Extreme adds new badges around SLED, sports and entertainment and DEI, while making enhancements to training and customer service and adding a new Grant Writing Services capability.
Today, Extreme Networks enters the last day of its Ignite Partner Conference in Boston having introduced four new initiatives specifically for channel partners, They include new badges and certifications, expanded training options, grant writing support and expanded customer success programs.
“This event, which wraps up today, combined our annual sales kickoff with our partner event,” said Scott Peterson, Senior Vice President of Global Channels, at Extreme Networks. Some IT vendors have turned away from this joint conference model in recent years, but Pearson said it was a major success for Extreme.
“It worked for us because we hadn’t a full live global event in a couple years,” Peterson said. “Everyone was eager to be here, especially with unprecedented demand in the networking space. I was able to talk with everyone about the opportunity present for all of them.”
The first of the announcements made was the availability of three new Partner Certification Badges.
“Requests for these were a very clear message from the partner community to differentiate themselves even within the Extreme family,” Peterson indicated.
The first badge was for the SLED [State and Local Government] partners. Completion of the qualification for this badge designates a partner as a preferred partner for SLED solution delivery in their region. They will also be granted access to specialized collateral including webinars and, in applicable cases, access to market development funds.
“Partners think that this badge is really important,” Peterson said. “SLED is a super competitive marketplace and there is a lot of money available. The criteria for it requires specific certifications and the number of engineers on staff. Experience in the space is also required. You can’t just raise your hand if you have never sold SLED before.”
The second badge is the Sports and Entertainment Delivery Partner Badge, which reflects a deep effort that Extreme has been making in this space.
“This is for more of a subset of partners, but many of the projects involved are massive projects, in areas like convention centres, big hotels, and stadiums,” Peterson said.
Partners who earn this badge will be designated as preferred partners for sports and entertainment customer solution delivery in their region, and also entitles them to participate in sponsorship opportunities as they are available.
“It requires criteria that are met that are more advanced than the ones for the other badges,” Peterson said. “It requires the most advanced technical skills. Some of these facilities, especially ones which never had full grade Wi-Fi before, are very complex deployments.”
The third badge is around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It gives partners the opportunity to align and partner with Extreme on community-based initiatives and obtain support to better identify, quantify and enable DEI efforts within their organizations.
“This is the one that I am most proud of,” Peterson said. “It’s critically important to recruit young early career talent. The qualifications for this are less about technical acumen and more about shared world view. Some partners are very interested, and some are not interested at all. We have created some special marketing incentives around DEI, although they are not the kind that are big enough to change how they do business every day.”
Another major announcement is that partners now have access to new training material, including technical training on Extreme Fabric Connect, bonus sales content and a product-focused livestream series. Later in 2023, Extreme will launch the Extreme Certified Professional Program, an expanded and modular curriculum that provides partners with more choice and depth of technical training and an improved learning experience through a new video portal.
“One of the things I heard the most when I came on board in the one-on-ones I had with partners is that we had more opportunity to continue educating,” Peterson said. So we created more technically deep content.”
Before the pandemic, Extreme’s training was based around live classroom experiences. Then when COVID came, they went all virtual.
“Now some want live classroom when available, and some just the app for virtual training,” Peterson stated. “So we are now doing both. In addition, while these certifications used to be good for a year, they now have a three-year duration. We didn’t think it makes sense to have the most specialized people do the same course year after year.”
Another new announcement was Grant Writing Services, designed to help take advantage of the millions of dollars of grant funds that are available each year for funding projects that require networking solutions. It also helps customers and partners identify funding opportunities for global projects, create proposal and grant narratives and provide management and assistance throughout the grant award process.
Peterson acknowledged that this kind of program is a little different from what an IT vendor would typically provide partners.
“It is not something that a manufacturer or a vendor would typically provide,” he said. “We took a chance here and hired Cindy Joffrion, Ph.D. We took a business risk to see if it would pay off inside Extreme, and it did and so now we are extending it to the partner community. It will help them address customer issues, and provides the ability to train partners to think about the mindsets of customers who will buy this.”
Extreme is also extending its Customer Success programs to help customers benefit from accelerated activation and onboarding, documented success plans and quicker implementations, while partners can improve customer loyalty and better identify new cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
“We tightened up access to our customer success team and further defined what their deliverables are,” Peterson indicated. “The classic customer success programs have typically been around software. In the networking world, it has been more varied in terms of how people use those resources. Obviously it increases the ease and speed of renewals – but it does more than that. We simplified the bundles and tried to help the partner community understand the value that they provide to them.
“Any friction among the partners with customer success is based on unfamiliarity,” Peterson added. The ‘aha’ moment happens when we discuss it with them. When they reach a certain point, they often develop customer success teams of their own.”
Extreme also used the event to announce it has promoted three product leaders into new executive positions. Cristian Mircea has been named Chief Development Officer, Markus Nispel has been named Chief Technology Officer [CTO] for EMEA, and Dan DeBacker has been named Senior Vice President of Products.
“There never been a better time to be in networking or at Extreme,” Peterson concluded, indicating he would love to talk with potential new partners.