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Polycom has rolled out a new partner program that the
company hopes will elevate partner commitment and drive partners to attain
specializations in skills in areas such as unified communications (UC) and
IP-based video solutions.

The new Polycom Choice Partner Program represents one of three distinct channel
tracks that the videoconferencing and UC company maintains, this one aimed at
regional solution providers and VARs, VADs, DMRs and retail channels, according
to Deandra Cassidy, senior manager of global channel market and programs at
Polycom.

This refresh marks the first time in six years that this
part of the overall channel program has been updated. The other two program
tracks, which continue to exist unchanged, are the Alliance Program for global
systems integrators, global solution providers and OEMs, and the ARENA program
for technology partners and application providers.

Cassidy characterized the Choice Partner Program as “offer-based,” comprising a
number of requirements that map to rewards across three member tiers:
registered, gold and platinum. The latter two tiers are new to Polycom’s
channel strategy, and the primary focus of the new program is the push to
channel specialization and skills competency.

Gold- and platinum-level requirements resemble other specialization-focused
partner programs in the industry, with a major emphasis on partner loyalty and
investment. Polycom has set revenue expectations for the gold and platinum tier
and wants partners to work with them on regular business plans, participate in
training and earn specializations. The specialization areas are UC,
telepresence, video solutions, voice over IP, wireless, A/V integrator and
public sector.

“We have evolved and our market evolved, so we feel it’s the right time to
intro new programs,” Cassidy said. “We are asking our partners to specialize so
that they can help customers re-engineer their business processes and transform
their company with competitive advantage in this new market.”

Both Cassidy and Maurizio Capuzzo, vice president of global channel marketing
at Polycom, acknowledged that the new program mandates are designed to get
partners up to speed to sell the often complex and sophisticated UC solutions.

Polycom isn’t alone in experiencing a lack of channel
competency in this area. Cisco has ramped up its partner training—both sales
and technical—and has taken other measures to combat its partners’ difficulty
in effectively selling UC solutions.

At Polycom, partners that elevate to gold and platinum status will enjoy in
return a number of benefits, including sales and marketing support, deal
registration, partner locator inclusion, leads, MDF, performance and growth
incentive rewards, and promotional offers, according to Cassidy.

UC and all its elements are a high-growth market, especially as companies pull
back on business travel in favor of telepresence and other virtual forms of
collaboration. Gartner, for example, says video telepresence is expected to
replace 2.1 million airline seats by 2012. The opportunity to design and
implement UC solutions is going to open a lot of doors for solution providers
that are appropriately skilled, Capuzzo said.

“The UC market is growing at more than double-digit growth year over year,”
Capuzzo said. “That is excellent news for partners.”