magento-partner-program

Improved Magento partner program: levels now (actually) based on quality!

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.

magento partner program Improved Magento partner program: levels now (actually) based on quality!

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?

  • sonassi

    Its definitely a move in the right direction – but its far from perfect. It also has left a *very* bitter taste in our mouths.

    We wrote an article back in April debating the value and virtues of becoming a Magento partner, that highlighted some of our concerns of the program.

    http://s.onas.si/g58r

    But, despite our initial concerns, we decided that as one of the UK’s oldest and most experienced, specialist Magento agency – that pressing forwards with a Magento partnership was the best way forward.

    So, in July 2012, we were welcomed as a Bronze partner with the objective that we would move up to Silver within a few weeks, once our partnership was formalised.

    Unfortunately, our requests to move to being a silver partner fell completely on deaf ears. We sent a number of emails to Jenny Homer @ Magento – stating our desire to move to a Silver partner level; but all went ignored.

    Its now almost 4 months on, and since being a Magento partner – what value have we gotten in return? Well, nothing. Not a single lead, phone call or even email from Magento to see how we are doing – and how we can better work together as partners.

    We were sceptical before joining; and utterly disheartened now. Our “partnership” was no more than an exchange of several thousand dollars for a “badge”.

    And now. Well, its worth nothing at all. We’ve been tossed to the side – along with many other Bronze partners.

    When we originally questioned the program, we raised three key points.

    1. It is revenue based, pay more, rank higher
    2. There is no formal distinction between what each level means to an end-user
    3. An agency, can still be a partner without even having worked with Magento

    After reading these proposed reforms; only the latter has really been addressed.

    We have a large number of Enterprise Edition clients that have left their original respective solution partners seeking a better level of service. The majority of which were poorly informed on the number of licences they require – and what edition of Magento was most suitable for them; resulting in almost all being oversold a number of services that they didn’t strictly need.

    The most recent we’ve experience was a customer sold 3 server licences; when 1 would have been more than sufficient.

    Using referral revenue as a means to grade agencies just encourages them to sell more Magento services to hit (and exceed) their targets (not to mention being encouraged by their commission payment in exchange for it).

    We said in our article, http://s.onas.si/g58r

    “Our understanding is that the Magento partner program should consist of best-of-breed agencies to showcase Magento and how good it really is”

    With the loss of some key Magento Enterprise stores moving over to ATG – its not come as a surprise that Magento have had to make some drastic changes to actually monitor the quality of work by their “partners”.

    Until now, partners have all been able to run a muck, without any quality control over code, advice or experience by Magento themselves. Which has lead to some of their Gold, Silver and Bronze partners building poor quality stores, giving out bad advice and ultimately disappointing their clients and ruining the client’s Magento experience – leaving them questioning the platform itself.

    Now, Magento are tightening the reigns and checking over the work of their partners to see if they are truly worthy of being a Magento partner. This is by far the best thing Magento could have done. Now it really adds credence to the program. You’re not just a partner because you paid for it – **but because your earned it.**

    In summary, you could break it down into the pro’s/con’s of the changes.

    **Pros**

    Partners are guaranteed to be excellent Magento ambassadors

    **Cons**

    Existing Bronze partners will not be happy
    Magento developer certification (non-plus) is effectively worthless
    Revenue commitments for partners are going up
    Harder for smaller Magento specialist agencies to compete

    Ultimately. My company and my staff have, over the past 4.5 years, invested their heart and souls into Magento. Participating hugely with the community and working hard to deliver technically challenging, bespoke and most importantly, high performance Magento stores. We felt that becoming a Bronze partner would have meant some kind of recognition from Magento for our efforts. But instead, we felt like we’ve been pushed to one side.

    Are we disheartened. Absolutely.

    Do we want a refund on the Bronze partnership fee. Absolutely.

    More importantly … Will we look to continue to grow within the Magento partner program, to become a Silver Partner. **Absolutely**

    We’ve already engaged Magento again to look to move towards Silver partnership.

    With the program revisions; we really think that the program has genuine value to both the end-user and agency alike.

    • http://www.gxjansen.com/ Guido Jansen

      Hi Sonassi!

      Thx for the extensive reply! Good to read a response from a long time Magento specialists. I understand it might be harsh for Bronze partners at first, but maybe you should just see at as a rebranding from Bronze to Associate. I wouldn’t say it’s now completely worthless.

      Reply to some specific points:

      “Magento developer certification (non-plus) is effectively worthless”

      >> I wouldn’t say that. In general it’s a good thing to have certified developers in your company, but also directly regarding to partner level: Magento still requires 2 certified developers for the Silver level and 4 for Gold. So I don’t see why current certifications have become worthless.

      “When we originally questioned the program, we raised three key points.

