Palo Alto to overhaul global partner programme

Global partners

Palo Alto Networks’ (NYSE:PANW) new head of channel in EMEA has teased a new partner programme, scheduled to launch next February.

Mike Herman, who joined the security vendor from IBM in June, says the company’s growth in recent years means its current channel programme is now out of date.

“It’s a little bit long in the tooth,” he tells Channel Pro, before adding that the programme is currently undergoing an overhaul.

Herman says the new programme will include new “initiatives, incentives, business planning processes, and a new deal registration process,” based on feedback from partners. “It’s not just built in ivory tower,” he comments.

In addition, the overhaul may result in fewer partners as the vendor looks to shed registered partners with which they do little or no business.

Says Herman; “A lot of partners register to become partners, and many have transacted with us once, or never transact. The flip side of that is that many partners invested heavily with us – it’s the typical 80-20 rule.

“Those that have registered an interest that haven’t necessarily endorsed or invested in our technology, we’re moving away from that. In next launch you’ll see a reduction in umber of partners in Europe, instead of an increase.”

While the firm isn’t looking to embark on a recruitment campaign, Herman says that the firm’s acquisition of Israeli-based endpoint security vendor Cyvera means it is extending its partner reach.

As such the firm is running two campaigns: One to persuade its existing partners to add its new endpoint products to their portfolios, and another “rifle shot approach” to win over new partners with a footprint in the market that currently sell other vendors’ endpoint technology.

Palo Alto had its sales kick off in Las Vegas two weeks ago where for the first time its internal sales force attended keynotes and sessions alongside 550 worldwide partners.

“They got first-hand information on out ambitions and growth targets for FY16,” says Herman, who adds that the company plans to double the number of attendees next year.

A key focus at the event was clearer segmentation for partners: in vertical markets like public sector, retail or banking; in technology leadership for partners that want to be known as a leader in Palo Alto technology or in solutions such as datacentre security, alongside the likes of VMware.

“We wanted to identify with our partners where they felt most comfortable…and wanted to make sure customers align to those partners that will be most successful in that space. Where we can help them expand their footprint,” he comments.

Herman also said the vendor was clarifying the rules of engagement with the channel: “We’ve had such an influx of business partners that want to work with us, I wouldn’t say it was unruly but we lost some of the rules we out in place about partners’ engagement. As such, a lot of partners are coming on board taking accreditations…As we’ve grown up as a company and we want to make sure partners we’re working with are as committed to sales goals and objectives as we are.”

In addition, the firm is launching a big recruitment campaign to identify channel business managers and channel SEs. “There are some of the partners we want to give more attention to that we’re not able to unless we bring more people on board,” says Herman. “Unless we put the resources into working with them we won’t get return we’d like.”

The vendor has 3000 partners worldwide. It 2014 its revenue was $598.2m, a 51 percent year over year growth.

Christine Horton

Christine has been a tech journalist for over 20 years, 10 of which she spent exclusively covering the IT Channel. From 2006-2009 she worked as the editor of Channel Business, before moving on to ChannelPro where she was editor and, latterly, senior editor.

Since 2016, she has been a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter and continues to cover the channel in addition to broader IT themes. Additionally, she provides media training explaining what the channel is and why it’s important to businesses.