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Autodesk overhauls channel strategy

Company goes against the trend and adopts a customer-centric channel strategyrnrn

San Francisco – After nearly a decade of asking its channel to focus on vertical industries, Autodesk Inc. now wants its 2,000 worldwide solution providers to adopt a new customer-centric go to market philosophy.

With this new philosophy, Autodesk launched major partner program changes to address this approach as well as meet the mid-term demand for cross-industry solutions.

Coupled with the new product releases including its flagship AutoCAD Version 2011, Autodesk streamlined authorizations where channel partners can offer complete solutions. In the past, Autodesk’s architectural engineering & construction (AEC) portfolio of products required six authorizations for a solution provider to sell all the products to one customer. Now only one authorization is required for AEC, manufacturing and media & entertainment sectors.

The company also eliminated one of its two deal registration programs. The new program called ACE will incent partners with double and in some case, triple average margin rewards for those solution providers who are successful in acquiring new customers.

Partners will also be reclassified as Gold, Silver and Bronze members from its little-known PSP tiering process. Company worldwide channel chief Ken Bado said the new tiering process is more understandable to the market place using traditional classifications. Bado added that in 2011 there will be a new platinum tier.

But, Autodesk did not stop there, the company will offer four new online certification programs for manufacturing, AEC and media & entertainment product areas as well as a new services program with 10 repeatable packaged offerings.

“Autodesk started selling through the channel with two products AutoCAD and LT and seven to eight years ago we verticalized our channel. Most partners fit into one of the (AEC, manufacturing and media & entertainment) three verticals. Some large ones can cover two, but our evolution requirements are blurring and we want to move our partner base to become customer-centric,” said Steve Blum, senior vice-president of Americas sales at Autodesk.

Bill Griffin, Autodesk’s vice-president of Americas channel sales, told CDN that the margin partners could make will depend on what they charge since the company does not ask partners to set a certain price. However, with all of these changes, partners’ margins could range from the teens up to the mid-40 per cent level under the new ACE deal registration program. Also Griffin said the company will be encouraging partners to sell more three-year subscription contracts. Currently only 20 per cent of Autodesk’s existing customer base buys this way creating a large opportunity for channel partners.

“It’s an annuity stream at 17 per cent per year off the product, but you are getting that every year. This is a tremendous opportunity. Most customers would only upgrade every four years and you are engaged with that customer on an on-going basis and you can sell training on the new features instead of stagnating on new releases,” Griffin said.

For Sylvain Plourde, the president of Autodesk channel partner 3Vis in Montreal, said for his company it will be a small transition from vertical focus to being more customer-centric. “Our culture is one where we focus on the customer anyway. All these new changes (to the partner program) will make things easier for us because now we will be dealing with one rep that does the entire solution instead of being product focused on vertical. I think ultimately it will improve customer satisfaction and if we both do that we all win,” Plourde said.

Paul Edwards, market analyst for channels and SMB for IDC Canada, said these new channel moves from Autodesk will be positive for partners. “This all speaks to the need by many software vendors and partners to talk to the executive branch of customers to address specific business priorities. Autodesk sees this and are changing their model by providing more access to training, sales incentives and services that will help the partner be more savvy in this new world,” Edwards said.