Splunk Takes Next Step In Channel Push With New Partner Portal Launch

Splunk has gone live with a new partner portal with greatly expanded capabilities, the latest step by the machine data software developer to expand its channel presence by boosting loyalty among its 750-plus current partners and recruiting new solution providers.

The new portal comes on the heels of a broader overhaul of Splunk's Partner Plus program earlier this year and plans to recruit more partners through this year and into 2018, particularly managed service providers, professional service companies, and technology alliance partners who develop add-on products for Splunk's software.

"We are accelerating a lot of our initiatives around our partners," said Brooke Cunningham, area vice president of global partner programs and operations, in an interview at a Splunk event in New York City last week. "Partners are really an integral part of everything we are doing...because we see them as a huge component of our growth strategy for the future."

[Related: Splunk Streamlines Reseller Partner Program, Launches Tracks For MSPs And Professional Service Providers]

Splunk, founded in 2003 and based in San Francisco, develops software for collecting and analyzing data for operational intelligence tasks including security, IT management and a broad range of business analytics tasks.

For most of its history Splunk was focused on direct sales, but the company has been stepping up its channel efforts in the last couple of years. When the company launched its expanded Partner Plus program in March the company had 750 channel partners, a number the company plans to publicly update in August when it releases its fiscal 2018 second quarter results. The company does not disclose how much of its sales go through the channel.

Cunningham described the significantly overhauled partner portal as a key element in Splunk's efforts to build greater loyalty among the vendor's existing partners and in recruiting additional partners.

"We're making sure that our partners have a one-stop entry point to engage with Splunk and really providing that seamless experience," she said of the portal that officially went live July 13. The portal project had been in the works for almost a year, including issuing the contract RFP in late 2016 and the development work this year.

Using the portal's new and expanded functionality to boost partner loyalty is a goal that resonates with Karen Kuhn, partner alliance manager at Kinney Group, an Indianapolis-based solution provider that works with Splunk's software and who had access to an early version of the portal.

"I can manage everything that's related to our Splunk business within the portal," Kuhn said. While she uses other vendors' partner portals for specific tasks, such as checking on the status of a registered deal, Kuhn said the new Splunk portal is more comprehensive and provides a way to manage all aspects of Kinney's Splunk business.

"Delivering on a much more integrated, usable and efficient partner experience is something I identified as a high priority," said Cunningham, who spoke about the importance of improving the partner experience to boost partner loyalty at this year's 2017 Women of the Channel West Conference, an event hosted by The Channel Company, the parent company of CRN and CRN.com

The new portal offers an experience that's more tailored to Splunk's different categories of partners including resellers, systems integrators, professional service companies and managed service providers, Cunningham said. Partners can personalize the portal view for their employees

The portal provides more self-service capabilities than Splunk's earlier portal, is more user-friendly with up-to-date Web technology, and is optimized for mobile devices.

Many of the portal's functions, including processing market development fund (MDF) requests, providing marketing and branding content, and distributing sales leads, are now automated for the company's Premier and Elite partners. (Associate-level partners work through distributors.)

The portal offers streamlined pathways for partner training and certifications, and a new 30/60/90-day program for on-boarding new partners and new partner employees. "We had a lot of feedback from partners that we had a lot of great stuff, but partners were challenged on how and where to get started," Cunningham said.

While Splunk overhauled its deal registration process earlier as part of the program improvements unveiled in March, the portal includes additional enhancements including a new deal registration status dashboard. And Cunningham said the new system provides more capabilities for two-way communication with partners including blogs and ties to social media.

Kuhn said she has used the portal to gain insights about what types of products and services Kinney's customers are buying and to get that information to Kinney's sales representatives for potential cross-sell and upsell opportunities. "And it's always relevant and up-to-date," Kuhn said of the portal, noting that some vendors' portals have outdated information.

And she praised the portal's design. "They put a lot of thought into it," she said, adding that other portals can be "clunky and cumbersome," which she described as "a real handicap for some vendors in creating [partner] loyalty."

"Often, those small day-to-day interactions, when they're not efficient or optimized, can be the biggest detractors of loyalty, from the partner's perspective," Cunningham said. "This is going to put a lot of that partnership support at their fingertips, in real time, and serve it up in a more meaningful way so they can get more out of their relationship with Splunk."

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