By Sandra Glaser Cheek, Vice President, Global Partners, and Alliances at Ciena
Our industry is rapidly evolving thanks to the emergence of 5G, streaming video, Internet of Things (IoT) and other disruptive applications. To keep up with the unpredictable demands of these applications, having a modern, flexible and agile communication network infrastructure that is able to support current and future demand is key. While offering the right technology is an important piece of the puzzle, technology companies must also look at how to update their partnering go-to-market and programs to keep up with changing customer needs and partner business models. The time has come to transition away from traditional approaches and programs that have worked in the past and start embracing principles such as customization, personalization and collaborative business planning.
As partners evolve their business models – each has their own goals and challenges. By taking a more personalized and collaborative approach to enabling partner success through focused short term and long term joint business planning and review sessions, vendors work more closely with partners ensure to create unique solutions and services targeted to their customers’ specific needs. The joint planning session enables a more proactive partnership, to ensure alignment and accountability. These planning sessions should include not only business and financial goals, but also market development plans and training and enablement aligned to achieve the specific goals. And considering that today’s industry partners are the least dependent on hardware and software sales than any other time in the channel’s history, this last piece around support/training can’t be overlooked – traditional program training and certification requirements may not be relevant in today’s disruptive climate.
The benefits of a customizable and personalized partner program are measurable – vendors will need to think about partner enablement through a different lens and should consider expanding the definition to include elements such as access to informative market insights/intelligence and trends, solutions focused competitive analyses, and partner-specific demand-generation content that is increasingly important. Not only do these resources allow channel partners to launch new services and solutions more quickly and successfully, but it will allow them to enter new geographic and/or vertical markets with confidence. Aligning with a vendor that is able to provide access to customizable resources will help channel organizations reduce time to market, achieve sales and technical expertise and efficiently deliver meaningful outcomes.
While it’s an exciting time to be a part of the networking industry, the digital transformation of IT environments demands more flexible, agile and customized partner programs. A shift toward a collaborative, personalized partner program and go-to-market will make vendors a preferred company to work with, and simultaneously help channel partners respond to technology disruptions and market transition, capture new opportunities and stay ahead of the competition.
This bespoke way of partner engagement will be especially important this year and in the coming years as channel partners’ businesses continue to evolve. Partner programs will need to adapt to be able to support partners whose customers continue to automate and/or virtualize their IT environments. In 2019, an important focus should be on creating strategic and adaptable plans tailored to support both the vendor and partners’ objectives, providing a more personal sales, enablement and market development experience. This will help ensure that partners have the right resources to capitalize on today’s market shifts and also be prepared for the future.