates of the various Solution Summit events Intel holds worldwide.

Training for the new criteria is available now to the company’s North American partners, and in fact all training offered to partners at ISS will qualify under then new program. Intel plans to revamp its channel training capabilities over the near future, introducing new in-person training components but largely focusing on online, on-demand training for solution providers.

Throughout the company’s presentation of the new program to channel press at the event, Dallman stressed that this is a process and an ongoing transformation that will largely be shaped by solution provider feedback.

“I’m a big believer that nothing should be stagnant,” Dallman said.

In fact, the company is clearly already looking at next steps for the program. Dallman said Intel is internally discussing the possibility of doing technology specializations within the program, likening them as a “merit badge” for partners who attain certain grades in specific subject matters in training.

And while executives could not provide many details around the company’s pending purchase of McAfee, widely expected to close very shortly, if not today, because the deal has yet to close, Bruno suggested that the company would likely look at ways to integrate or align Intel’s Technology Provider program with McAfee’s channel programs.

The company also discussed plans to dramatically revamp its online presence, with the goal being to provide a great deal more content for specific hot opportunities in vertical markets and for adjacent technology priorities, such as its rapidly expanding embedded business.