Riverbed partner program moves to competency-based model

The Riverbed partner program is changing to a competency-based model.

On Jan. 6, 2014, Riverbed Technology channel partners will begin adhering to the vendor’s revamped partner program – one that changes from a revenue attainment-based model to a competency-based one, Riverbed announced today.

Changes to the four-year old Riverbed partner program will impact Riverbed’s 2,100 channel partners worldwide, about half of whom are located in North America. The changes include enhanced partner benefits, streamlined training and certification, and new competencies and partner levels. The vendor is also making investments to simplify processes. 

And while the vendor is moving to a competency-based model, it's not abandoning revenue requirements altogether. Partners at the highest level will still need to meet revenue goals, which could vary based on geographic region and maturity of the market in that region, according to a company spokesperson. The requirement is $5 million for U.S. and Canadian partners.

“Our program up until recently has largely been a fulfillment model, meaning that Riverbed drove the engagement around WAN optimization and leveraged the channel to fulfill,” said Michele Hayes, senior director of the global channel program at Riverbed. “But as we’ve expanded our portfolio through acquisitions, we learned that we need to have a deeper engagement with our partners. That’s the fundamental reason for the change,” she added.

In February 2009, Riverbed completed the acquisition of Mazu Networks and added application performance reporting and analytics technology to its portfolio; in July 2011 the company acquired Zeus Technology and its application delivery product portfolio; and, most recently, in October 2012, the company acquired OpNet Technologies Inc., extending its network performance management business.

Riverbed’s new competency-based partner model aligns with its business units and includes four competencies: WAN optimization; storage delivery; application delivery; and performance management, which is an umbrella term for network performance management and application performance management.

“We’re now requiring partners to get certified, trained and educated on the products and solutions in order to get discounts on the solutions,” Hayes said.

Training is the first phase in building competencies. Going forward, Riverbed will build in some specialties on top of the new framework that will further reward partners based on their areas of focus, according to the company’s channel chief.

To improve its training resources, Riverbed is updating its online modules as well as instructor-based training and  virtual labs. It's also working with distributors to offer prep courses for advanced certifications.

Riverbed is also changing its discount structure, according to Hayes. Discounts will increase as a partner increases the number of competencies it holds, he said.

So, for example, at minimum, a partner with one competency gets the minimum level of discount. A partner with two or more competencies gets a higher level of discounts and a partner with three or more competencies gets an even higher level of discounts -- all on the front end.

On the back end, Riverbed is building in rebates for partners who invest in the company. “In 2014, there will be lucrative growth rebates, target account rebates and we’re introducing a net new account rebate for partners who drive engagements,” Hayes said.

Further into 2014, as the partner adoption of the program takes hold, Riverbed will build in a reward opportunity for product and solution up-selling and cross-selling.

Another major change to the program is the number of partner levels: three instead of four. The new framework includes Authorized partners, or those who make the minimum investment with Riverbed and have no competencies; Premier partners, who hold a minimum of one competency; and Elite partners, who hold a minimum of three competencies.

According to Riverbed, Authorized partners can resell the company’s products and services, have minimal training requirements, receive the lowest level of benefits and are not eligible for deal registration or non-standard discounts. Both Premier and Elite partners are eligible for deal registration and discounts. And, as mentioned, those at the Elite level  will have to meet certain revenue requirements. 

Hayes noted that the company began communicating with partners about the program revamp in September and has been working with partners to help them make the transition to the new partner levels.

Riverbed is also streamlining processes on the back end and will implement a "deal desk" organization to help to drive best practices and make sure that deal registrations are clean, according to Hayes. A Riverbed Deals Desk Analyst job description on LinkedIn said that the organization was formed to "maximize adherence to our partner program, increase field productivity, improve margins, and ensure accurate deal registration routing while minimizing channel conflict, split disputes and duplication of effort."

The partner portal will be enhanced with dashboards that will provide partners with a quick view of where they stand with certifications and competencies as well as discounts. Additional enhancements will be added over the course of 2014.

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