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13 May 2014 | 0

Love them or hate them (or should that be love them and hate them), partner programmes are a fact of life, a long-established part of the channel landscape. Only a foolhardy vendor would seek to develop a channel strategy without an accompanying partner programme in place. Similarly, very few resellers haven’t felt the need for a formal scheme in place to recognise their investment in a particular vendor’s technology.

Not only are partner programmes a well established part of the channel model, they also tend to be nearly identical, irrespective of the vendor involved. Usually, they’re split into three tiers. In the old days, they were bronze, silver and gold but then a number of vendors promoted theirs to silver, gold and platinum. Nowadays, some vendors have less of a focus on precious metals, tending to go for something like partner, preferred partner and premier partner. It goes without saying that nobody uses third, second and first class.

Those vendors with a fairly extensive product portfolio that reaches beyond one technology category into others (PCs, servers, software, networking, storage) tend to find themselves with a fairly complex network of partner programmes that might cross over where some partners provide products from more than one category.

Naturally, this can lead to an awkward situation where partners trying to sell more than one part of a vendor’s portfolio are confronted with a bureaucratic and cumbersome process that involves dealing with several parts of the vendor’s operation for different products and different partner accreditations.

It’s at this stage that vendors often take the decision to try and simplify the situation by introducing an over-arching scheme that seeks to unify as much of their portfolio and channel programmes as possible. The most recent example of this trend is EMC which, according to MicroScope, has just unified all its partner programmes under a single framework “as it tries to simplify things for resellers and ensure that all of its channel has access to the same resources”.

Frequently, this process of consolidation mirrors the physical consolidation taking place within the vendor’s product portfolio and its own business while reflecting the desire of its customers to have a simpler way of doing business with their supplier.

Which is all fine and dandy at a vendor-specific level but of course the wider problem of what to do about delivering programmes that recognise and promote partner expertise in a multi-vendor, heterogenous world is something that still hasn’t really been addressed.

Even if a vendor succeeds in reducing the number of accreditations and programmes a partner needs to have to sell more of its product portfolio, the issue still remains that partners encounter the same level of complexity, expense and duplication that comes with having to sell and support technology from a number of different vendors.

And while it might be possible for a vendor to bring different parts of its operation together to agree on a jointly defined partner scheme that enables resellers to sell and support more of its product portfolio, it’s hard to see vendors getting together to do something similar across their different and competing product sets.

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