Enterasys Networks Inc. has revamped its partner program as part of its long-term strategy to refocus on current and targeted high-value partners.

Paul Zink, vice-president and general manager of Toronto-based Enterasys Networks of Canada Ltd., told CDN the program includes clarification

on training and other criteria that must be fulfilled in order to meet each of the elite, certified and associate level requirements.

End-users can now go online and locate partners, Zink said. In addition, partners can access a live network online and simulate and model different customer scenarios, instead of having to build the network themselves. “”You can imagine the investment of building a network like that on their own,”” he said. “”Now they’re able to go online and simulate a network situation or a model . . . using live equipment with our systems. That really helps them put together a proposal for a solution they know they can depend on.””

Another significant addition to the program is the ability for partners to participate in online training rather than off-site accreditation sessions.

“”It’s not always easy to send out salespeople or engineers into a classroom environment where they’re out on the field for a whole week,”” Zink said, adding that sometimes people miss certain parts of the curriculum because they have to leave in the middle of sessions to take care of customer situations.

“”Partners do ask their employees to follow through and get the training so that they can get the incremental discount points and other benefits. [Online training] gives them a comfort factor that the employees don’t need to leave the office for a week. They just do the program.””

Administration of the program in Canada will be similar to that of the U.S., while at the same time Canada’s size and market potential will be taken into account, Zink pointed out. “”Our volume requirements in some of the technical accreditations have been adjusted accordingly.””

However, just because the Canadian market is one-tenth of the size of the US market doesn’t mean the Canadian requirements have been reduced to one-tenth accordingly, Zink chuckled. He added that he thinks Enterasys Canada has been fair in adjusting the requirements to suit the Canadian scene.

He added that Enterasys will be firm on ensuring partners reach accreditation requirements for each level. “”Yes, we will administer with a little bit more focus,”” he said. “”But then again, if you take a look at our channel partners, a lot of them have met those requirements anyway, and the ones that haven’t are not that far off. There will be days that they will have to step up to those commitments. But considering all the benefits that are there, once you’ve reached that level, it’s worth the effort.””

The program also avoids what Zink termed the “”shotgun”” or mass market approach to partner programs. “”I think if you talk to the hundreds of thousands of channel partners that have signed on to mass market programs, they’re not particularly happy; they don’t feel like individuals. You can’t say that about our partners.””

In terms of Enterasys’ general channel strategy, Zink said he sees a continued movement toward more services as a part of bundled solutions. He said he thinks the company’s partners have matured and are now not as concerned about making money on product and worrying about margin. “”They’re more concerned about understanding their customer’s business situation and developing a value-added proposal for that customer that has a lot of services in it and addresses that customer’s business requirements.

“”It’s not about a discount on a PC or on a switch or router — that doesn’t necessarily make you a winner at end of day, to have a couple more margin points than the next guy. What makes you a winner is choosing technology that has differentiation, and bundling the services approach around that. And before you do that, you need to understand what your customer wants out of solution.””

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