NetApp tweaks partner program kicking off ‘rolling thunder’ changes during the coming year

Given that partners have their hands full with the COVID-19 situation, NetApp wanted to limit the change they have to deal with now, but major changes are coming to simplify and expand the program, while adding new investment and better differentiating partners.

LouAnne Reynolds, Director, Global Partner Programs at NetApp

Today, NetApp is announcing the first of what will be a substantial series of  changes to their Unified Partner Program. It will be followed intermittently by additional changes during the fiscal year.

“I don’t want to make partners jump through hoops when they have so many things to worry about with COVID,” said LouAnne Reynolds, Director, Global Partner Programs at NetApp. “We will release some specializations and changes in a rolling thunder motion.

“We are beginning the start of our fiscal year with tweaks to the program, but we are also working on a broader evolution of the partner program,” Reynolds continued. “It will change over the course of the fiscal year so it will come in an evolutionary fashion.”

Reynolds said that the program is being updated in four ways, simplifying it,  expanding it, investing in it and better differentiating between partners.

The simplification element consists of streamlining programmatic incents, unifying contracts and agreements, and streamlining guides and policies.

“We reworked our incentive programs last quarter for new account bonuses, competitive takeouts, and introduced a new one, Tech Refresh, with the theme of making them simpler to use,” Reynolds said. “We streamlined them down to the three business drivers, but made them across portfolios. There were ones before which were just on separate products” [with HCI being an example]. “In August, we will bring out some add-ons to those incentives, and put out some accelerators that are appropriate.”

More changes are also being made in the competitive takeout area, with some new vendor-specific acceleration on the way.

“Partners also asked us to simplify things, with our program guide being an example,” Reynolds said. “Our unified guide was 72 ages long and now its down to about 20 pages. It makes it much easier to consume and to understand.”

A major part of the Expansion component is the expansion of resources available to Registered partners with access to more information, communications, enablement and training.

“For Registered partners, we are opening up a portal beyond the small space they could see before, so they can see everything that’s in the portal,” Reynolds indicated. “We also opened up NetApp University learning, to give them access to everything, so they can learn and expand.”

Why the new love for the Registered partners?

“Some of the new Registered partners are typical one-off partners, but some are pretty big cloud partners, and we wanted to make sure they had access to information,” Reynolds indicated.

In addition, Cloud First partners are being brought into the NetApp Unified Partner Program, and the NetApp Learning Services training programs are being built out for cloud partners and service providers, including expanding its specializations with new content and benefits.

“They used to have an incubation with a separate contract, portal and training, and now there’s just one agreement to sign,” Reynolds noted.

CloudJumper has not been integrated into the program yet, however.

“I am in discussions with the CloudJumper teams and also the Spot teams, and starting discussions,” Reynolds said. “We do have service provider partners, and they could fit into that. We are also building out an incentive for service providers where they grow their services, and we will have an incent starting in August. That could also be pertinent to the CloudJumper partners.”

In terms of investment, NetApp will continue to invest in tools that make incentive management and measurement simpler and more collaborative for partners. These include the bigger payouts in their New Account incentive program and allow rebates to be paid faster in their Run2NetApp takeout program mentioned earlier, as well as the new Tech Refresh incentive.

“In Q2, traditionally we announce growth incentives for our largest, Star, partners,” Reynolds said. “We are launching them in August, as well as new accelerators on Tech Refresh and the  new competitive Accelerators.”

The differentiation element includes beefing up the Registered Partner benefits, but it also includes shifting the emphasis within the program from the Metallic badge showing how much business they do, to the partner’s specializations in key focus areas, including XaaS, implementation, support, cloud, foundation, hybrid cloud, and converged.

“This is motivated by more of a customer viewpoint,” Reynolds said. “Customers don’t care about Tiers, but might be looking for customers who specialize in certain areas. This provides a way to market with those partners around something that’s more meaningful to a customer than just their Metallic.”

Reynolds also indicated some major changes in this area are near on the road map.

“Specializations will not just be about training and certifications, but also requiring a customer reference,” she said. “We don’t do this today, but we will be implementing that, and will further build out specializations during the year. The metal tiers will stay for a while we are bridging to a new program.”