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Unify partner program gains profit predictability, new rules of engagement

Unify aims to double the percentage of its revenue coming from indirect sales, and it's taking steps to eliminate channel conflict between its direct sales force and partners.

Unify Inc., the company formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications, on Tuesday unveiled the new Unify Partner Program, which is scheduled to replace the existing Go Forward partner program in January 2015.

The Unify Partner Program was designed to align Unify with its competitors and bring its partner program in line with where the market is today, according to Jon Pritchard, executive vice president of worldwide channels at the unified communications vendor. Unify has also taken steps to minimize channel conflict.

"This is the beginning of our transformation to become a more partner-centric business," he said.

Today, about 24% of Unify business, worldwide, goes through partners. The company's goal is to almost double that number, or reach 45% over the next 12 to 18 months. There are approximately 140 Unify partners in the U.S.

We're taking away the competitive piece whereby in the past a direct sales guy would have retired a target only if he took it directly.
Jon Pritchardexecutive vice president of worldwide channels, Unify

Some of the key deliverables of the new program are profit predictability for partners, building trust between partners and the company's direct sales force, and the creation of an incentive structure that's easy for partners to understand and ties investment to reward. With the new program Unify is also moving away from partner types to specializations based on the company's OpenScape Business, OpenScape Voice and OpenScape 4000 products. The new Unify Partner Program also offers consistency on a global basis and streamlined processes, and it aims for greater partner/customer satisfaction.

The company's go-to-market strategy is threefold: In Unify's core markets, including the U.S., U.K., Germany and Austria, Unify will retain a hybrid business model, which means retaining a direct sales force. In smaller, partner-led countries, partners will be supported by Unify sales, and in other regions, partners will work through distribution.

According to Pritchard, in Unify's core markets, U.S. included, the company's goal is to increase revenue from existing partners. The direct sales team will continue to sell to key customer accounts, but Unify has instituted a policy of channel neutrality.

What that means is that the compensation model for its direct sales force doesn't change whether a sale is booked directly or by a channel partner. "We're taking away the competitive piece whereby in the past a direct sales guy would have retired a target only if he took it directly," said Pritchard.

In addition, Unify is clarifying for its direct sales force what markets it wants them in, the verticals and the size of the customer. "We're also looking at accessibility to our product so OpenScape Business, a product for midsize commercial businesses, will be sold only through our partners," he said, adding that Unify is also setting other ground rules on a market-by-market basis.

The goal of this effort is to make Unify attractive to partners and to make it easy for partners to understand the markets they play in.

The Unify Partner Program offers deal registration, demand generation, special project pricing for large bids, support for large requests for quotations and a training academy.

Specializations by product type will have levels -- Authorized, Master and Professional -- with increased investment and reward as partners move up the food chain.

Services are also part of the accreditation with specific requirements. All Unify systems are sold with services. "There is an opportunity for our partners to sell services; however, we don't force them to do it. They can sell our support services if they choose," said Pritchard.

Existing partners have nine months to decide where they want to fit into the new partner program and begin the accreditation process. They will get the benefits of the program while they're getting up to speed, said the channel chief.

Unify is also in the process of enhancing its partner portal and expects the upgrade to be completed within three to six months. The company is also working to make its products easier to install and implement.

While OpenScape Business currently scales to 500 users, Pritchard said that the company believes the sweet spot for the product is for companies with 1,250 to 1,500 users and will roll out a new higher-scaled product version sometime next year.

As Unify moves to increase the percentage of revenue coming from indirect sales, the company plans to hire additional channel leadership over the next three months. Rick Fitzgerald is currently the North American channel chief.

The company is also planning a U.S. partner conference in 2015.

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Will Unify's new channel-neutral stance eliminate potential channel conflict?