With businesses watching their IT budgets and spend more closely now, Julie Parrish, vice-president of worldwide channel sales at NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP), says the storage and data management vendor is offering its channel partners new tools and resources to help them through these tough economic times.
Parrish joined NetApp last fall after she left her post as vice-president of Symantec’s global channel office. Since then, she has spent a lot of time travelling around the world and getting to know her partners and the business. Even though Parrish says NetApp partners are satisfied with their relationship and margins, the channel still has concerns about doing business in such an uncertain economy.
“What I’ve heard and seen on a global basis is that deals are slipping and breaking up into smaller deals,” Parrish said. “Customers are still spending money, but the cycles are lengthening and some are breaking down into smaller ones. It’s harder for customers to loosen their grip on their money now.”
To make it easier for partners to sell in the storage virtualization space, Parrish says NetApp has created its 50 per cent Virtualization Guarantee Program. According to NetApp, its storage solutions save customers at least 50 per cent on storage, when compared to other traditional storage solutions. With non-NetApp storage, the company says customers can reduce their storage by at least 35 per cent. The program works with Citrix, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MFST) and VMware environments. If customers don’t see a 50 per cent less storage result using NetApp storage solutions, or 35 per cent on non-NetApp storage with NetApp V-Series, Parrish says the company will give the customer additional data capacity to meet the shortfall, for free. In addition to the company’s 50 per cent Virtualization Guarantee Program, Parrish says partners can also take advantage of the ROI calculator to show customers just how much money they’ll save.
“Tools like our ROI calculator and case studies will really help customers understand exactly what they’ll get when they spend money,” Parrish said. “It’s always difficult to maintain margins on the front-end especially now that deals are getting smaller and everyone’s trying to win more business. I have to make sure the rebate, specialization and back-end programs stay strong, and where necessary, are modified to make sure our partners are still making margins.”
Parrish says there won’t be any significant changes made to NetApp’s partner program because she says the company already has a “solid channel strategy” in place.
“NetApp has a very focused channel strategy and a fairly small number of partners so we’re not over-distributed,” Parrish said. “That said though, we’ll be doing some selective recruiting in various countries and solution areas to fill out the portfolio, but we’ll continue to be very selective.”
The company will be starting its new fiscal year beginning May 1, Parrish said, so it’s still too early to tell what modifications to the program, if any, will be made. Parrish did say that going into its current quarter though, NetApp made modifications involving its partners and rebates.
“We made a couple of modifications going into the quarter with partner types in certain geographies so they weren’t so binary,” Parrish said. “We modified it so that if partners hit a percentage of their goal, they’d get a percentage of their rebate.”
On the product side, Parrish does admit NetApp’s North American product line is fairly complex and partners may have some difficulties configuring, pricing and quoting various products. To help partners around this, the company has best practices guidelines for its products readily available to the channel, Parrish said.
“We still have some work to do there so maybe we’ll offer things such as bundling to make it easier for partners (to sell) so there aren’t so many options,” Parrish added.
But most importantly during these uncertain times, Parrish offers her partners this advice: “Look at being consistent and sticking to the basics. Take it one day at a time and win it deal by deal.”