Commvault reworks partner program to add simplicity and more effective incents

Commvault global channel chief Mercer Rowe discusses why Commvault reworked its channel program just a year after they remade it last year, and why he believes the changes will incent better partner performance.

Mercer Rowe, Vice President of the Global Partner Organization, Commvault

Today, Commvault is announcing a major reworking of its global Partner Advantage Program – even through the program was just overhauled last year. Mercer Rowe joined Commvault as Vice President of the Global Partner Organization shortly after the new program was announced last year. The new program is, not, however, the result of him wanting to do things differently.

“The changes are not just because of me coming in,” Rowe told ChannelBuzz. “When I joined Commvault at the GO event last fall I got one question a lot – what are you going to change. My response then was – right now, nothing. The program was three months old and time to assess was needed. So we spent from October to the first calendar quarter of this year talking with partners, and looking at data and the impact of the various levers. We saw a few trends that stuck out as likely areas of optimization.”

While the changes are significant, Rowe emphasized that they don’t see the new program as a major shift away from the philosophy of the old one.

“We are trying to cast this as an evolution of the program – not a complete rip and replace,” he said. “The philosophy is in line with the previous program. The old one just made things a bit complicated. So we are adjusting the program to better achieve the goals we set out before last year.”

Rowe identified four strategic objectives behind the changes. The first was the need for simplification.

“The program had a lot of elements, like driving new logo sales and expanding beyond proxy quotas, which looked great on paper,” Rowe said. “However, since partners couldn’t figure out what they would get, it didn’t drive behavior. I want them to be able to see ‘if I sell this, I get that.’”

The second goal was to fix a deal registration system that Rowe had concluded wasn’t working.

“One of the challenges of the old program was that the standard discount tiers for deal registration were so spread out,” he said. “A partner in one tier could register a deal and be undercut by a partner in another tier. Not having an effective deal registration program had all kinds of undesirable knock-on effects, so getting deal registration right was big.”

The third focus was modernizing the old MDF system in favor of one that gave Commvault more ability to determine where these dollars would go.

“The old program had a MDF accrual-based system, which the market is moving away from,” he said. “It’s based on lagging indicators. We wanted a system that would be based on leading indicators, to determine which partners we would invest in.”

The fourth priority was the improve general competitiveness around  margins and profitability levels.

“We wanted to introduce seller incentives that a lot of companies are using – and do it in a way that’s acceptable to the companies,” Rowe said. “Many partners don’t like spiffs if the company doesn’t get something as well.”

Rowe said that Commvault spent the last quarter discussing this with partners all over the world.

“I can hit a lot more on lockdown when I’m not spending time on a plane, and can easily talk to eight partners a day,” Rowe said. “The pandemic situation makes us even more dependent on our partners – at a time when they want to pare back to cut costs. We want to make sure we are one of those ones that they keep.”

The new program has three tiers, but much has changed in the overall organization.

“In determining tier qualifications, we have streamlined from four different geo models to two – essentially the Americas and everywhere else,” Rowe said. “That simplifies things. We have also simplified requirements to move up the tiers based on training and practice investments. S well, we reduced booking requirements significantly, and are focusing instead on what the partner is doing to invest in us.”

The deal reg system has been reworked.

“We collapsed the standard discount between the lowest and highest tiers to about five points,” Rowe indicated. “That makes it simpler and makes it easier to make deal registration sacred, because there isn’t a massive deal reg delta.”

A new partner seller incentive program paying spiffs to a sales rep and sales engineer for sales that meet criteria has been implemented. It is complemented by evolved growth and performance rebates for partner companies. These have been simplified, start at Dollar One, and are based on expansion within accounts.”

The shift from an accrual-based MDF system to a proposal-based integrated business development funding [BDF] system lets Commvault define this funding using leading indicators rather than lagging ones, and direct where the funds will be spent.

“I’m very excited about the changes,” Rowe concluded. “It will make our partner program much more competitive. It’s now much easier for partners to understand how to make money. We started this as a trial balloon in the April-June quarter, and we saw significant upticks – sometimes 3-4x. We expect to gin up demand generation with this, which is critical in the current climate, when we cant go out and visit customers or have events like we used to.”

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