Magento just announced a new partner program, which I think is great for the ecosystem! I previously spoke about the limitations of the old program and Magento has made some improvements since that. After the partner shakeout last October (around 100 partners were removed from the partner listing) Magento is taking it to the next level with a completely new partner program.
I won't repeat the reasons and the details of the change from Magento itself, you can read that in their announcement.
For me the highlights are:
- No more Bronze partners. Levels now are Gold, Silver and Associate
- Previously the main thing determining your partner level (Gold, Silver, Bronze) was the monetary partner fee you were willing to pay to Magento, supplemented with a required numer of certified developers and a yearly revenue target (# of sold Enterprise licenses). In the new system, you won't be able to just pay to get to a higher level. Every new partner starts as an Associate and has to earn it's way to the top by meeting several requirements. Number of sold licences and certified developers are still part of that, but now also customer satisfaction and a "health check" by the ECG of already deployed webshops will be part of the requirements to level up.
- If you don't sell Enterprise licenses, you cannot become a Silver or Gold partner.
- This only accounts for Solution partners / integrators. Industry / Hosting partner program isn't changed (for now).
So the levels will become dependant on the actual work a partner has done with Magento and how good that work is. From my experience, this is what most (potential) Magento customers that look at the partner listing already asume from the different levels so it's great to have that aligned again. I also hope that the different statistics from each partner will become public so customers can use that information in choosing a partner. This also prevents a rich company without Magento experience to buy itself a Gold partner status and making very experienced (but not Gold level) partners look bad.
So I think this is a great improvement over the old system. Bet me being me I still see some areas of improvement :)
Uneven local distribution of partner levels
I think most clients are choosing a partner within their own country. The requirements per partner level seem to be global, while there are large local differences.
For instance: the annual revenue target is fixed per level, for everyone worldwide. In a country where Magento Enterprise adoption is high and there aren't that much partners, you might see only Gold partners. In a country where there are lot's of partners and a low or medium number of Enterprise users, you might see only silver or associate partners. The problem with this is that the partner level doesn't differentiate partners so in those cases this doesn't help (potential) customers to make a decision.
Possible solution: Per area (country or group of countries) you can create a maximum number of partners per level. This can be a fixed amount (say, max 5 gold and max 10 silver partners) or a percentage (20% of the total number of partners can be gold level, 40% silver). That way, you get a more even distribution of partners over the different levels and the different levels will make sense in every country. In this case it might be good to only update partner level only a few times a year, it might be confusing is levels are switching with every purchase of an enterprise level.
No stimulation for good (but non-EE) partners
I get that eBay wants Magento to sell as many EE licenses as possible, but some countries are just not ready for that (yet). IMHO the power of Magento is that it started with the free Community edition, took care of broad adoption of that version, and then started upselling to Enterprise. I don't think Magento could have sold so many Enterprise licenses if it would have started with just the Enterprise edition. Community users are the ones upgrading to Enterprise or Community user are proving to potential clients what a great system Magento is and they directly buy Enterprise. Whichever way: broad adoption of Community is the basis of the succes of Enterprise
So there are a lot of countries where Community is just starting out, or already getting a lot of attention, but where Enterprise adoption is low. In some countries, paying $14,420 yearly for a software license isn't something that many webshops do. With the new program, you'll see only associate partners in those countries. Not only does that not differentiate the good partners from the others, but that's also not very stimulating for those Magento companies. It's not their fault they're in a country where there are no Enterprise licenses being sold (yet), but these might very well be able to create a broad Community base that Magento can use in a few years to sell Enterprise licenses to.
Possible solution: I'd say: reward those great Community partners with Gold and Silver levels (if they meet the other requirements) but be (very) gentle with anual revenue targets. Again, I get that money has to be made, but in those countries you can start with no or low revenue targets and gently increase them in the next few years.
Of course the above solutions will make comparing partners between countries a bit harder but I don't think many clients do that anyway and Magento has the statistics so it could still be done.
So these are my thoughts about the new partner program. What are your feelings about this, good or bad?