Unify commits to more channel-centric model with new partner program

Canada is one of the countries where Unify pledges to be 100 per cent channel within twelve months – which will mean they will need to get distribution set up here.

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Jon Pritchard, Unify’s Executive Vice President of Worldwide Channels

One year ago, Siemens Enterprise Communications rebranded itself as Unify, and indicated it was changing strategic directions, moving from its past focus on telecommunications hardware into the software and services space. Now Unify has announced a new channel partner program, which will support this transition. It will also facilitate Unify’s goal of significantly increasing the percentage of the company’s business that goes through channel partners.

“We’ve taken our strategy to transform the business from mainly direct, which was the model for the old Siemens business, to one that is more partner-centric,” said Jon Pritchard, Unify’s Executive Vice President of Worldwide Channels. “Today we do just over 20 per cent of our business through partners. Our objective is to get that to 45 per cent within 12 to 18 months, which is quite a significant shift in quite a short time scale.”

Pritchard acknowledged the old program wasn’t properly equipping enough partners with the skills to sell Unify solutions, and that changes had to be made to make Unify more attractive to potential new channel partners who have been working with the competition.

“One of the reasons the old program wasn’t working was that while we had a large number of partners, only a small number at the top end had the right skills to do our enterprise product set.” Pritchard said. “It was very much a ‘one size fits all’ program.”

He also indicated that while their existing partners are loyal, Unify also very much had their eyes open to making the program more attractive to new partners.

“We are behind the curve in terms of what our competition has done,” Pritchard said. “The best partners are working with competitors like Avaya and Cisco. We have to make ourselves attractive to new partners moving forward.”

A key issue there was Unify’s old direct legacy as Siemens, which has led to major changes in their rules of engagement and go-to-market strategy.

“It absolutely is a trust issue,” Pritchard said. “Why would a partner want to work with an organization where he isn’t sure his end customer is safe and secure from the direct force. Accordingly, outside of 4 countries, — the U.S., U.K., Germany and Austria, within 12 months we will be 100 per cent indirect. Direct will be involved only as high touch on most existing enterprise customers, and they will have to partner even to sell to those.”

In these four countries, some large organizations will remain direct customers, but the numbers will be greatly reduced.

“In Germany, there are now 9,000 customers reserved for direct,” Pritchard said. “It’s ludicrous. Everyone is on the list. We will cut it to some large multinational, and government and defense accounts.”

Rules of engagement for direct in the four countries where direct can sell are also being changed.

“We will limit the type of end users direct can sell to, so anything below 1250 users is entirely partner,” Pritchard said. The OpenScape Business for commercial, which has been scaled to accommodate more than 1,000 users, becomes entirely a channel product. OpenScape Voice and OpenScape 4000 for enterprises are now open to partners as well as direct.

“We are changing the compensation of direct as well, so they are compensated the same if it goes channel,” Pritchard said.

The new go-to-market strategy requires distribution, something where Unify is not well-established in some markets, including Canada.

“Today we don’t have any credible distribution in Canada, but we have to fix that,” Pritchard said. “This requires making ourselves attractive to a distributor as well.”

Pritchard said the biggest change in how the new partner program is structured is that the organization has moved from partner types, as it was previously, to specializations.

“Now we define the program so the partner can define where they best fit in the portfolio,” he said. “There is maximum flexibility in terms of where their sweet spot is so they don’t have to accredit on stuff that’s marginal to their business.”

The program, has three tracks, for OpenScape Voice and OpenScape 4000 for enterprises, and OpenScape Business for commercial.

“There are different levels of accreditation within the tracks,” Pritchard said. They run from very basic online e-learning to high end enterprise certification. Partners asked for differentiation at high levels, so we have

Registered, Master and Professional levels on OpenScale, and just Master and Professional on the enterprise track.

“It’s not aligned to Cisco but it’s a similar model, with high end certifications,” he added.

Pritchard said the program has been designed from the ground up to be partner-friendly.

“We looked at all the partner programs out there, and we could have done a ‘me too’ program, but here partners can understand easily what margin they make for each investment, because the accelerated return on investment and when they will get their investment back is very clear in our program,” he said. “In addition, the others have so many Gold and Silver partners, and we don’t have that luxury, so there will be fewer high level ones competing.


“We are very, very serious about becoming a partner-centric organization,” Pritchard concluded. “We see partners as an extension of our sales force, not just box movers. They have to be able to satisfy customers. We have seen new partners who say we are getting our act together on the channel. So we have had some opportunities and we will see more with the new program.”