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Riverbed Shifts to Performance-Based Rewards in New Channel Program

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Riverbed Technology, the software-defined networking provider, is making drastic changes to its partner program.

The San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday that its channel organization will no longer reward members based on competency certifications. Bridget Bisnette, Riverbed’s global channel chief and vice president of commercial sales, tells Channel Partners that the program is now performance-based.

Riverbed's Bridget Bisnette

Riverbed’s Bridget Bisnette

“Most traditional programs are competency-based, and partners earn rewards based on competencies. We have separated our partner benefits from competency requirements, because we just don’t believe that in today’s age (and certainly going forward) that sort of connection between competencies and rewards and relationships with vendors is all that relevant,” Bisnette said.

Riverbed Rise, the new program, will reward partners for training employees in competencies, but they won’t have to dedicate as much time as they had been spending to maintain multiple certifications.

“This way they’re going to allow you to focus on what you want to be good at and you are good at,” said Bernard Westwood, vice president of technology operations for BlueAlly, an 11-year partner of Riverbed.

Westwood says BlueAlly used to spend a heavy amount of up-front time and money investing in certifications. But he says Riverbed is working to align itself better with its partners’ sales forces.

“Where our focuses and their focus intersect — that makes a great chance for both of us to grow our own businesses,” Westwood said.

The performance-based categories for the program are customer acquisition, strong service and selling across Riverbed’s portfolio. Bisnette says the performance component of selling across the portfolio reflects Riverbed’s evolving technologies.

“We are no longer a WAN optimization exclusively. We have moved our portfolio quite broadly, and we are depending on partners to help us sell across the portfolio into those customers,” she said.

Westwood says Riverbed’s SteelHead WAN optimization and SteelCentral visibility services are the most popular among customers, but the SteelConnect SD-WAN solution is gaining traction.

“We’re starting to see a little bit more customer interest now that the dust is starting to settle,” Westwood said. “People are starting to really pass some interest and kick the tires. We’re doing a number of PoCs (proofs of concept) now in that space. We think that customers are finally getting comfortable with where that technology is moving, so that’s where we’ve got to get involved.”

Bisnette says Riverbed is primarily interested in building its customer base rather than increasing its number of partners. The company says it and its partners will work to maintain and develop enterprise and public-sector accounts while expanding their commercial customer list.

“We believe our business will grow through our existing partners. We recognize the fact that we may be onboarding new partners, but we will only onboard a new partner in the context that they have a customer base that Riverbed can serve,” she said. “I just want to be clear; we’re in customer-acquisition mode to expand our reach in the marketplace. We’re not in partner-acquisition and partner-recruitment mode.”

Bisnette led the changes to Riverbed’s channel program. She joined the company in May 2017 after a long tenure with Cisco. She worked at Cisco from 1997-2016 in a variety of marketing positions, including field, SMB and channel.

Read the recap from Riverbed’s 2017 Partner Summit in order to learn more about the company and its SD-WAN ambitions. Riverbed’s vice president of product marketing answered SD-WAN concerns in a recent video.


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