Stratus remakes partner program to reflect growing channel role

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Susan Bailey, Stratus’ vice president of sales and services, Americas

By Mark Cox

High availability solutions maker Stratus Technologies has announced the launch of a new global partner program. While a key element of the program was to update Stratus former program, the hardware-centric Stratus for Uptime, following their acquisition 18 months ago of software-centric Marathon Technologies, the changes encompass more than that.

“After we acquired Marathon, our software business became a more important piece of our business, and so we took some best practices from their program,” said Susan Bailey, Stratus’ vice president of sales and services, Americas. “The software business is becoming more important and we needed to recognize that.”

Bailey said that creating, developing and executing a consistent global program was another reason for the change, as previously every region had operated independently, with a similar construct but not a common program.  She also said that the program needed to be updated to reflect the fact that for Stratus, the partner part of their business was more critical to their growth.

“As we become more partner led in the vast majority of areas we needed to be robust,” she said. “Our old program was good, but was not as comprehensive in education and sales support, and didn’t include many things partners said were vital to their success. So with the new program we have created the elements partners wanted. It’s much more granular and comprehensive.”

While the old program had two levels – Select and Basic – the new one has three, Registered Partner, Silver Partner and Gold Partner, with the new Registered level serving several functions.

“The Registered Partner level makes it easier for new partners to get in, even if it’s just transactional in the beginning,” Bailey said. “It also creates a way for us to partner with SIs and others who don’t sell product, but who are important influencers.”

The new program also has much more emphasis on demand generation and enablement, which Bailey said were much more basic before.

“The biggest improvements were in sales enablement, and sales and marketing,” Bailey said. “We did some business planning with larger partners before but it was much more ad hoc, and now we are putting more investment in their development. We also didn’t do a classic MDF before because we only did this with our top five to eight partners around the globe, a very narrow set of partners.”

The Registered benefits are basic, and include access to Stratus’ Education and Certification portal and resource center, detailed product information and updates, and product discounts. The Gold benefits have been particularly enhanced, with Bailey saying bolstering them by giving them better tools and training to work opportunities will make them more effective.

“We have invested heavily in enablement,” Bailey said. “With the Silver and Gold levels, partners wanted better access to NFR demos, better access to white papers and use cases by industry, a very specific partner locator,  MDF – which was key – and access to all our technical information. They also asked for joint branding and we have done that with Silver and Gold partners.” The Gold partner discounts have been raised, and a net new business discount on hardware for Silver and Gold partners is in place now, with a similar discount for software new business coming later in 2014.

Bailey said that while new training resources have not been added to the same degree as with enablement, they have completely revamped it online to make it more interactive.

“We are getting terrific feedback on the first few training modules,” she said.

While both the Silver and Gold levels have revenue commitments that Bailey said are not insignificant, accreditation is now also part of the requirements for each.

“We are more concerned with the quality of partner and their emphasis on availability, since that’s what we do well,” she said. “It’s their training and skill and their knowledge of our offerings. They have to train and educate more people than before, as they typically handle Level One support.”

Earlier this year, as part of its increasing channel business, Arrow entered into its’ first distribution deal in North America, which will make its everRun Enterprise fault-tolerant software available through distributor Arrow Electronics.

“Partners are vital to our growth, as the business becomes more channel,” Bailey said. “Arrow had asked us how to best get smaller partners of theirs to know our technology. We had required a contract for every partner, even those doing small volumes. Now they select partners and sign them.” Bailey said they are particularly looking to add partners in industries where they have a limited partner base, like in health care.”

“We’ve really invested internally in channels teams,” she said. “Our commitment to the channel is unwavering, and our channel business is now over 65% in the Americas, which is a big jump from when I joined the company a little over two years ago.”

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