New Riverbed channels leader lays out plans to refresh channel strategy that had been ‘a little static’

Eric Tinker has already begun steps to better enable channel partners, with a goal of significantly increasing partner-initiated business. He also plans to make changes to the company’s Rise partner program to make it more profitable for committed partners.

Eric Tinker, Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales, Riverbed

Late last month, Eric Tinker, who had been interim leader for Riverbed Global Channels since Bridget Bisnette’s announced retirement earlier this year, was promoted to Senior Vice President of Commercial Sales. He had managed global renewals for Riverbed previously, and continues to do that as part of an expanded role, which also includes Riverbed channels and commercial sales programs. He also continues to report to Dan Smoot, Riverbed’s Chief Operating Officer. Simultaneously Meg Brennan has been promoted to Vice President Global Channels, and continues to report to Tinker.

“I have been active with the channel for the last five years,” Tinker said. “I continue to own the global renewals job, and I own the RASP [Riverbed Authorized Support Provider] program, which is increasingly important as both the channel and market shift into the cloud, and more partners want to have a services strategy around that. I took on all of Bridget’s responsibility including the global channel program [Rise] and global service providers. In addition to that, last year I started to build out a territory team in the Americas, which handles the part of the market below the Riverbed spend line. That used to be four staff and is now seven.”

Riverbed began to make major changes to its channel program in 2018, with an emphasis on simplifying things, and Tinker has been at the company during that entire period. Now that he has charge of the channel strategy, however, he sees a need to change a few things.

“The program has been a little bit static, and I feel that we have allowed ourselves to rest on our laurels,” he said. “We are ready to take it to the next level.”

One thing that won’t be changing from the days of Bisnette’s leadership is syncing the channel strategy to the broader changes in corporate strategy implemented since Rich McBee moved to the Riverbed CEO job from Mitel, bringing some key members of his team with him.

“Rich brought in a new Product and Strategy Officer from Mitel and other senior people,” Tinker said. Smoot, for example, ran channels at Salesforce. “They understood our products needed to be simplified. Customers told us that we have a wonderful solution – very robust – but that it is not always easy to consume. They are helping us there. We were also in siloes before. Now under the leadership of Rich and Dan, we are pulling the organization together, and are really locked into a strategy from a company and product perspective.”

Tinker said that historically, Riverbed has enabled about 1000 partners in the global channel who are really interested in their application acceleration message. He strongly believes, however, that not enough has been done there in the past.

“We have a subset of partners we have not enabled around Riverbed, and especially Steelhead, which is still a very large market, even though it is not growing significantly. People use NPM [Network Performance Management] as overarching technology with Steelhead and acceleration, and it also plays in well from a security perspective.”

Tinker is working on several ideas to better enable partners.

“We are working on a plan with a set of focused partners to lead with Riverbed, starting with North America and EMEA,” he said. “You need to really double down on that subset of partners that leads with you. We also haven’t fully enabled the sales reps at partners to sell Riverbed. If we lead with Riverbed sellers, we will not sell enough. We have not been leveraging the channel to their capacity and reach. We are now moving in that direction.”

Tinker also stressed that the partner ecosystem is getting more focused.

“This is necessary to ensure that we get that local reach, especially as NPM becomes a bigger part of our business. Historically, the NPM sector, with companies like AppDynamics and NetScout, has been largely direct. We need to enable partners there. We haven’t done that enablement yet, but we have a lot of things going on beyond the scenes with our product teams.”

Tinker said that focus was also improved by the divestiture of Xirrus and spinoff of Aternity.

“When Xirrus came in, they brought in their own partners, and they were more of a distraction for us,” he stated. “Aternity was direct before we acquired them, and they are direct again, although we still go to market with them.”

Tinker also noted that the Partner Advisor Board has been restarted.

“It had been static since about 2016, and had had no meetings since then,” he said. “We kicked that off immediately.”

A major project for this year is to improve the Rise partner program to make it even more attractive to partners.

“We need to evolve the Rise program so that it really drives margin,” Tinker said. “Meg and I have been discussing this over the past couple of weeks. The idea is to make partners who want to work with us richer.”

Tinker also wants to significantly improve the amount of business that is generated through partners this year.

“My goal for this year is to get our partner-initiated business north of 50%,” he said. “It is less than 30% today.”

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