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Citrix channel partners encouraged to pursue IT services

At Citrix Summit 2016, company and partner executives pointed to certification, specialization and consulting services as ways channel companies can stand out from the crowd.

There's a clear path to increased profitability, partner firm differentiation and customer engagement, namely, getting certified, becoming specialized and offering services.

During a session -- "Lead with services and grow your Citrix business" -- at Citrix Summit 2016, held in Las Vegas last week, Citrix channel partners and executives discussed how to develop a services practice and how to expand that practice by working together with Citrix Consulting Services (CCS).

While the channel partner firms in the room -- Entisys Solutions and Convergence Technology Consulting -- talked about the importance a services practice plays in their organization, Mark Sweeney, Americas Field Services group director at Citrix, shared three best practices for building a services business.

But not before John Carey, senior director, worldwide channel programs strategy  at Citrix, stressed the personal and monetary value that certifications and specializations add to a partner firm.

John Carey, senior director, worldwide channel strategy and development, CitrixJohn Carey

"Skills certifications talk to the buyers of IT who are worried about the skills gaps in their own organization and look for informed opinions to help them make decisions," he said.

Channel partners who invest in certifications can participate in Citrix incentive programs, including upfront opportunity registration and Citrix Advisor Rewards (CAR). So, for example, a company selling networking products can earn up to 10% in upfront opportunity registration and up to 12% in CAR for a total of up to 22 incentive points of profit to a partner's business.

Take that a step further and that's where specializations come into play. Citrix specializations were introduced at last year's Citrix Summit and channel partner executives this year reiterated the company's commitment to encourage Citrix channel partners to achieve specializations to demonstrate competency and differentiation.

"What partners really want to do is stand out," Carey said, who noted that partners that double down and get specialized are growing an additional 15% year over year. Compared to partner firms with certifications, firms with specializations can expect Citrix rewards -- front end and back end -- of up to 33 points. The Citrix executive also pointed out that partners with Citrix specializations are given priority ranking on its partner directory.

But for those partners that want to go to the head of the pack, services are where there's real profitability -- up to 50%. "That's where you're able to keep people on the bench and keep them engaged and working on projects," Carey said.

Services best practices

Working with the Citrix consulting team for about 15 years, Sweeney shared three of his team's best practices for services, offering partners some food for thought when building or evaluating their own best practices.

Mark Sweeney, group director, Americas Field Services, CitrixMark Sweeney

The first best practice is defining and refining a methodology. It's critical to review and, when necessary, to refresh and refine methodologies. Sweeney then went on to talk about approaching a customer with a methodology that includes: engagement scenarios, qualifying considerations and services offerings.

In the engagement, the goal is to find out who and what you're dealing with, i.e., is it a customer new to Citrix products or are they having issues with existing products; or is there a lack of resources or a lack of knowledge, for example.

Next are the qualifying considerations, primarily discovered with a key question: Why did you call us? "Inevitably it's for one of four reasons, risk, time, resources or knowledge," Sweeney said, who explained that this answer helps his team, which develops the services offering around the consulting, education or technical support team.

Then he explained the latest methodology that the Citrix team uses today is: define, assess, design, deploy and monitor. "Quite often we get to a point where we do the access, design and deploy and once we're done we expect the customer to manage the environment on their own. Then, typically, we get a call three or six months later where they're having issues or challenges. This is an opportunity for you to get some additional services later on, and always be engaged with ad hoc type projects," he said.

What partners really want to do is stand out.
John Careysenior director, worldwide channel programs strategy and development, Citrix

The second best practice, and a relatively new one for CCS, is to create a services catalog with prepackaged offerings. There are several benefits to having a services catalog: It makes it easy to attach services and also makes it easier when orienting new sales reps. Using a SKU and part number also makes it easy for customers to procure services.

What might a prepackaged offering look like? Sweeney detailed multiple examples. Here are a couple: CCS offers a 16-hour architect whiteboard that includes sending an architect on-site for a couple of days to define what an infrastructure might look like; another example is XenApp and XenDesktop design scoped out at 276 hours.

Citrix Specialists get access to a lot of support material through the Citrix Specialist Services Center -- another reason to get specialized.

The third best practice is to partner with Citrix, especially with the vendor's strategy in 2016 to attack the midmarket space. "It's where we need help to sell product and also to sell services," Sweeney said. "It we don't sell services in that space customers won't adopt licenses and if they don't adopt licenses they won't adopt more licenses."

Combining the total addressable market in both the corporate and midmarket space, the Citrix executive talked about a $6 billion opportunity the vendor and partners can go after together.

Citrix channel partners jump in

Convergence and Entisys have services practices and find it beneficial to work with CCS -- but that didn't happen without some challenges.

Convergence, for example, in 2003 was pulled into a services engagement with CCS because a federal customer demanded it. About 70% of Convergence's business is focused on the federal government. The company entered into the arrangement reluctantly but saw the large business opportunity that went along with agreeing to partner with CCS.

"CCS came in and vetted our design, gave it their stamp of approval and that was great," said Tiernan Wallace, partner and chief sales officer at Convergence.

But it was a couple of years later that Convergence starting engaging with CCS on a regular basis, bringing the Citrix experts in on some larger projects to provide validation to their customers. "Over the years they've been a part of our team and we've also been a sub to CCS, doing work for them," he added.

Dane Young, virtualization practice manager, EntisysDane Young

Dane Young, virtualization practice manager at Entisys, and with the company for six years, recalled the relationship between Entisys and CCS some years back as strained. "We needed risk mitigation and the manufacturer's blessing with the design and implementation and it was difficult for us to figure out how to crack that nut and have it flow through the way we needed it to," he said.

 That situation has significantly changed in the past couple of years and co-delivering on engagements is a big part of that, he said.

"It's not CCS just coming in for the validation, but partnering all the way through helps from a product sale perspective. Because when the sales rep in the field knows that we're partnered together on services, there's less friction when it comes to selling the products -- whether it's software licenses or NetScaler, for example. There's more momentum to get that product sale going," Young said.

The partners agreed that the bottom line for them when engaging with CCS is having a happy customer.

Working together with Citrix also helps partners augment staff with Citrix engineers when projects come up. "It's so much easier [now] that I know I have people I can trust and rely on rather than go with some fly-by-night shop that says they're a Citrix shop," Young said.

Some recommendations from partners for working with CCS:

  • Get to know them; the more often you reach out the more often you engage.
  • Know that not every opportunity will come to fruition.
  • Some opportunities may be too small for CCS yet know that not all deals need to be monster deals -- that's something Citrix has stepped back from requiring.
  • Get your engineers ramped up, certified and approved so they're on Citrix's radar.
  • Get into the mind-set to align your sales organization with the CCS sales organization, because at the end of the day you have a mutual customer and you both win.

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