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Citrix specializations, differentiation for partners

Just a couple of months after Citrix introduced four new specializations designed to demonstrate a high level of technical competency, 15 partner organizations have earned one or more specialization and one partner reported winning new business because it earned the credential. Hundreds of partners are in the pipeline to attain the new certifications, according to Citrix.

For LPS Integration in Nashville, Tenn., a Citrix Platinum Partner that earned three of the new specializations, pointing out that fact to a potential customer helped to differentiate the firm from competitors and win the business. The project involved Citrix NetScaler.

“This was a customer that we had done business with before, but they were shopping around,” said said Frank Pulliza, chief operating officer and one of the company’s founders. “So we were in a competitive situation, not just from a price perspective, but there was the threat of someone else coming in and working with our client. We pulled up this latest information in the Citrix Partner Portal, pointed out our certifications, customer references, and certified deployments that no one else had. … It was a good part of our message to this client and, actually, we just got that deal.”

At Citrix Summit 2015 in January, the vendor announced four specializations: Citrix Specialist in Virtualization, Citrix Specialist in Mobility Management, Citrix Specialist in Networking for App and Mobile Strategy, and Citrix Specialist in Networking for Datacenter. All but the Citrix Specialist in Networking for Datacenter are currently available.

The new specialist certifications are awarded to the partner organization and require technical certifications, documented customer projects and a practicum in virtual lab environment.

Partners in any tier of the Citrix Solution Advisor – Platinum, Gold and Partner – are eligible to earn the new specializations. However, Platinum and Gold partners must also meet annual revenue requirements at their tier levels. For partners attaining the new specializations, Citrix has reduced the revenue requirement by 30% to 50% as reward for pursuing the new specializations.

“The concept when we launched the program is that we put more value on partner competency than on their ability to transact,” said John Carey, senior director of worldwide channels program strategy at Citrix. “From an objective perspective that is a trend that we would like to drive, but we do consider revenue a key component that we want to measure our partners on – that will never go away,” he said.

For both Pulliza and Mike Hogan, president of Hogan Consulting Group, Chesterton, Ind., also a Citrix Platinum Partner, the financial incentives that Citrix offered for achieving the new specializations were very welcome.

The financial incentives include a 50% increase in the Citrix Advisor Reward , currently 22 cents on the dollar but 33 cents on the dollar on the back end for partners with the new certifications. That increase comes in addition to a 5% increased margin on the front end.

Both companies foot the bill for engineers who get certifications and, like many partners, include attaining certifications as part of a hiring and retention plan.

Hogan said that while the certification requirement is technical in nature, the revenue benefits are sales-related so his company splits the bonuses between sales and technical teams.

“We view it as a quarterly reward for our engineers for jumping through hoops,” he said.

Hogan Consulting has also earned all three of the available specializations and plans on adding the Citrix Specialist in Networking for Datacenter credential when it becomes available. LPS Integration aims to pursue that specialization as well.

According to Carey, 700 customer validations have been completed and more than 1,000 individuals are technically certified and eligible to participate in the practicum. That activity is in addition to the 15 partner organizations earning at least one specialization. There are currently 68 individuals registered for the practicum with two-thirds already graded and one-third in process.

While Citrix Platinum partners represent the lion’s share of early adopters, interest in the new specialist certifications is also coming from Gold and Partner level partners.