Intel has launched a new cross-discipline partner training platform and released details about the company-wide channel program, called the Intel Partner Alliance, that it plans to formally launch next year.
Both moves are early steps on the road toward the sweeping overhaul and unification of multiple partner programs that Intel first outlined in March at its Partner Connect conference.
Called Intel Partner University and available for use immediately, the new training portal provides centralized access to materials from the vendor’s Intel Technology Provider, IoT Solutions Alliance, and Cloud Insider programs.
It also augments those existing resources with new, deeper courses for both sales and technical professionals in 12 competencies spanning from cloud infrastructure to IoT solutions to gaming systems and beyond. Partners who work their way through the curriculum in one of those disciplines and pass a final exam will earn the right to display a certification badge on corporate websites and personal social media pages.
“It allows our partners to have a little bit more visibility, receive a badge, and be able to market that in terms of showcasing their depth of expertise and their connection with Intel,” says Eric Thompson, general manager of global partner enablement at Intel.
The new training site also incorporates a number of usability improvements requested by Intel partners, such as consolidated access to both traditional online classes and webinars in one place. “We were forcing our partners in the past to go to two different portals,” Thompson notes. “We’ve brought that together so that we can provide our partners with one-stop shopping for all their training needs.”
Courseware is optimized for use on mobile devices as well, he continues. “They’re busy, they are on the go, and they want an ability to consume that training content off of their phone versus having to be seated in front of a computer,” Thompson says of partners.
When it formally opens its doors in the second half of 2020, the Intel Partner Alliance will feature three tiers: Member, Gold, and Titanium. Specific requirements at each level remain forthcoming, but Intel plans to publish details online well before those qualifications go into effect.
“We’ll have a matrix that every partner can log into and see how they’re tracking,” Thompson says, adding that most members of legacy Intel partner programs will retain roughly the same status they have today.
“Most partners will come across in essentially the same tier,” he predicts. “There will be some partners that maybe are on the edge of a particular tier in the current program that they’re in, and will be in what would end up being the middle” in the Intel Partner Alliance due to its somewhat steeper requirements.
To keep partners who find themselves further away from top-tier status in the new program satisfied, Intel has beefed up benefits offered at the middle, Gold, level. For example, while only the equivalent of Titanium partners could attend Partner Connect in the past, Gold partners will now be welcome too. Gold partners will also enjoy higher caps on the maximum number of points they can earn.
“We want them to have equal value in the program, and receive as much out of being a participant as they have in the past,” Thompson says.
Only Gold and Titanium partners will have the right to earn certification badges in Intel Partner University’s competencies.
To accommodate the vast range of functions and business models in the Partner Alliance, Intel will let partners affiliate themselves with one or more roles, such as reseller, system integrator, and ISV.
“That allows us to deliver the benefit stack that’s appropriate for the business model that’s of highest value in their relationship within Intel,” Thompson says. “[It] allows us as well to drive a more personalized communications and web experience for them that gets the right information to the right partner type at the right time.”
Drawing on existing information in its partner databases, Intel will assign current partners to an initial role when the Partner Alliance launches next year. Members will have the option sign up for additional roles as well if they choose. New partners will decide which roles they wish to align with during the registration process.
To further help partners with similar interests find and share information, the Partner Alliance will include “communities” that loosely parallel the company’s legacy programs for cloud, IoT, and other topics. “We want to maintain that affiliation and personalization,” Thompson says.
Also included in the Partner Alliance will be a growing roster of “specialties” for members with especially deep expertise in strategic priorities like client computing, data center solutions, IoT, and artificial intelligence. Unlike roles and communities, which will be open to anyone, specialties will be invitation-only and typically limited to between 25 and 75 partners. Among other benefits, members will receive co-marketing materials and hands-on training not available to other partners.
The final component of the new program will be “initiatives” tied to product launches, marketing campaigns, and other short-term efforts. “These would be things that tend to come and go with a little bit more irregularity,” Thompson says.
The next step on the path to the Partner Alliance’s official debut will come in November, when Intel rolls out a new Solutions Marketplace stocked with information about partner systems and services. Modeled after a solution directory maintained by the IoT partner program, the new site will include listings for client and data center solutions too.
“We want the marketplace to expand the kind of solutions and the number of partners that have the opportunity to participate,” Thompson says.
A place to learn about solutions rather than buy them, the marketplace will cater both to partners and their clients. “It really is a platform for driving partner-to-partner collaboration, as well as a portal where we can send end customers,” Thompson says.
The marketplace will feature a new interface designed to make finding solutions easier. Partners will have personalized lead dashboards in the system as well. “In the current solution directory, they can get leads, but it’s fairly rudimentary,” Thompson notes.
The decision to make the Solutions Marketplace an early priority reflects input from partners who said that the opportunity to forge alliances with peers at Partner Connect is one of the best reasons to attend that event. “We felt like once a year is just not enough,” Thompson says. “We really want to facilitate that year-round.”
Underlying the entire partner program unification effort is a desire to give partners easier ways to join in on Intel’s strategic pursuit of new markets like IoT, data center, and artificial intelligence.
“[It’s] a very different industry today than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” Thompson observes. “Our company is not immune to that transformation, and so we felt like we also needed to transform our partner programs in alignment with that, so that our partners could come on this growth path that we’re going on as a corporation.”
The Partner Alliance is also designed to overcome the inability of today’s standalone legacy programs to accommodate members who embrace more than one role. “A couple of decades ago when those programs were getting established, the market was a bit more siloed,” Thompson notes. “Over time, many of those partners have come to engage with us across multiple fronts.”
The new program also aims to make transacting business with Intel simpler. “We’re pretty forthcoming about how that legacy infrastructure has created some operational difficulties for some of our partners,” Thompson explains. “We needed to do a pretty substantial improvement on some of the backend systems that support the infrastructure of our partner programs.”
Intel was recently named one of ChannelPro‘s 2019 All-Stars for its Optane DC persistent memory modules, which empower system builders and data center operators to accelerate performance-sensitive workloads cost-effectively.