The Votes Are in for the Best Channel Programs of 2017

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Partners speak out on the best vendor channel programs and the vendors that offer the best opportunity for growth.

By Larry Walsh

Every year as part of our Channel Forecast research, 2112 asks solution providers of all stripes who has the best channel program.

Why do we ask the question? Channel programs don’t necessarily make partners successful, but they certainly can hurt them. The job of every vendor operating in the channel isn’t to provide revenue and profitability to partners, but rather to create the conditions in which partners have a reasonable chance of thriving.

If a channel program is too stringent, partners have a more difficult time conducting transactions. If a channel program has too many requirements such as training and certifications, partners will spend more money on internal activities rather than sales. If a channel program sets high thresholds for rewards and benefits, partners will have a harder time competing.

Partners seek and appreciate channel programs that are in the Goldilocks Zone – where there’s a balance of partnership requirements, costs, and opportunity.

It’s because partners seek channel programs in this so-named zone that vendors often ask 2112, “Who’s doing it right?”

So we put that question to the partners without aided responses: Which vendor has the best channel program?

Partners offered two-dozen vendors for consideration. These three vendors rose to the top.

1. Intel: Yes, Intel. The chipmaker is getting a lot of respect in the components and Internet of Things segments. But partners also appreciate Intel for its bedrock consistency in program requirements and ease of doing business.

2. Lenovo: Lenovo has a magic touch in the channel. It doesn’t require much of partners regarding participation prerequisites, and it provides ample profitability for a company that markets mostly commoditized products. Its ease of doing business, brand recognition, and low barrier to success make Lenovo a winner among partners.

3. Cisco, Dell, and Microsoft (tied): These three vendors tied for third place. Each vendor has vastly different product portfolios and channel programs. Their common thread: providing partners with opportunity. Cisco is known for its incentives and partner profitability. Partners recognize Microsoft for its channel enablement and brand recognition that drives sales. And Dell, with its recently revamped channel program, is making strides in opening new partner opportunities.

Other vendors that ranked high on the “best channel program” list include Citrix, Datto, Check Point Software Technologies, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), and Hewlett-Packard Inc. (HPI).

Great channel programs neither make nor break partners, but they certainly help create the conditions for success. Some vendors, though, present partners with tremendous opportunity to grow their business and expand profitability. 2112 asked partners which vendors give them the best opportunity for growth. The following are their top five unaided responses.

1. Microsoft: Microsoft is gaining ground in the cloud, thanks in large part to its channel partners. The vendor has largely secured its place on the desktop with Office 365 and is pushing partners to help customers adopt Azure for hosted infrastructure and Dynamics 365 for analytics. Microsoft is also opening tremendous opportunities in Big Data, automation, and infrastructure management.

2. Cisco: While still firmly a networking hardware company, Cisco is pushing to expand other product lines, including its servers, security, and software. Over the next few years, Cisco wants to transform itself into a software company to capitalize on cloud computing and other recurring-revenue And it’s not going alone; it’s bringing partners along for the ride, maintaining opportunities in legacy products while opening new revenue streams in emerging technologies.

3. Lenovo: Lenovo is well-known for its channel friendliness. Partners look to Lenovo for additional opportunities now that it’s gotten experience in the service business, expanding its mobile strategy and branching out in technology alliances, such as hyperconverged

4. Intel Security (McAfee): The soon-to-be-reborn and independent McAfee holds much promise for partners. The company is pressing forward with a new endpoint security architecture that gives businesses tremendous control over their detection, analysis, and response capabilities. In addition, it maintains one of the broadest security portfolios in the market. For partners, all this adds up to growth.

5. Citrix and Sophos (tied): Partners see these two vendors as having high growth opportunities for different reasons. While Citrix continues to open partner sales opportunities in virtualization and mobility, Sophos is a security powerhouse, offering partners multiple growth paths in endpoint, network, and cloud security.

Other vendors to make the “best opportunity for growth” list include Datto, Dell, Gigamon, HPE, HPI, Nimble, Palo Alto Networks, and Symantec.

These lists are the result of our survey of 153 qualified North America solution providers. All vendors were self-selected by participating partners; 2112 offered no aided responses. While we’re sure other vendors offer equal or even better channel programs and growth opportunities, the lists are consistent with previous research conducted by 2112.

2112 offers more insights into partner performance, growth potential, and sales expectations for 2017 in its annual Channel Forecast report. Full versions of the report are available for purchase; a complimentary summary is available for all in the 2112 Library.


Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

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