They include changes to Professional Services training designed to increase dollar spend, up-leveling Premier partner competency requirements, and a new Demo program which reduces the cost outlay to partners.
Today, application performance infrastructure provider Riverbed Technology is announcing significant changes to its partner program. Key objectives include increasing total lifecycle opportunity within services opportunities, improving marketing investments around demand generation, comarketing and enablement, increasing the number of specializations required for Premier partners, enhancing their Demo program and introducing a new managed services program.
“We believe there have been a number of changes happening that make this very important right now,” said Karl Meulema, senior vice president, Global Channels, at Riverbed. “The market has been extremely dynamic, with the cloud happening everywhere, and in the largest companies, not just SMBs. With that comes application performance as an even more important issue, and it becomes more complex with hybrid performance levels. In addition, customer buyer behavior is shifting. In the past, the CIO made all the decisions. Now the CMO, CFO and COO have a big say or make decisions about what happens to the IT infrastructure. So the CIO doesn’t control what goes in, but is still responsible for how it works. They need help with app performance.”
Meulema also said changes in the program were necessary because of Riverbed’s own transformation from being just a WAN optimization provider.
“We have moved from being a single product company, to a company that sold multiple products, and now to a company selling a portfolio of solutions, where salespeople sell those and not a single product,” he said.
Meulema said changes were also needed to accommodate changes in the channel.
“Partners have undergone changes as well, with many moving to cloud services and professional services models, and they need vendors to be supportive of that,” he said. “We also want partners to know we won’t compete with them. We do 95 per cent of our business through the channel, and it’s not 100 per cent only because some acquisitions were direct-centric, and we are transitioning out of that.”
The changes to Professional Services training are particularly important because services are where Riverbed partners make the majority of their margin.
“Most partners have been doing opportunistic services, but a goal of the program now is to increase adjacent and follow-on services,” said Art Harding, Riverbed’s vice president, Professional Services. It’s not the quantity of partners doing services that is important, but the amount of dollars they do in services.”
Riverbed has consolidated their multiple service programs into one services program.
“That gives partners the ability to pursue the whole lifecycle opportunity, from original design to full customer lifecycle, and work on the long term maintenance of the customer environment,” Harding said. “We have also created intellectual property allowing embedding WAN optimization and branch convergence in much larger network architecture services, and developed service kits and enablement programs using our professional services – both in the original design phase, but more importantly, throughout the whole lifecycle.
“We also want them to increase services across the whole Riverbed portfolio,” Harding added. “They may have only been doing services on one product, and we want them to expand that across the portfolio.”
“We want more partners to offer services encompassing the full lifecycle, which benefits their customers, and benefits partners because it’s a major source of margin,” Meulema said.
Harding said technical education has been expanded to facilitate these goals.
“We have made a significant investment in both online and courseware certifications, giving partners easier access to content and expertise aligning to new programming,” he said. “Historically, we have had a classroom-based approach. We have maintained that, but have now supplemented it with a rich online instructor-led program, so that they don’t have to make the investment to come out of the field for a multi-day class.”
Riverbed is also making some changes to its specialization requirements for Premier partners.
“At the beginning of 2014, we began to move from volume to value-based programs, and we are taking the next step here,” Meulema said. “We are moving to two specializations as the minimum for Premier partners. As our focus now is on selling more solutions, we shouldn’t have Premier partners only capable in one product area.” The change takes effect July 1, but partners will have six months to get trained up in a second specialization to retain their Premier status.
Another specialization change which reflects the increasing complexity of the area will see Performance Management split into two specializations — Network Performance and Application Performance.
A new managed services program is also being created.
“You can’t put everything under one resell model, and managed services have become important to many partners,” Meulema said. “At this point, the program will be rudimentary, but it gives us a foundation to build out managed services offerings.”
A new Demo program has also been introduced which reduces costs for partners.
“Before there was a 64 per cent discount for hardware and software and the first year of maintenance was free,” Meulema said. “Now the discount is 80 per cent for hardware, the software is free, and we still offer the first year of free maintenance. We really want partners to get demo units. 80 per cent means we give it at cost. If we gave them away for free, we would lose money on them and that’s never popular in the company. We did get it down to cost level, which makes it extremely attractive.”
Significant enhancements have also been made on the marketing front.
“We have made investments in web strategy around demand generation,” said Michele Hayes, Riverbed’s vice president, Partner Marketing. “We have also expanded comarketing and enablement, investing in sales development resources to qualify leads before they go to partners. They are fully qualified with budget, authority and timeline.”
The riverbed.com site is getting an overhaul, as is the partner portal, projects which will continue through the remainder of this year, and which will include content management upgrades, and changes to deal registration and opportunity finding.
“The partner locator on the riverbed.com site will roll out in Q3, although a mockup is coming up now,” Hayes said. “It is for all partners authorized in the program, with some asterisks for the top partners, showing their competencies.”