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Specialize to thrive in the new Unified Partner Program

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Chris Lamborn
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From home repairs to healthcare, we make decisions every single day to hire specialists to do things that matter to us. To stay competitive in today’s market, our customers need to do the same. 

As we introduce changes to the NetApp Unified Partner Program (UPP) this year, you will see that we’re making a fundamental shift from certification to specialization. Here’s why the change matters and how it will help partners like you take advantage of growth opportunities. 

Bridging the gap between knowledge and experience

Business challenges are becoming more complex and solving them well requires more expertise and experience than it used to. 

No doubt, there are times when a generalist can do the job. You don’t need an arborist to mow your lawn, but you probably want a specialist to fell the dying tree in your yard. Likewise, customers need support from a team that specializes in the types of challenges that they face. 

That’s why specialization has become so valuable. Having a certification tells other people that you have certain knowledge, often about a product, which is usually measured by passing a test. Although certification is helpful to show people what you know, getting a passing grade isn’t good enough in today’s competitive landscape.

For example, customers who want to migrate mission-critical workloads to the cloud don’t want a partner who just knows about a specific storage product. They want someone who understands the nuances of availability and latency that are relevant to their needs, whether they’re relying on SAP to power their business or harnessing AI for large-scale research and development. And they want someone who has a proven track record of success. Specialization tells people what you’re actually good at, which is what really matters to customers. 

In our own lives, we make decisions like this all the time. Have you ever talked to someone who’s contemplating laser eye surgery? The first thing that that person wants to know about a potential surgeon is how much experience they have—not just that they passed the surgical exam. 

Our changes to the UPP will include specializations in key solution areas, such as AI, SAP, and data security. By obtaining specialization, you will give your customers confidence that you have experience in solving the problems that they face.

Matching customer needs with partner capabilities

The changes to the UPP will also make it easier to connect customers with partners who can meet their needs. Every year, NetApp fields more than 40,000 inquiries from customers who are looking for a NetApp partner to help them solve a specific challenge. Specializations will help you as a partner differentiate yourself by showing customers that you have the skills, knowledge, and experience to do a job well. Likewise, by making it easier for you to find other partners with specific skillsets, specializations will help you collaborate with other partners more easily.

These benefits are important to customers because business solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all. They’re made up of several products from different vendors, and our customers need partners who can combine those products into solutions that fit their needs. And those needs keep evolving as the business environment changes. 

That’s why NetApp is taking a solution- and customer-centric approach, which works best with an ecosystem of specialists. We can assemble the right team at the right time to suit a given customer’s business challenge. 

Supporting customers throughout their systems’ lifecycle

The increasing growth of data and the rapid pace of tech innovation also mean that we have incredible opportunities to add value to customers, beyond a single transaction. Consistent with our partner-led services strategy, we’re introducing a new suite of Services Certified Specializations that align with our new direction. These Services Certified Specializations will enable you as a partner to provide a suite of services that support customers across their ecosystem.

With such help in supporting customers throughout their systems’ entire lifecycle, you can accelerate your own growth and increase profitability. For NetApp, this approach helps us drive business in our key priority areas—the focus areas where we see the best alignment between business opportunities and NetApp® solutions. 

Supporting partners to help us all grow and succeed

To support a seamless transition to our new model, updates to the UPP will roll out throughout NetApp fiscal year 2022. Ultimately, our new program will reward you as a partner in a way that reflects how you do business, which will help us all maximize growth opportunities and profitability.

We remain committed to helping our partners navigate these changes. Stay tuned for more updates. You can also visit our partner page to learn more about NetApp’s partner-first approach and how we empower partners like you to grow and to succeed.

Chris Lamborn

Chris Lamborn joined NetApp in November 2015 & is currently Head of WW Partner GTM and Programs. He is responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s Global Channel go-to-market strategy and the supporting programs and investments. NetApp’s Channel Partner eco-system forms the foundation of the business, supporting and contributing over 75% of the company’s revenue. Chris is a respected leader with extensive experience working with global partners and proven success in partnering to deliver incremental revenue and profitability. His detailed understanding of the multiple Partner business practices and experience of working with operations, marketing, finance across the world ensures predictable, relevant and profitable business partnerships. Prior to NetApp, Chris held distribution leadership positions at Brocade, Avaya and Nortel and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kingston University in the UK and he moved to permanently to California in 2016.

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