Friend of the Channel Award Winners Represent Evolving Channel Models

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  November 02, 2018

In an increasingly crowded market, vendors have had to redefine their channel programs to meet the demands of complex IT landscape.  Choice is abundant for end customers, which has forced channel programs to become more collaborative, with more education for partners and more support from vendors.  This, in turn, has allowed vendors to build more flexible channel models and open up to different types of partners supporting a broader spectrum of customers.  Don’t misunderstand – sales numbers are what matter at the end of the day – but we’re seeing new approaches to partner acquisition, support, and development.  Vendors that are embracing the new model and have invested in their channel programs have been able to grow – and those that aren’t growing are falling behind.

We are excited to announce the winners of the 2018 Friend of the Channel Award winners, the fifth iteration of this program.  The winners all exhibit certain hallmarks of successful channel program, but based on our research, each also has unique attributes that have helped drive success.

Congratulations to this year’s winners (here’s the formal announcement)!

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Most Admired

Channel partners and their customers have a lot of great things to say about Star2Star Communications (News - Alert). This company brings its cloud communications to market exclusively via its global channel program, which has 650 participants. "Our end-to-end sales support, free marketing resources, and concierge marketing support are what helps Star2Star's Partner Program stand out," explains Star2Star Communications, which adds that it pays partners commissions monthly and will provide detailed reports of their earnings upon request.
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Most Collaborative

Wildix is collaborative company both in terms of the way it works with its 70 channel partners across North America and in the business solutions it provides. The company says it delivers partners high margins, the ability to control their customers and pricing model, and a structured go-to-market program. Wildix Academy offers an array of training opportunities. Also, partners can speak directly to the Wildix CEO or CTO. And the company's UC solutions leverage WebRTC, which enables end users to communicate and collaborate easily and effectively.
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Most Collaborative (Runner-up)

The RingCentral Channel Sales Program now has 7,000 partners (mostly MSPs) in Australia, Canada, France, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. The company says its collaboration approach is the program's key differentiator. The Channel Harmony: One to Infinity Program's "unique structure offers full compensation to the partner and the direct sales team while providing specialized subject-matter expert, sales engineer, and executive sponsorship resources to help close deals of all sizes, from one to infinity." And the partner still gets 100 percent of those commissions, RingCentral adds.
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Most Flexible

Digium Inc. provides Asterisk software, telephony hardware, and on-premises and hosted Switchvox (News - Alert) business phone systems. The company and its partner program are unique in terms of the flexibility they offer. "Our main product offering can be deployed across multiple platforms, allowing partners to learn one software and sell three different products. By offering our solution through several different mediums, including in the cloud, on a dedicated appliance, or in a virtual environment, our resellers are able to customize a solution that fits the technical needs of the customer as well as their financial needs," says Digium, which has 5,946 channel partners.
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Most Improved

Windstream Enterprise (News - Alert) provides partner support in the form of technical, solution, and vertical experts "to ensure all offerings and solutions are designed, implemented and installed to meet the unique needs of customers." The company says it has a "proven track recording for paying accurate, timely commission." And we've awarded the company with the most improved designation in light of its per-month partner additions this year being about twice that of what they were in 2017. Good job Windstream Enterprise!
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Most Incentive

Upstream Works Software is a Global Cisco Preferred Solutions Partner that provides omnichannel contact center software. Partners can choose from a three-tiered program based on their level of commitment. The company also "offers a Partner Deal Registration Program, which is an opportunity-based incentive program that rewards 'first-in' partners who generate, develop and close new, Upstream Works for Finesse end-user opportunities. Partners who lead with and position UWF are eligible to receive deal protection and additional benefits for value-added efforts and pre-sales investments."
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Most Potential

Since establishing the Versa Cloud IP Partner Ecosystem last year, Versa Networks has welcomed aboard 20 partners. The company works "shoulder-to-shoulder" with those partners to win deals and implement SD-WAN solutions. Versa partners can create revenue from the Versa sale, from profits on the company�s white-box network appliances, on a recurring basis from services, and via professional services. The partner program to date has focused primarily on the white-hot U.S. SD-WAN opportunity, but Versa says that it's "eager to add partners globally."
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Most Potential (Runner-up)

Expediting the creation of new software solutions is one of the biggest challenges of organizations today. ZeroStack's (News - Alert) one-click DevOps deployment tools address that by helping organizations quickly and effectively build their own clouds. Delivering the ZeroStack solution is a golden opportunity for channel partners, which are "struggling to make margin on hardware, and in some cases software," the company says. It adds: "We believe we are the only vendor to think holistically about helping a partner move from box pusher to services vendor."
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Most Proven

UCaaS company Intermedia launched the Intermedia Partner Program a dozen years ago. Today, the program serves 6,500 partners. These partners can sell under the company's Private Label model or its Advisor partner model. "A rarity in the cloud world, Intermedia itself runs a profitable cloud-based business, so we are best positioned to help our partners to do the same," Intermedia says. With "both an upfront payment per user, and recurring commission of 10-20% based on volume sold, the more partners sell, the more they make. Data services: 2x MRR upfront +8% recurring."
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Most Supportive

Preparing partners to succeed is a big focus for AireSpring (News - Alert), which launched its AireSpring Channel Sales program in 2002. The company, which has 3,250 partners, explains "we provide partners with monthly training webinars on subjects ranging from new SD-WAN technology to sales strategies. Each time a new product or service is launched, we provide the training and offer marketing materials for our partners to utilize. We also routinely visit with our master agencies and provide trainings on-site at no charge and discuss ways to improve marketing and sales efforts."
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Most Supportive (Runner-up)

Skuid delivers a no-code cloud platform used to build customized business applications. The Skuid Alliances Program, established in 2014, currently has more than 40 channel partners. Skuid partners get referral fees, market development funds, and credits. The company also offers partners a dedicated partner management person, access to its product support team and services team, as well as sales executive sponsorship and participation in sales meetings.

Edited by Erik Linask