The Synergy Summit in 2013 focused on mobility for the best part. How well are partners buying your story across geographies?Ever since the consumerization of IT, mobility represents a great opportunity for our partners. This opportunity has been driven largely by enterprise customers, who have been asking for mobility solutions. At Citrix, we take mobility beyond the use of devices, and talk about the power of applications and data. What we communicated to our partners at the Synergy Summit was how they can leverage their investments around desktop virtualization.
Citrix also announced changes to its Solution Advisor Program. How does this work with the Partner Accelerator initiative and how will it help partners in India?Yes, there are multiple phases; one of these being Opportunity Registration (OR) across our cloud networking products. We have also tiered some of the benefits across the program based on silver, gold, and platinum memberships. Another soft but tangible change, is that our program now has incentives with hard requirements. This sends a message that if partners invest, then they can benefit well. In the past, it was more of an ‘by invitation only’ approach. Now, partners can and will be able to clearly see the difference. This is where the Partner Accelerator initiative comes in. We spend dedicated time to enable partners the same way we would enable our own salesforce.
The bulk of your partners are in the silver category and are inactive, which make the numbers unwieldy. Wouldn’t Citrix be better off trimming the partner numbers at that level?
Initially, we wanted to make entering our program easy. We didn’t impose too many training costs and absorbed most of it ourselves, with exceptions made only for the advanced level of training. Our focus has always been on the overall productivity of partners. This explains why we do end up having maximum partners at the silver level. However, we have evaluated these aspects and when we made announcements in May this year, we gave partners a grace period (up to January 2014) to meet some of new tiering mandates in terms of certifications and investments. We expect a lot of partners to fall out of the program if they aren’t up to it.
Smaller partners express that some of the larger partners and your direct sales team end up cornering the creamy accounts leaving only SMB business to them and that there should be a level playing field for all. Is this true?
We have aligned with partners who are extremely focused with our delivery agenda. As a policy, we do not constrain any partner, large or small, from executing any deal. Again, all these are subject to competitiveness and investments. We do have direct sales teams, but they do not sell. To the best of what we believe, we do not place any partner at a disadvantage or restrict them by segment. The underlying bed rock is: You have customer connect, go ahead and seal the deal. That is where the Advisory Rewards program kicks in. Assuming a silver partner gets an enterprise account, the partner can lock and add value to it. We want to have more conversations with partners to tell them about the OR, and how it will pan out for them. A lot of partners, in our observation, do not keep abreast of the changes we have been messaging about. They are in a time warp. So, the gap has to be bridged and we intend to do that, going forward.
Your partner program is strangely silent on revenue commitments. Why hasn’t Citrix elicited revenue commitments from partners till date?Till date, revenue commitments were a soft mandate. One of the big, recent changes that we have brought about is in putting an absolute number to revenue targets. This, combined with certification requirements, will signal a paradigm shift in the way partners work with Citrix. Our channel managers are investing time in talking to partners about the deadlines, the possibilities and opportunities for partners with these mandates. We’ve had conversations, meetings, focus groups, and round tables to understand what partners really want. What I have heard over and over again is that partners are willing to invest in requirements, provided that they know what is in it for them. I am certain that these changes and programs are going to do all of that and more for them.
How effective is the Mobile Boot Camp, which has kicked off, going to be for partners in India?The idea behind these events is that this presents an opportunity for us to share our new mobility story with partner business owners, technical leaders, and sales heads. We will also utilize the platform to emphasize on the new changes in the partner program.
Are there any more channel related announcements in the pipeline?
While there are no new announcements at the moment, we expect there will be some next year on the lines that we will be helping partners raise the bar (in terms of competencies) on the work they will start based on the foundations set this year. We might also look at broadening the spectrum of OR to virtualization products, which we are evaluating, based on partner conversations. However, we are aware of the fact that we don’t want a program that will end up putting money upfront on virtualization and that will only result in greater discounting without creating actual profit.
Customer focus and channel management is always a tightrope and it has been felt that Citrix, in recent times, is tilting towards the former at the expense of the latter.
We are committed to our channel model. We expend time internally in order to make our people understand this. Having said that, we don’t measure our sales people across geographies, merely based on the money they bring in, but also on the levels of partner engagement. So, we see it more as a choreographed leverage sales model, and less as a tightrope. We will be consistent in these objectives.
Shantheri Mallaya is Special Correspondent at IDG Media. Write to her at email@example.com
We have aligned with partners who are extremely focused with our delivery agenda.