NetApp announces significant changes to Unified Partner Program

NetApp will be making major changes to their channel program at the end of April 2022, and has announced what those changes will be, and the paths partners need to prepare to be ready for the new program.

Chris Lamborn, head of global partner go-to-market and programs at NetApp

Today, NetApp is announcing some significant changes to their Unified Partner Program. While the changes are nominally, the kind of enhancements typically rolled out by vendors at the start of their new fiscal year, these ones are significant, particularly as they are being done to prepare the partner ecosystem for a major revamp of the program’s structure and philosophy in 2022.

“We are continually evolving this program, and this is the next big step,” said Chris Lamborn, head of global partner go-to-market and programs at NetApp.  “We will be transitioning through the year from a traditional partner pyramid focused on partner resell motions. Instead of just relying on traditional NetApp certifications, this will be a model relying on solution specializations. The specializations have been announced as: Cloud Preferred, FlexPod, SAP, AI/ML, Data Protection, Data Security, Hosting Service Provider, Infrastructure, and Spot by NetApp Preferred.

Lamborn acknowledged that this transition will mean a significant change for the partner ecosystem.

“It’s a big transition,” he said. “In June will give them tools showing where they are and the path ahead, and at the end of the fiscal year we will do the switchover.” This gives partners until the end of April 2022 to prepare.

“We have built pathways for every single partner,” Lamborn said. “They can decide to take that path or not. They will see the roadmap and any changes they have to make. We have taken the core certifications and turned them into value specializations. New things will be getting customer references. They won’t have to be public – just verified – to handle customer shyness at being a public reference. If NetApp wants to promote you as a specialist, it’s not just because you check a box, but because you can solve the business need of a customer, and the references show that. We get tens of thousands of customers coming to NetApp .com looking for partners.”

The services certification is being completely revamped.

“We have had a very traditional services certification, but we really want to promote partner-led services,” Lamborn said. “So we are moving way from the traditional implementation, support service and professional services to two priorities – integration services and lifecycle services.”  Integration Services Certified and Lifecycle Services Certified are two of the new Services Certified Specializations. The third is NetApp Keystone Services Certified.

“There’s now a 7-1 attach rate around services,” Lamborn said.

Incentives will be streamlined over the year.

“We will be rewarding investment this year around the acquisition of new business, including where the partner co-acquires with NetApp, and rewarding for partner originated opportunities,” Lamborn said. “In the later parts of Q2, we will see strategic changes to rebate programs to simplify them and make them more predictable.”

Lamborn also stressed that the program will turbocharge the cloud, which will include expanding the partner ecosystem to better take cloud partners into account.

“We are accelerating that reach, getting more of our partners to take cloud into their customer base,” he said. “We will drive that competency, and scale and accelerate adoption of solutions like Spot and align with public cloud providers. That was a reason for moving from the triangle model. Cloud partners don’t sell hardware, so they could never get to the top. By restructuring around Go-to-Market, it gives cloud-focused partners a chance to get to the top tier of program like they never had before.”

A new partner rewards program for individuals is also being launched. Individual participants who opt in will be rewarded for actions that drive deal closure as part of strategic programs, like setting meetings and registering deals. Points can be redeemed for merchandise or a prepaid credit card.

“These rewards are not just aimed at the partner organizations, but sellers and technical individuals as well,” Lamborn said. “This will be expanded as well. It’s about getting that end-to-end sales motion, and is more complex than just spiffs.”

“What’s really important for any program change is to reward partners for priorities we are trying to drive as a business,” said Jim Elder, NetApp’s Americas Channel Chief. “The priorities themselves aren’t changing much this year. It’s about driving new customers and new workloads. It’s about driving recurring revenues. We are putting additional impetus on service providers this year, enabling them to include our cloud portfolio in their service catalogues. We are also looking to protect our install base.”