Riverbed: Ramping up channel engagement

Partners must invest in developing skills, particularly in sales, implementation and support, so that they can lead customers through the transformation journey, says Bisnette

Riverbed, Channel partner, Digital transformation
Trish Tunney

We caught up with Bridget Bisnette, senior vice president global channel sales, programs and operations at Riverbed to discuss how the channel is evolving to meet the challenges that the global pandemic has presented and Riverbed’s role in supporting its partner ecosystem.

From cash flow to implementation, the channel has had to face its fair share of challenges because of the disruptions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the channel remains as resilient as ever.

With the need to rapidly implement remote working, ramp up digital services and accelerate time to market for new offerings, the crisis has been the driving force of digital transformation for many organisations. At Riverbed, we have seen our partners rise to the role of being enablers of this new wave of business continuity focused IT initiatives. Our partners are actively engaging with customers and helping them rapidly design and implement future-proof transformation strategies that have not only enabled enterprises to adapt to the new normal but have also better positioned them for long-term success.

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Of course, there has also been the opportunity for growth for partners that have cemented their position as a trusted advisor to customers. The surge in demand for work from home solutions has dramatically cut the sales cycle, and we have seen a 10x growth for our Client Accelerator solutions, and double-digit growth in our network performance management portfolio. Our partners that have invested in building technical competence in these areas have been able to close purchase orders that would have otherwise taken between three to six months within a week or in some cases just 48 hours.

What can vendors do to help partners, including financially?

Vendors need to be cognizant of the challenges their partners face and demonstrate a commitment to working together with their channel through these challenging times. Vendors need to keep in mind that the situation is rapidly evolving, and with various government regulations and measures to contain and control the virus, market dynamics can differ significantly from region to region. Partners, vendors and customers are facing never seen before challenges and this calls for transparency, and clear and regular communication so both parties are aware of the issues and potential threats to business.

Riverbed has a 100% channel-driven go-to-market strategy in the Middle East. We understand the vital role our partners play and have been closely tracking the situation in the region. Together with our value-add distributors – Mindware, StarLink and Crestan International – we have focused on our supply chain and currently have adequate inventories of Riverbed appliances on-hand to meet demand. Additionally, our distributors have multiple financial programs to assist our partners. Riverbed in turn supports our distributors with financial options.

In parallel, the recent updates to our Riverbed Rise program continue to reward partners financially for performance.

Could you elaborate on the changes to Riverbed’s channel program as the company realigns its strategy to focus on digital performance?

Since its introduction in 2018, the Riverbed Rise program has been extremely well-received in the market. Each year, we have analysed the feedback from partners, as well as customer buying preferences to make sure we modernise, and thereby keep the program simple, flexible, and rewarding for our partners.

The enhancements that we introduced earlier this year include the addition of incremental dividends for Refresh and Trade Up deals, even greater dividends for partner-initiated wins, and dividends being awarded for all Riverbed solutions, including SteelHead.

Riverbed continues to enjoy an extremely high market penetration and one of the pillars of our strategy is to refresh our large install base. We are therefore rewarding partners that successfully refresh their customers’ solutions, which in turn works to better position these organisations to adapt to new workforce dynamics and a more rapid pace of technological advancement.

How is Riverbed training and certifying its partners, particularly in the current situation?

We have a large sales force that augments the capabilities, particularly in pre-sales, of our channel partners. This has been a good working model but at the same time, our strategy in the Middle East has been to go deeper with our focused channel partners.

The channel is realising that their customers need them to add more value which is why at our sales kick-off this year, we made some solid commitments. For one, our partners are now getting the same world-class training as our own account managers, which we are doing online. Equally important, we have now been enabling partners in parallel with the enablement of our internal sales resources.

We have also been working closely with our partners to ensure that they are clear of our strategy and product positioning. Riverbed is focused on helping customers to maximise performance and visibility of networks and applications, which is even more critical today as employees are increasingly working remote. Riverbed is training our partners on our four key solution pillars: WAN Optimisation, Application Acceleration, Network Performance Management and SD-WAN. All these new enablement programs began rolling out in January, including 101 for Sales and 201 for SE’s and include complimentary playbooks for GTM execution.

Our ask of our partners is to actively participate in these trainings so they can realise the full set of benefits and be well prepared to help our customers. They are all available on our Partner Center.

What is your message to partners right now? 

Riverbed has been modernising with the intention of being laser-focused on the needs of the market. Our channel too needs to commit to this modernisation. They have to understand the changes in customer preferences and accordingly plan to go from traditional, on-premise deployments to cloud-based and subscription-based offerings. For this, they need to invest in new skill sets – in the areas of sales, implementation, and support – so that they can lead their customers through the transformation journey.

A recent report by Gartner estimates that public cloud services revenue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will total nearly $3 billion this year. End-customers are now ready to make the transition – whether the channel joins them for this next phase will depend on whether partners are ready to make the right investments today. With the channel being central to our go-to-market strategy, our partners can rest assure that Riverbed is here to support and enable them with market-leading technologies, rewarding programs and incentives, and on-the-ground expertise.

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