Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

Riverbed: Changing times need a different partner programme

The vendor has overhauled its partner programme in a move that should align its channel with the demands of customers

The channel is changing and the demands from customers are evolving as managed services increase and more make the shift to a digital world.

The consequences of those trends are wide ranging but one of the areas where it is getting harder to stick with the status quo is in partner programmes.

The pack and plaque approach with the gold, silver and bronze levels, or equivalents, have become a well established means of providing a framework for the relationships between vendors and channel partners.

The last major shift in the partner programe world was the attempts to move away from simply measuring the 'best' based on revenue and using mechanisms like deal registration to ensure that those delivering value were recognised. Since then there have been various riffs on the main theme, with some vendors using technical certifications and others opting for service abilities, as ways of rewarding those partners that made a commitment.

Things are changing again with customers, rather than vendors, being the driving force behind the changes. The shift from Capex to Opex spending and the growth in the need for more consultancy sales around digital transformaton projects means that the top partners that will emerge to meet those needs require different programmes to highlight their abilities.

Those looking for evidence of what the changing landscape means for parter programmes only need to take a look at the changes that Riverbed is rolling out.

"There has to be a complete mindset shift because the market has moved from capex to opex and we are thinking through end to end about what is happening in the market and what it means for our partners," said Giovanni Di Filippo, vice president EMEA channels and sales at Riverbed.

"As a vendor we have a responsibilty to partners to help them drive the top line and bottom line," he added.

The networking optimisaton player has moved from its Riverbed Performance Programme to Riverbed Rise with the emphasis being on helping the talent rise to the top.

The firm is moving away from a traditonal certification based programme which required partners to pay up front to invest in the programme, that required at least two certified sales staff for premier status and three for elite.

Not the focus is on performance with the vendor looking to measure four areas:
*new customer acquisition
*penetration of the installed base
*everything as a service
*partners who are investing in the vendor's capabilities

The need for upfront investment has gone and partners will be given the choice of choosing which area they believe they can perform strongly in, with the option to take all four.

"Customers want to buy more software and they don't want to invest and own [the hardware] they want to consume this as a service," said Di Filippo.

"The new programme had to be simple, flexible and help drive profitability...this will allow us to get more market share and more share of customer wallets," he added.

Mark Hiley, regional channel sales director UK & Ireland at Riverbed, said that the elimination of the need for upfront investment meant that the Rise scheme would be attractive to more partners and it expected its channel numbers to increase.

"One of our targets will be to go back, working with distribution, to those that might have dabbled in the past but were put off by the investment and have a conversation with them," he said.

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