Tanium on track with radical quick transition from direct to channel model

Two years ago, Tanium in North America was basically a direct dealer, but the company has pivoted quickly, en route to a 100% channel model.

Todd Palmer, Tanium’s Global Head of Partner Sales

Cybersecurity vendor Tanium has been in business since 2007. But for almost all that time, they sold entirely direct in North America, although the business in the European and Asian geos was always channel. Within the last 18 months, the company turned their business model around. Today, the direct sales are a fairly small minority, and the company expects to be at 90% channel soon.

Todd Palmer, Tanium’s Global Head of Partner Sales, who has had senior channel roles at Cohesity, Palo Alto Networks and NetApp, came on board in April 2020 when the process of transformation was just underway.

Palmer said that the change actually started after Thomas Stanley, a long-time NetApp exec who was Senior Vice President and General Manager, Americas moved to Tanium as Chief Revenue Officer in September 2019.

“Tanium’s customer list is a who’s who of large federal agencies,” Palmer said. “When Thomas came in, it was determined that we couldn’t scale to the highest amount possible on our own.  This change in sales attitude started at the top. They decided we had done as much as we could with a direct sales model. Thomas knew how to build out a direct system and also a partner ecosystem. But the impetus for this from the top has made it happen fast.”

The key, Palmer said, was changing the compensation structure across the board so that sellers are incented to work with partners.

“The business mix from direct to indirect has changed radically as a result,” he stated. “While the Europe and Asia business was always indirect, the Americas business was more direct. That has shifted so a very small portion of business now is still direct. Even direct businesses now working with partners. We will be close to a 90% to 100% mix very shortly.”

Palmer stressed that Tanium also has the advantage of having a compelling case for partners compared to other endpoint vendors.

“The value proposition we have for partners is some of the best I’ve seen in the industry,” he said. “You have to have a great technology that solves a real world business problem. The way our architecture and solution are created, we have 13 different modules that operate off a single agent, so they can expand once they have the agent deployed, into software compliance, risk or other areas. It helps create a broader annuity for that partner.”

Palmer said that Tanium’s platform’s visibility is also a differentiation.

“The biggest risk to most enterprises is that you can’t protect what you don’t know about,” he said. “Most large enterprises only know 70-80% of assets in their environment. We can immediately show 100% of the assets that they have,  secure them and manage them, both with respect to endpoint management and endpoint security.”

Partners can also resell Tanium’s services portfolio.

“There is a big services drag with Tanium, with our assessment based services powered by Tanium, and these managed services and implementation and migration services are available to partners,” Palmer said.

Tanium’s partner program, which was put in place in May 2020, is a little different from most, Palmer indicated.

“Most companies have requirements and entitlements. Ours is oriented more around business plans than requirements, and is a collection of tools and investments. Every partner is a little different, so the tools could be different for every partner. It’s really about ‘let’s put together a plan, and there are assets we can bring to bear,’ such as prepackaged campaigns. We’ve just launched a Proof of Concept environment that requires no human intervention. The partner sends a link, and they get an instance of Tanium ramped up automatically. We call it our ‘hands free POC.’

Tanium’s program offers a variety of pricing models.

“If they want to build and sell managed services powered by Tanium, they have a different pricing structure, because our cost of sale is less, and they do Level 1 and Level 2 support,” Palmer said. “On the resell side, they need training and POC capabilities and marketing capabilities and we have a collection of assets we can invest in together. There are new customized pricing models for partners building services around Tanium, with lower cost if they have Level 1 and 2 support. We have designated people to work with them and designated dollars to help take it to market. We also changed our comp structure internally so we don’t compete with MSPs. Our end user sales provider can introduce a customer to an MSP and they get paid in full on that.”

Tanium just launched the Tanium Career Certifications Program, a formal training curriculum that provides for development and validation of partners’ expertise, skills and abilities.

“We had earlier built a number of training courses to help partners not only sell Tanium, but sell presales-based activities,” Palmer noted. “What we did not have was certifications that validated this. Our team has been working on it for quite some time. COVID threw a wrinkle in because in-person testing sites were not available, but it is now complete and it gives partners the stamp of approval.”

Designed in collaboration with professional certification specialist Pearson VUE, two certification paths are currently being offered, Tanium Certified Operator [TCO] and Tanium Certified Administrator [TCA]. TCO provides essential knowledge and core foundational experience for users at all levels. TCA establishes in-depth expertise in efficient operations and administration. All exams contain hands-on labs that simulate real-world applications.