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How Vendors Are Supporting Partners with COVID-19 Relief

A growing number of vendors and distributors have initiatives for partners during the pandemic.

Christine Horton

April 8, 2020

8 Min Read
COVID-19
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A growing number of IT vendors are offering COVID-19 relief measures to help support partner businesses during the pandemic. With the coronavirus placing extraordinary pressure and uncertainty on the channel, vendors are stepping with initiatives to help. Those include offering financial incentives, extending certifications or providing free training during this period.

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Canalys’ Alastair Edwards

“As we move into the period of much greater uncertainty around demand, we expect to see much greater emphasis on financial support – adjusted targets, simplified incentives, extended payment terms, low-cost financing – to help with intensifying cashflow pressures,” said Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys.

Last week, for example, HP announced a more predicable flat-rate incentive program for partners. In addition, the tech giant relaxed compensation models for those needing COVID-19 relief. Elsewhere, Lenovo unveiled a new partner stimulus package for the channel. And Microsoft revealed a series of adjustments to the Microsoft Partner Network in response to partner feedback.

Meanwhile, Kaseya said it is investing $10.5 million to help customers through COVID-19. The MSP software vendor launched its Kaseya Care programme, which includes helping partners secure money from government relief programs. It also includes business coaching and consulting to help acquire, retain and service customers during the pandemic. Partners can get direct financial assistance from Kaseya, too.

“Our partners are facing many of the same challenges as most businesses around the world – the health and safety of their workers, trying to avoid layoffs and still pay salaries [and] benefits, customer attrition due to global cost-cutting measures, and much more,” said Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola. “On top of that, MSPs must now play a more critical role than ever before in helping their customers maintain IT operations in order to stay in business and to do so with proper security measures in place so that their customers aren’t exposed to heightened cybersecurity risks during this volatile time.”

Distribution Playing a Part in COVID-19 Relief

However, Edwards noted that distribution has been faster at providing extended credit to the channel. Distributors play a key role in providing financial support to the channel. One of the first to announce assistance for partners in the U.K. was Exclusive Networks, which launched a partner support package. It aims “to assist efforts to continue business on a sustainable basis.”

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions and we’re doing everything we can to support our partners through these tough trading conditions,” said Barrie Desmond, SVP, marketing and communications at Exclusive Networks.

“The launch of our partner support package provides partners with assistance to alleviate supply chain pressure, access supplementary technical support capacity, consolidation of multiple vendor solutions and offers, and advice on finance and currency volatility to support them through tough trading conditions ahead … Keeping the lights on now and preparing to sustain partner businesses during this crazy time is critical, so we’re offering any assistance we can in terms of business continuity and stability.”

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Tech Data’s David Watts

Elsewhere, Tech Data has said it will work closely with its customers to determine the right credit and payment solutions.

“The ability of IT distributors to provide channel partners with financial support is more important than ever to enable them to maintain their product supply and serve their customers,” said David Watts, regional VP, U.K. & Ireland at Tech Data.

“Having seen an increase in support requests relating to credit, Tech Data currently extends over £1.8 billion of credit to …

… the U.K. channel, and through its trusted partners can offer leasing, loans and financing solutions to ease the burden on cash flow. Additionally, continuous review of credit and finance offerings and credit lines will facilitate the flow of business for valued partners.”

How Can Vendors Further Support Partners?

Canalys has several recommendations for how vendors can help partners with COVID-19 relief through the imminent slowdown.

“During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, vendors that quickly adjusted partner incentive schemes and extended financial support to the channel tended to see the greatest stability in their channel ecosystem following the crisis,” it noted.

It said vendors should establish regular communication with as many partners as possible through virtual and digital platforms. They should also quickly establish digital events with their top partners and maintain a two-way flow of information. Think such things as partner advisory boards to replace face-to-face meetings

Vendors should also be flexible in planning and targeting, it said. They will have to abandon many quarterly business reviews and other planning sessions for the time being. Therefore, targets should reflect a lower demand environment and limitations to product availability.

