OPN Specialized: The First Step to a Value-Based Channel Program?

July 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

Beth Vanni – Director, Market Intelligence

Oracle has a lot to talk about these days – six new acquisitions completed or pending since the beginning of 2010, details about the Sun integration rolling-out, and their FY10 financial results which include a 20% increase in partner transactions year-over-year. The Redwood Shores giant is, no doubt, a global industry leader with a massive portfolio and influence to match.

But the news yesterday on the kick-off of their new OPN Specialized program was a tad less groundbreaking. Of course, Judson Althoff’s Worldwide Partner organization produced a very thorough, professional web event, with endorsements about the value of the channel to Oracle’s success and how critical partners’ investment in certifications is. Everyone chimed in — all four major executives, training people, product people, and partners themselves. The main message was that because of the breadth of the Oracle portfolio (10,000 products), it’s more critical than ever for partners to become specialized in their product or services expertise. Charles Phillip’s quote was “we don’t need a bunch of generalists.” (it’s on eChannelLine today)

The alignment of their 40 (someday 60) specializations around the breadth of their product portfolio is indeed important, to customers and partners. Organizing their global requirements for partners to be relevant, credible and engaged by their field teams based on the OPN specialization is also great; and, a big step by Oracle to align corporate program structure to their notoriously aggressive field engagement practices. And, organizing a global set of certifications with consistent requirements across their huge global partner network and their massive portfolio is NO small feat, believe me. Congrats to Judson’s organization for this achievement.

In most “mature” channel value-based channel programs, technical competency is a critical first step for partners. But, it’s a first step and a programmatic effort that’s been underway with most IT vendors of Oracle’s size for over a decade. Establishing partner “value” usually also goes well beyond technical competency and includes core performance metrics around customer satisfaction, vertical market or industry penetration, and bringing in new business. I know some Oracle programs offer incentives in those areas. Interestingly enough, we were nearly an hour into the OPN kick-off event yesterday before there was any mention of real, tangible benefits to the partner for becoming OPN specialized – other than it would raise their credentials in the eyes of customers and their field teams. But what about deal registration incentives, leads, co-marketing and branding support, priority engagement for services delivery, etc.? Some of those things sounded like they were in the works, based on comments from Judson – but only vague outlines.

The market opportunity for services around the Oracle portfolio is uncontestable. Just having deep technical and business process expertise around their middleware, SOA and business intelligence solutions alone can create a tangible market cache for solution providers. But, customers are more demanding than that. They want their partners to understand their business processes, be able to deliver pre and post-sale services, offer support, etc. The day the OPN program can translate the value of specializations into more tangible, long-term customer value is the day the OPN program will graduate to a mature, value-based channel program – a program which measures sales, marketing and services value AND rewards for them.

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