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Riverbed Channel Chief: 'Customer-Driven' Channel Approach Spurs Growth

Riverbed's partner program has changed significantly over the course of a year.

James Anderson

May 2, 2018

4 Min Read
Riverbed's Bridget Bisnette
Riverbed Channel Chief Bridget Bisnette speaks during the company's partner pummit keynote session.

(Pictured above: Riverbed’s Bridget Bisnette on stage at the Riverbed Partner Summit 2018.)

**Editor’s Note: Read our list of 20 top SD-WAN providers offering products and services via channel partners.**

RIVERBED PARTNER SUMMIT — Riverbed Technology is pushing to grow business with its existing partner base.

Bridget Bisnette, Riverbed’s vice president of global channels and commercial sales, sat down with Channel Partners on Tuesday to discuss how the company’s partner strategy has changed in the last year. Most notable is that the company has expanded beyond providing only WAN optimization.


Riverbed’s Bridget Bisnette

“We have the largest install base of WAN-Op in the world, but WAN-Op alone will not get your network modernized to allow you to implement digital-transformation initiatives,” she told us.

Perhaps the most significant “modernizer” is SD-WAN, which Riverbed’s chief technology officer discussed in detail during a Monday keynote.

Bisnette says she hopes partners will join Riverbed in growing their portfolios beyond WAN optimization.

“Not all of them are stuck there. We probably have a good 25 percent of our partners that have moved along that continuum and are selling across that portfolio, but the big picture is, we would like to bring our partners across portfolio who want to come across portfolio,” she said.

She says Riverbed’s SteelConnect visibility offering will put partners on the network side and the application side. That being said, she acknowledges that partners will differ in their approaches to the ensuing “digital-transformation initiatives.”

Bisnette says it’s all right if a partner wants to stay in their “swim lane.”

“Maybe someone just wants to be a wireless partner. Somebody just wants to do network modernization — getting customers’ networks ready for digital initiatives,” she said. “Somebody might want to play on the edge with IoT opportunities and become an IoT partner. And of course, some that might be unique.”

The swim-lanes concept represents a shift in channel strategy for Riverbed. Bisnette’s predecessor, Karl Meulema, told me at last year’s summit that the company was re-evaluating and narrowing down the number of partners it does business with based on their level of commitment.

“We reversed that strategy and said, ‘No, actually you can be in the swim lane you want to be in, and we want to enable you,'” Bisnette said.

She characterizes the channel approach as “customer-driven.” As Riverbed’s portfolio becomes more visible in the market, customer reach will be the deciding factor for accepting new partners.

“What we always say is, ‘We’re not in partner-acquisition mode; however, we will sign a partner that brings us an incremental set of customers that we don’t sell to today,” she said. “It doesn’t do us any good to add new partners that are selling to the same customers we’re already selling to.”

Bisnette this week shared the numbers on customer acquisition. Riverbed partners had approximately 5,000 deal registrations in the first quarter of 2018, compared to a quarterly average of 3,600 throughout 2017. That number is a key to the company growing three quarters in a row.

“What that indicates to us is our partners are hunting on their own. And that’s exactly what we want them to do,” Bisnette said.

Growing business with existing partners is the main prong of Riverbed’s channel strategy.

The company’s second approach is to seek “insertion points” with key OEM partners. That might mean embedding visibility into Zebra handheld devices, which are a fixture in retail. Riverbed could integrate in SteelCentral Eternity Agent, which provides application performance monitoring. Other potential targets are application providers that could benefit from additional visibility.

Riverbed also is considering “strategic aggregation points.” The examples that come to mind for Bisnette are …… CDW or CompuServe.

“Someone like CDW [that] manages millions of desktops,” Bisnette said, “they are a perfect target for us to sell to and say, ‘You should add visibility as another service you sell to your clients.”

Bisnette clarified the message behind the Riverbed Rise partner program’s shift earlier this year from competency-based rewards to performance-based rewards.

She says the company is unique because it it is outcome-based and not product-based. But that doesn’t mean competency is going out the window.

“We are not de-emphasizing the importance of learning. As partners decide to bring on SteelCentral, they have to learn new skills and capabilities. It’s still a cornerstone; it’s just not the reason we incentivize them.”

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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