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Cyril VanAgt, Nutanix

Nutanix revives its moribund channel programme. What’s in store for partners? 

Cyril VanAgt has been in charge of the Nutanix channel and OEM for EMEA since May, and is already making bold moves to improve its partner programme. He joined Nutanix five years ago as a channel manager in southern EMEA, and is now responsible for the whole EMEA region, or, as he puts it, ‘a bigger playground’. Before this, he was a systems engineer at NetApp for 14 years. “It was a good move and I’m very happy,” he told The Margin at his company’s .NEXT conference in Copenhagen recently.

At Nutanix, staff members are ‘more than colleagues’. “It’s not far from a family. We’re in the same boat, so we celebrate, and suffer, together.” It also has an open culture, he says, and it’s very easy to get access to CEO Deeraj Panday. “If the channel is successful, we will be successful. If a company is not going 100% through the channel, it’s not a channel company. If you are 80/20, which a lot of companies are, there is always a risk that at the end of the quarter, the sales rep will get the PO (purchase order) directly, squeezing the partner, because he needs it before the bell. It doesn’t happen in Nutanix.”

Active partner

Eighteen months ago, he says, the company had no partner programme, or, rather, ‘we had a very weak one’, which had not backend rebates. It then drafted a ‘channel charter’, where it recognised the partner based on their investment in Nutanix.

The first level is the ‘pioneer’; the second is ‘scaler’, and the ultimate level is ‘master’. To progress, a partner will firstly have to attain some level of technical certification, but unlike other programmes, their tier doesn’t depend on revenue, but rather the number of projects it has. “We want to recognise our partner based on the activity they have with us. A small partner that has a lot of projects in the SME market will be well recognised in our programme. Not every vendor does this,” says VanAgt. Partners also have access to video training, and there is also some field training,run by Nutanix distributors. It has also introduced back-end rebates.

He says the profitability of partners is based on three factors: the front-end margin, the back-end rebate, and services. “We’re here to help our partners from the beginning of the deal to the end, from finding the opportunities – we also help them to do lead generation – to the closing of the project.”

It’s all about profits

With lead generation, it has localised marketing campaigns, such as email and digital campaigns and webinars. There will also be a dedicated channel marketing person in each of the five regions of EMEA. He’s also announced a commitment to increase profitability, enablement, and growth. With profitability, it has increased its rebates. With its new customer acquisition programme, a partner will receive a backend rebate when they close a deal with a new customer. A pioneer will now receive 2%, scalers will receive 3%, and masters will get 7% of the software and service value of the deal. Other rebates can be stacked on top of this, such as selling the company’s DX appliance, the 10% partners will receive should they bag a customer on the list of strategic accounts, or named partners, with which Nutanix wants to do business. This will all add up; for instance, if a master partner closes a DX deal with a new customer, it will receive a 20% rebate. “It’s a great improvement over what we did before,” he says. “The maximum rebate used to be 5%.”

He’s also introduced a programme that rewards the partner’s sales team, with the partner’s permission, naturally. With enablement, it was updating the video content on its portal with a view to transferring its knowledge to partners. “We want to transfer professional services so that they can be autonomous and create their own service offerings to their partners. We want them to be as proficient as we are. They can, for example, create a service practise around VDI, or digital transformation, or databases.”

The margin on professional services is also typically much higher than on reselling. It is also working on a managed service provider programme, which will be announced in Q1 next year. Furthermore, Nutanix will mount a roadshow travelling to 20 cities in EMEA, including Johannesburg. Growing the business With growth, it wants its partners to grow at the same speed, or quicker. In addition to assisting with marketing and lead generation, it has doubled the size of the EMEA channel team in two years. And with its channel marketing team in all its regions, there will be more people to assist partners.

VanAgt says that with Fujitsu, its OEM partner, they’ve built a digital ‘school in a box’ that will be rolled out in the Eastern Cape. It was able to ship a complete school in five to six weeks, including screens and other digital equipment. It comes with solar panels, so it doesn’t need to be connected to Eskom. He says one school can teach 40 students, and its goal is to equip 500 schools around South Africa. “It’s not traditional business. It helps educators to reach every part of South Africa.” 

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