Ciena Gets ‘Edgy’ With Enterprise Partner Program Changes

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Networking gear vendor Ciena Corp. has ramped up efforts to focus on the enterprise market through VARs and integrators and made recent updates to its partner program as a result.

For vendors such as Ciena, whose traditional customers are service providers, enterprises prove an alluring segment as demand grows for next-generation services such as cloud. Ciena has been aware of the shift for some time, and its most significant acknowledgement of that trend came last year when it hired Level 3 Communications’ Nigel Williams as its own channel chief. And Williams’ efforts are coming to fruition.

To that point, Ciena has made several changes to its partner program.

First, it beefed up deal registration. Partners were telling Ciena the existing process lacked teeth. Now, there’s a sign-off process that ends with Williams.

Next, Ciena has rolled out quoting and design tools, and mandates that partners get certified on those design tools before they can reach the Gold and Platinum tiers.

In addition, partners aiming for the top-level Diamond designation have new profitability options in the form of services. Ciena has added installation, and first- and second-line maintenance, around compute and storage.

There’s also the new Growth Incentive Exchange, which sits above Diamond. Partners can come to Ciena with a business plan targeted at a specific geography or vertical or segment such as SMBs and build a business case with a Ciena rep. Then, they may use increased MDFs, collaborative marketing and other resources under non-disclosure so they can go after specific customers without worry of the supplier pursuing the same potential clients.

“We have a menu of options partners can evolve to and through to increase their profitability,” Williams said.

Such a flexible approach accommodates different levels of partner maturity, he added.

“That was a real change in our program.”

Partners will spend 2014 transitioning from the old Ciena program to the new one. Then, in 2015, all partners will be covered by the new program. In other words, any new partners as of Nov. 1 will be measured against the new criteria while partners that were with Ciena by Oct. 31 get to transition into the new setup throughout the coming year.

In terms of new partner recruitment, Ciena is seeking small and large VARs as well as telecom agents. Ciena further has invested in more channel personnel, having just hired a new vice president of enterprise and channel marketing from Cisco. Ciena also is adding more channel people to the field via its partner business development organization, Williams said.

“We’re getting a little bit more edgy, getting a little bit more targeted,” Williams said.

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