“These will be short-term measures. Postponed deals can be expected to return by the end of the year, and partners will remember those vendors who offered the most flexibility and support,” it said.

The analyst also advised removing short-term sales targets and moving to linear rebate payments. Removing complex and admin-heavy processes for other areas, like MDF, will also help partners through a challenging period. Extending certification requirements is another example.

Elsewhere, vendors can use their financing divisions to provide more low-interest or 0% financing offers to partners and extend payment terms for the channel. In addition, sharing sales and technical headcount resources with their key partners can help with business continuity in the channel. Finally, Canalys said vendors should extend free usage rights to partners, as well as customers, for specific software or cloud-based technologies, supported by online demo and PoC tools.

Unchartered Territory

Expect more aggressive COVID-19 relief from the big vendors as risk to the channel’s financial health intensifies, Edwards said. And while efforts will be concentrated on large partners, midmarket and smaller partners face the most immediate threat.

Nevertheless, Exclusive Networks’ Desmond believes the true nature of the channel will come through as it enters uncharted territory.

“Despite the severity, uncertainty and rapidly changing nature of the situation, the willingness of our people to adapt and maintain service and support, in close harmony with our vendors and channel partners, is a great testament to …

… the spirit, camaraderie, resolve and resilience in the channel.”

Roundup: Vendors Leap Into Action

Channel Futures surveyed vendors from across IT to learn what they are doing to help support partners with COVID-19 relief.

  • Extreme Networks updated its partner program, expanding its virtual training offering. The company is also providing free remote cloud technical certification training and financial deferment options for resellers.

  • CompTIA launched the COVID-19 Resources Forum, which allows users to share information, resources and best practices on how to cope with the impact COVID-19.

  • ConnectWise created a new section of the company’s website to house resources such as product tips and videos, blogs, webinars, and legal education and small business resources.

  • Storage vendor Scality expanded training in both the presales and technical/execution tracks, and made them virtual. It is also running more joint partner webinars.

  • Data sanitisation vendor Blancco is supporting partners’ business-continuity initiatives for their clients by implementing virtual workshops. Also on the agenda are TechTalks and training for MSPs. VARs get roundtables and webinars.

  • Cybersecurity firm Fortinet is granting a six-month grace period for those partners who wish to be recertified. It is also offering “up-to-the-minute” updates on hardware manufacturing so partners can notify their customers, making it easier for partners to upgrade their existing kit to support the remote workforce, and providing partners with dedicated remote working campaign materials to showcase their services to customers during the crisis.

  • Ribbon Communications made its cloud-based Work@Home offer available through select partners, delivering remote working capabilities to enterprises and contact centres. It includes free collaboration room licenses available until June 30, but the company said it may extend this period.

  • SAP has a dedicated COVID-19 business task force and has implemented several business resiliency measures. Those include a protected SAP PartnerEdge program level and market development funds extended until Dec. 18. In addition, there are subsidies for the SAP Learning Hub and Solution Editions to increase consultant capacity. Furthermore, partners can get 20 free hours of SAP S/4HANA consultant training. SAP also wants partners to participate in a short Qualtrics Pulse survey to provide “anonymous, candid input” on support they need.

  • Cloud-based communications firm Vonage is helping partners who are still transitioning to an annuity-based model. Its bonus schemes give them the option of rewarding sales at the time of sale. That’s a model more akin to legacy CPE-based business. It’s something “paramount in the current climate if our channel partners are to continue scaling,” the company said.

  • SolarWinds MSP is providing webcasts on how to apply for and secure financial assistance from government programs such as CARE, via its COVID-19 Resource Hub. It is also licensing its SolarWinds Take Control Plus remote support free of charge for three months if partners sign up before June 30. It is also increasing the number of end-user accounts provided with Take Control Plus — from 10 accounts to 35.

  • BT Wholesale says its priority is keeping the country connected via network capacity upgrades. Flexible payment plans, special promotions and discounted pricing for partners are all part of the plan. BT Wholesale is also taking steps so partners can offer more self-installed connectivity tools to reduce deployment pressures.

About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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