Polycom enhances flexibility with first phase of new partner program

Polycom introduces new and more flexible criteria to reach higher partner levels, while at the same time requiring minimum sales thresholds at all levels and getting more rigorous about joint business plans for upper tier partners.

Lana King 300 square

Lana King, Senior Director Global Channel Strategy, Programs, at Polycom

Polycom has announced the first phase of a new channel partner program. Compared to the previous program, which was introduced in 2012, this one is much more flexible in the requirements needed to advance in tiers and get better rewards. At the same time, it firms up policies in several areas, such as requiring a minimum sales threshold for all levels, even Authorized. This first phase impacts resellers in the distribution channel, with changes for other partners slated to follow later in the year. While the program is live in North America now, all partners will have until the end of 2015 to meet the new requirements.

“In 2012 we introduced competency requirements for the partner program which were very specific by partner type,” said Lana King, Senior Director Global Channel Strategy, Programs, at Polycom. “However, we are finding that the channel has been shifting significantly, with, for example, traditional resellers evolving their business model to provide managed services. That is why we are shifting how our program works, so that it will help support the changes in the marketplace today.”

King said that the 2012 partner program was very prescriptive in its requirements. For example, to be a Platinum partner, you had to have a services specialization. No services practice in your business, no Platinum level, period.

“The new program eases away from that, and makes the type and area of focus needed for advancement very dependent on the partner and where they invest,” King said. “You no longer have to have a services program to be a Platinum partner if it’s not your core business. You do need to have specialization areas in which you are deeply engaged, but the program no longer dictates exactly what must be done.”

The program has new practice specializations for specific industry verticals, which is a net new for Polycom.

“To qualify, a partner needs to demonstrate, through customer testimonials, or APIs they have developed, or individuals they have on staff, that they qualify, and these specializations recognize what they have done,” King said. Right now, there are such specializations. One of them, Federal Government, has been in place in the U.S. for some time. The three new ones are health care, education, and manufacturing. Other specializations will be introduced later this year, before the new program requirements kick in in January. Adjacent technologies like virtualization or a Microsoft practice will also come later in the year.

“Before, being a Gold or Platinum partner required specific video platform and service specializations,” King said. “Now you get specialization credits, and you need one credit to qualify for Gold and two to qualify for Platinum. Each of these specializations, like having a Microsoft specialization, would give you one credit.”

The previous program had three levels – Authorized, Gold, which required the partner to have a practice around Polycom videoconferencing and meet nominal revenue requirements, and Platinum, which required that services practice.

“Now the program has four levels, as we have added a Silver tier above the Authorized to provide a more attainable growth path for partners,” King said.

While the old program had minimum revenue requirements for Gold and Platinum partners only, the new one has them for all four levels, even the Authorized.

“This is to prevent pricing arbitrage, reduce the gray market and protect the investment partners have made,” King said. “This is something to which partners have responded very positively.” It does mean that Authorized partners who make a sale and then go quiet will eventually be bounced from the program, although these partners, like all others, will have until the end of 2015 to meet the new requirements.

“Our distributors are working with the partners to put them on that path, and the new minimums will kick in in 2016,” King said. “The minimum thresholds have been slightly increased from before, but we hadn’t increased our minimum volume threshold for years.”

Gold and Platinum partners will see enhanced margin benefits, with other benefits like MDF and dedicated channel manager resources being consistent with the old program.

Joint business plans for these top tier partners will also be implemented with more precision than in the past.

“We have always had them, but the cadence and rigor with which they were done was not always thorough,” King said. “This will ensure our objectives are aligned, and that type of rigor is new to the planning.”

King indicated that the changes will not require partners to make greater investments for their level in the program.

“One thing our partners have been asking is what will be changing around certification requirements, and will they have to buy more demos and invest more,” King said, “These are not being adjusted. Some things aren’t being changed.”

This first phase of the new program announcement focuses on resellers in the distribution channel. Different requirements for different types of partners will be announced during the year. The program will be rolled out outside North America during the year as well.