Avaya is adjusting elements of its Avaya Connect partner program to work better for its partners and address the needs of its customer base – changes its partners said are mostly for the better.
One of the changes discussed at Avaya's 2011 Americas Partner Conference, held this week in Las Vegas, was the migration away from volume-based metrics to measure the effectiveness of channel partners.
"We are driving more toward competency rather than volume," said Jeremy Butt, vice president of Global Channels at Avaya. "Today we have a classically tiered program, and when it comes right down to it, there are only two types of programs – those that are competency-based and those that are volume-based. We are at a halfway-house stage at the moment. We are going to continue pushing toward the competency side over the next few years."
John Babcock, president of Relational Technology Solutions, Columbus, Ohio, believes the current volume-based metric leaves a number of small but competent partners out in the cold when it comes to compensation. The shift to competency-based metrics, he said, will level the playing field.
"When the channel isn't educated or qualified to design and implement a solution, it's a disaster," he said. "I'm not as concerned about whether a partner is regional or national as I am about whether he is qualified to make the sale.
It's a prohibitive process when partners are compensated solely on volume because the smaller guys never get a shot. Avaya needs a channel with better-quality partners," he added. "The technology is only going to get more complex."
Roger Junkermeir, president of Cerium Networks, Spokane, Wash., said often the cost associated with achieving competency will dictate the amount of product a partner must sell – creating a Catch-22 situation.
"If a company sets competency levels to the point where it should, that probably is going to dictate how much volume a partner has to do to support the headcount and everything associated with being able to competent," such as training and professional development, he said. "If Avaya approaches this new model correctly, the compensation model will ferret out who are the most competent."
However, partners noted, tying partner compensation to customer satisfaction levels – an idea being considered by Avaya – is absolutely the wrong way to go.
"If your company has a customer-satisfaction issue, the vendor will see that through number of escalation issues by customers," Junkermeir said. "Any partner in business has to have customer satisfaction at the root and core of their interest. I don't believe it should be an edict."
Besides, said Val Robison, sales vice president at Sunturn IT Consulting Group, Phoenix, customer satisfaction ratings can be influenced by any number of things.
"The customer could love us but be upset at vendor, so they take it out on us when they get that customer satisfaction survey," he said. "Or the customer is having a bad day. Or they have bad code in their system that the partner can't impact.
Satisfaction surveys don't always tell the story, he said. "Tying our ability to compete with customer sat scores makes it difficult."