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SonicWall Partner Program: Where CRO Steve Pataky Is Focusing Next

Steve Pataky
SonicWall Chief Revenue Officer Steve Pataky
SonicWall CEO Bill Conner

Take a close look at SonicWall's recent business momentum, and you'll notice the company's partner ecosystem growth. But that's only part of the story. The bigger trend likely involves SonicWall training selected partners to offer professional services. And those partners, in turn, are set to work with peer resellers and MSSPs.

The path to these new partner strategies has been rapid. Dell sold SonicWall to Francisco Partners and Elliot Management in July 2016, setting the stage for the security company to rebuild a pure channel sales strategy. SonicWall CEO Bill Conner focused the company on a fear less strategy, and Channel Chief Steve Pataky zeroed in on the partner program.

Fast forward to present day and the results have been startling. Among the key performance indicators, according to the company:

  • Three consecutive quarters of double-digit top- and bottom-line growth (I assume that means quarterly revenues and quarterly profits).
  • More than $330 million in new pipeline growth
  • More than 18,000 partners registered for the SecureFirst partner program, with 5,000 partners new to the company.

Those impressive results recently catapulted Pataky into the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) position, where he's now responsible for all revenues across the company, CEO Bill Conner says.

Partner Saturation vs. Partner Segmentation: Big Difference

Still, rapid growth invites this question: Is SonicWall's partner program growing too rapidly -- perhaps creating a massive party that leaves too little elbow room for each individual partner? Pataky says the company is careful in its expansion, with room remaining for more partners -- particularly in some international markets.

"There are still places where we don’t have enough capacity," he says. "There’s still room to grow. We don’t want to over-distribute. But I also don’t want regions where SMBs, SMEs and midmarket customers can't get access to our products and partners."

Pataky also points to partner segmentation -- noting that partner-to-partner interactions are rising quickly. End-customers, after all, need remote implementation services, advanced professional services and more from their partners. In response, the security company is training a select number of partners to offer offer design, implementation, configuration and training services.

The security company also is working to ensure trust between the partners -- minimizing the risk of partners hijacking customer relationships from one another. Longer term, you might even see SonicWall deal registration services that allow partners to find one another for professional services outsourcing, managed services and more, the company hints.

The partner-to-partner effort also involves SonicWall University. So far, partners have used the platform to complete more than 51,000 cybersecurity exams in such areas of ransomware, encryption and more. As more partners get trained to offer various services, it will be easier for resellers, MSPs and other types of partners to outsource selected deal components to one another, Pataky says.

Proper Support Infrastructure

Amid SonicWall's growth, the company could face another challenge: Ramping support to meet inbound partner and customer inquiries. So far, the company appears to be making the right investments in its overall customer service strategy.

Among the KPIs to consider, the company says:

  • SonicWall reduced the average queue wait time by 80 percent since January 1, 2017;
  • the longest queue wait time dropped 63 percent; and
  • exceeded an 85 percent renewal rate in Q2.

Managed Security Services Providers

So what's next? SonicWall already has a large base of MSPs and a community of MSSPs supporting its firewalls. But a more formalized MSP and MSSP partner program initiative is under development, Pataky has hinted since RSA Conference 2017 earlier this year in San Francisco.

Without revealing the details just yet, Pataky says its safe to expect outsourcing and subcontracting relationships between MSSPs, MSPs, resellers and professional services partners as time goes on.

Admittedly, SonicWall isn't the only firewall provider betting heavily on MSPs over the long haul. Palo Alto Networks has been building an MSP partner program over the past year, and Barracuda Networks recently rebranded its backup business as Barracuda MSP -- basically connecting the dots between firewalls and backup services for managed services providers.

Despite those competitive moves, SonicWall has maintained its double-digit growth.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.