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ORLANDO, Fla.—Information management behemoth EMC is seeing 20 percent growth in the top segment of the SMB market and is relying heavily on its channel partners to keep that pace of growth alive.

This is one of the keys to the company’s future prospects, as global and enterprise business is growing at a more pedestrian 4 to 5 percent.

Peter Koliopoulos, vice president of global channels marketing at EMC, told eWEEK that EMC is addressing three key areas of its relationships with VARs and other key channel partners: profitability, ease of doing business and a comprehensive program allowing partners to leverage EMC’s entire product portfolio.

Koliopoulus met with eWEEK reporters during its EMC World partner conference here May 21.

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One of the main changes, he said, is to bring channel partners into the new product introduction loop earlier in the go-to-market process. In the past, EMC gave channel partners information on new products at the launch date; since the beginning of the year, EMC has begun the same process much sooner and intends to bring partners into the loop anywhere from 60 to 120 days before launch.

That will allow partners to support EMC field sales immediately. “The day our guy is ready, the channel is ready,” Koliopoulos said.

EMC is also allowing channel partners to take in services dollars if they have a relevant service offering. That gives the channel a whole new revenue stream to work with.

In the area of “being easier to do business with,” EMC has simplified the system it uses to rate its partners. Partners get more revenues by meeting certain criteria, like the number of certified employees; until recently, those criteria were calculated on a points-based rating system. Koliopoulos said that EMC heard from channel partners that the points rating system was too complicated, and now calculates those criteria by revenue dollars.

He said that EMC is also implementing a Web-based tool that lets channel partners see how they stand in the ratings. This can help them make decisions such as whether to pay for additional certifications if they’re close to moving up the ranks before the end of a given quarter.

“We’re trying to have less friction in the system,” Koliopoulus said. “And that’s going to become one of our differentiators in the market.”

Koliopoulos said EMC has also developed a process for integrating channel partners of acquired companies into its own go-to-market strategy.

The third component of the company’s channel strategy revolves around a stable channel program that partners won’t change too often. Koliopoulos said EMC is committed to maintaining its current program for at least a year, with only a slight midyear correction in July to take partner feedback into account.