Riverbed launches new Riverbed Rise partner program

Thursday, March 29 2018

Riverbed unveiled its new global Riverbed Rise partner program in January 2018, consisting of three tiers and a consistent structure for partners around the world. The new program makes use of a unique “dividends” program to manage partners, gives greater autonomy and flexibility to partners in terms of product sales choices, and caters to a wide variety of partner business and consumption models in a changing IT landscape. Canalys found that more than 90% of channel partners worldwide today generate some subscription/recurring revenue, and vendors that have a cloud, software or services component in their partner programs gain greater partner satisfaction. Riverbed Rise is built on the three tenets of simplicity, flexibility and profitability. The program has launched but Riverbed will give partners until the end of June this year to determine their new tiers, which will be effective from the beginning of August. This also gives the vendor about seven months to fix any errors or fine tune operations.

A universal currency “dividend” uniting partner activities

One unique feature of the Riverbed Rise program is the use of a universal currency – “dividends” – that allows tracking of partner activities in sales and training by tracing these dividend movements. Partners earn dividends by achieving training and sales in products and services, and they are deposited into a digital wallet. Partners can then choose how they wish to spend these dividends on rewards.

Partner levels within the new program are determined by the number of dividends earned. To qualify for the top Elite level, partners must earn a total of 400 or more dividends in the previous four quarters. Premier level requires 35 to 399 dividends, while Authorized partners require 0 to 34 dividends. Requirements are applicable for all markets worldwide. Partner promotions (to higher levels within the program) are assessed every quarter based on the four quarters’ earnings, while demotions are determined yearly. Incremental discounts for resale, managed services and deal registration based on partner tiers are given for all, ranging from 20% at the Authorized level to 50% at the Elite level.

Riverbed adopted a new partner program for several reasons. Before, partner rebates and discounts were based on the number of competencies earned, focusing sales on legacy technology. By using a new partner program that removes competency and compliance barriers, Riverbed opens a wider variety of partner sales models to its expanding portfolio and takes into consideration different partner revenue streams. It also helps shorten the time for partners to adopt and sell new technologies, allowing channel sales to align faster with Riverbed’s own sales strategy. But the lower emphasis on certifications raises the question of how Riverbed ensures the quality of partners’ technical expertise, and potentially upsets partners that have already invested heavily in certifications. Partners must still gain certifications, but these are no longer tied specifically to their given rebates and discounts in the program. In this model, partners can better match investments to their business strategies by accruing and spending dividends accordingly.

Through the dividends system, Riverbed gains better insights into its partners’ activities and preferences. For example, it can track individual partners’ activities based on where dividends are spent. It also helps the vendor minimize cash outflow while improving the efficiency of administering partner business activities, as these are operated on a digital platform, effectively using a digital currency. For example, the transaction costs for activities such as customized project funding and training are deducted directly from a partner’s digital wallet by Riverbed.

Dividend payouts align to Riverbed sales priorities

Dividends are earned for every US$10,000 in net sales bookings per quarter. But the number of dividends earned is based on four achievement areas: customer acquisition, account penetration, XaaS (IT-as-a-service) and training. Resale or delivery of managed services in new customer accounts earns five dividends on eligible products, the highest available. Achieving more than 70% on-time support renewal sales (based on in-quarter annual contract values) in existing accounts, and XaaS subscriptions in new or existing accounts, each earn slightly less at three dividends. Other sales into existing accounts, including resale or delivery of managed services, refresh and trade-up opportunities, earn two dividends. Up to two achievement areas can be combined per opportunity for more dividends, except for customer acquisition and account penetration together. To encourage training, Riverbed rewards each new certification with three dividends, and every two new accreditations with one dividend.

Dividends are exchanged for rebates and business investments funds

Partners will see dividends deposited quarterly, but dashboards will be updated monthly to give ongoing visibility. Once deposited, the accrued dividends must be used in the first two quarters after earning. Partners can spend dividends on rewards in three main areas: rebates, business development and training. Business development activities include NFR demos, demand generation, custom projects and funded headcounts (includes sales, marketing and solution building). Elite and Premier partners can exchange up to 50% of quarterly total dividends as rebates, while partners at the Authorized level may reinvest only in training. Given partners may exchange up to 50% of dividends as rebates and must reinvest the rest back into Riverbed activities, this creates some inflexibility for partners since they cannot convert revenue they technically earned into cash for other possible activities. How well partners take this depends on whether earnings realistically grow from the previous program. Each dividend earns a partner US$100 and Riverbed claims that its partners can earn up to two to four times the amount in dollars compared with the previous program. The ability for Authorized-level partners to benefit within the first quarter is different from its previous partner program, in which only Elite and Premier partners were offered benefits.

Partners must choose how they will use their earned dividends for this year’s Q1 and Q2 by 31 March 2018. They will also have an opportunity to make changes to this in the second half of the year. From 2019 onwards, this deadline falls on 15 February every year. Partners that choose not to allocate will see all dividends reinvested into the Business Investment Fund, meant for business development and training activities, by default for two quarters. A foreseeable problem with this is that since allocation is only up to twice a year, partners may forget to go through this allocation process or change strategy midway. As partners’ yearly or quarterly strategies will be affected, Riverbed needs to allow flexibility in making changes or ensure it reminds them in plenty of time.

Other benefits of the new program include:

  • Partner Center (partner portal) and dashboards overhauled to provide stronger tools and analytics, such as customer engagement activities.
  • Marketing: Riverbed Reach marketing campaign tool, proposal-based MDFs, demand-generation playbook, buyer IT persona guide, monthly webcasts (“Rivercasts”) and others.
  • Sales: Riverbed Authorized Support Partner (RASP) program, joint sales calls and others.
  • Technical: Riverbed Lab, POCs, online support and others.
  • Training: Riverbed Certified Performance Engineering (RCPE) Associate Accreditation and Riverbed Certified Solutions Professional (RCSP) program, online/classroom lessons via Riverbed University or customized lessons, accreditations and certifications.

An innovative model for partner management

Riverbed has generated positive comments from partners on its new program and has done extensive research on its design. Thanks to the rise of digital, gamification and points-based systems have become popular, so partners should find it simple to understand its principles. By catering to different partner types and different consumption models, the Riverbed Rise partner program is a step up from the previous version. Yet Riverbed must ensure its system is robust, secure and can handle high levels of web traffic to make sure partners focus on business generation rather than technical frustrations. Riverbed also needs to monitor its dividends and rewards system, as rebate values after conversion to percentages tend to be lower than other vendor programs. It needs to show evidence to partners that their earning potential has increased, as it has promised. Being a new program, Riverbed also needs to build partner success stories to reinforce why it is different from traditional partner programs.


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