The channel partner ecosystem is expanding with the digital transformation. And with that, many traditional partners have evolved with the times while many of them haven’t, or just simply can’t. This has caused the channel to be increasingly difficult to navigate. Vendors need to examine how their partner ecosystem has changed and develop a modern partner program.

This week I talk to Sandra Glaser Cheek, the global VP of channel sales at Ciena. Sandra has experience in channel leadership roles at many big brands, including Amazon and Adobe. We discuss why it’s time for a modern partner program, what that would look like, and how her company is able to handle a whole network of different partner types by launching a personalized partner program.


Why It’s Time For A Modern Partner Program
  • The channel is being introduced to many new partner types, while existing partners are evolving and adopting new multiple business models. Partners want to engage in different ways, depending on the situation.
  • In the past there was a homogeneous environment of resell partners. But now there are a wide variety of partner types. Partners no longer fit into just one category. As a result, they need a personalized program. A “one size program” no longer fits all.
  • When you look at how most partners make the majority of their revenue, it is through services. The enablement to do that has become more important than the financial incentive for the sale.
  • Tiers are becoming a thing of the past. Instead of being based on tiers, incentives like Market Development Funds (MDF) should be based on the strength of your partner’s proposal and the investment you’re making to drive alignment to the goals.
How To Design A Modern Partner Program
  • When designing a modern partner program, look holistically at the channel and what you need to grow your business
  • Look at the data, and talk to your partners, find their pain points. Understanding the types of partners you have and where they’re going with their businesses is a really important piece of assessing whether you need a new program or not.
  • Enablement typically used to mean standardized technical support, training, certifications, and specializations.  Now it means personalized training and support, especially for the partner that has a deep specialization in a particular vertical market