Design software specialist continues overhaul of channel operations
The firm began its channel overhaul last year when it dispensed with all but one of its 18 partner authorisations. At the same time it lifted restrictions on resellers selling across its software portfolio – with both moves proving popular with partners.
Explaining the changes, Steve Blum, senior VP, worldwide sales and services at Autodesk says: “We removed all of the authorisations that enabled our partners to access pieces of our portfolio, and made the entire portfolio available to partners, becoming more relevant to customers…They can become business experts rather than small segment experts.”
2011 also saw Autodesk set about realigning its go-to-market strategy, segmenting its business by “high priority” industries such as architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), engineering services, manufacturing, and media & entertainment, rather than by product.
Now, the firm’s attention has shifted to clearly defining and differentiating between its partner tiers. It has restructured its partner programme to offer just one tier for its VARs, which includes Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze levels. This simplified tiering, says Autodesk, will help make it easier for customers to identify the right partner for their needs.
“Just because everyone can sell the entire product portfolio doesn’t mean they all get the same benefits, or that we would encourage customers to say that every partner is created equal,” maintains Bill Griffin, vice president, worldwide sales at Autodesk.
“How do we make sure that if we give everyone access to everything, we don’t just totally destroy the market, the value that partners provide? We set it up that the additional requirements that [partners] dedicate to our business…and the higher the value, the more margin opportunity there is.”
In a nod to Cisco’s partner programme, Griffin says Autodesk VARs will be categorised on their level of specialisation and support for customers. So although getting rid of its authorisations, the company is ramping up its focus on partner specialisations.
“You can be a partner of ours, and represent our portfolio, but you’re not going to reach the higher level of our tiers unless you can show you can bring consulting value to the customer,” says Griffin.
There are ‘mandatory’ specialisations that partners are expected to attain. Platinum and Gold VARs, for example, are required to have both Autodesk’s ‘Consulting’ and ‘Product Support’ specialisations. Top level partners will also need to be a member of the AND (Autodesk Developer Network) or Autodesk Training Programme.
Also, for the organisation’s newest tier – Platinum – there are a number of elective ‘Advanced Specialisations’ that allow VARs to go deeper into their selected industry and differentiate their business from the competition. There are seven specialisations already available, and another seven planned for this year.
However, a partner’s promotion through the tiers is also based on revenue, subscription renewal and a new important element – their Net Promoter Score (NPS). This is a tool that measures customer satisfaction, and the vendor is vehement that each partner must score highly in order to gain higher accreditation.
“We know when customers see value in the partner they buy more, they more frequently, and they buy additional products from the portfolio,” explains Griffin, who adds the NPS is more than two times higher for partners that attach services. “We are very tough on this – there are no exceptions.”
85 percent of Autodesk’s business goes through channel partners – serving 253,000 customers worldwide. However, Autodesk is on the hunt for new types of partners. Griffin lists potential new partners as those specialising in data management, Citrix, Microsoft and SAP, “because we’re following where the customer is looking to take our solution.
“After something is designed with Autodesk, [the customer] does something with it. It’s logical for us to expand our revenues…and hook into other companies’ products – that’s what the customer does with it. “
In addition, the vendor is looking to sign up what it calls CSI (Consultants / Systems Integrators) – both global and regional pure-play services and business consultants. They are “companies in adjacent markets with the same customers, looking for ways to expand their footprint,” says Callan Carpenter, Autodesk’s VP of global services. “They bring us in at a different level where we’ve never been traditionally… we want to leverage their influence in those spaces.”
Meanwhile, Griffin revealed that despite Autodesk’s decision to allow certain UK VARs to sidestep distribution and buy product direct from the vendor, no-one has yet taken up the offer. Griffin told Channel Pro that it “is a real testament to the value that our distributors are providing.” He does reckon, however, that the fact that the option is available will give VARs leverage to ensure they continue to get value from their distributor – which in the UK is Datech.