      1. It is revenue based, pay more, rank higher
      2. There is no formal distinction between what each level means to an end-user
      3. An agency, can still be a partner without even having worked with Magento

      After reading these proposed reforms; only the latter has really been addressed.”

      >> Both issue 1 and issue 3 should be cleared within the new program: you can’t pay your way up and you cannot become a silver or gold partner without experience. And for issue 2: A gold partner will have proven to have more experience with Enterprise level shops, more certified developers and happy customers. If that’s what you are looking for, I think this is still a good way to have a level distinction. The difference might not be big today, but I expect that Magento will widen the difference between Silver and Gold in the future (we have to start somewhere… :)).

      “Using referral revenue as a means to grade agencies just encourages them to sell more Magento services to hit (and exceed) their targets (not to mention being encouraged by their commission payment in exchange for it).”
      >> I’ve worked at two Magento Gold partners for a total period of 3,5 years now, mostly with Enterprise. Although I do notice higher pressure within Magento to sell Enterprise (especially since eBay bought Magento in 2011) I can honestly say we’ve never sold Enterprise to a customer that could have been happy with Community (or sold multiple EE licenses to a customer that needed less). I think that would be a very stupid thing to do, for several reasons.

      1) Looking at functionality: Choosing Enterprise always has to be a proper business decision for the customer. If it costs more build on CE and make custom extensions to compensate for missing Enterprise extension it doesn’t make sense. And at a low price-point of $14,420 (yearly) the costs for building several custom extensions quickly rises above that. So then you go for Enterprise because it’s a lot cheaper

      2) Looking at finance: I could even argue, that as a partner, you are financially better of NOT selling Enterprise. Think about it: most clients I work with have a fixed budget, regardless if they’ll go with EE or CE. So if you sell a Magento project to a client for 50K, a big part ($14,420) of that will go to Magento when you go with EE, but if you go witch CE, you can keep that money in your own pocket to build (extra) customizations.
      (Ok, you get a 25% kickback fee if you sell Enterprise, but that’ll still result in $10.815 less turnover for your company).

      So selling Enterprise brainlessly totally doesn’t make sense to me from both a customer relation standpoint or a financial standpoint. Of course it’s nice to have the Gold or Silver level badge, but that something you earn doing what you do best. It shouldn’t be a goal in itself.

      “Harder for smaller Magento specialist agencies to compete”
      >> Anyone can still become an associate, but levelling up will indeed be hard if you’re in a ‘developing country’ (Magento/e-commerce-wise).

      Thx again for the response Sonassi!

      • http://twitter.com/bobbyshaw Tom Robertshaw

        Hi Guido, Hi sonassi,

        The reason why we feel certification is being devalued is that you have to be certified on Enterprise to become a Silver Partner.

        As an owner of a small but experienced company that has put time and effort into doing things properly, I certainly feel that for us, growing to Silver partner status has been made more difficult.

        However, I really do appreciate the support that they are giving the Magento Associates. Training classes and exam vouchers is a great way to encourage personal development! And is more than being a Bronze partner ever got you.

        As you say, Community is a perfectly good platform and there’s no reason to push Enterprise to many of our clients. It doesn’t have the perceived worth to them. Let’s hope that they can continue to encourage the smaller companies and stores to get on the platform via Community. For then to see them grow into Enterprise clients as they are impressed with an expertly engineered systen,

        I do agree that this is moving in the right direction for the Partner program.

      • http://www.facebook.com/florinel Florinel Ioan Chis

        I feel mostly the same as sonassi (talking as an ex-Silver Partner, based in Romania). In the first year we didn’t reach the target and we had only a few customers.
        In a small and tough online market (Romania), we’ve done something else: we grew a customer in 1.5 years from a plain 1.4 Magento CE to Magento PE then Magento EE (and another one is on the same path), we promoted since 2008 Magento at all local e-commerce conferences (Magento was awarded best e-commerce platform in the country 2 years in a row, the award is in Magento’s offices in CA), we convinced the largest retailers in the market that Magento is the solution, even if we didn’t do the implementation (we just implemented for the largest local offline retailer, won the pitch againt IBM, Oracle and SAP).

        My business model is to keep customers close and build longterm relationships with them.
        What we got in return: *Nothing*.
        Enterprise support was useless (I can’t mention one time that they provided to be helpful).

        I didn’t see an e-commerce business that didn’t need constant development services … only the ones that go bankrupt don’t change anything (new design, new marketing modules, new integrations with other systems, etc, etc). Instead of rewarding partners that keep their clients happy, they reward only new business and promote agencies to ditch their clients after the implementation (so they can handle the new customers).

        Regarding the certification: we took over a project that was with another partner in the region with certified developers (client was unhappy), here is the picture: mysqldumps running each half an hour, the site was down each day around noon (due to inefficient script to sync prices and stock with the ERP system), messy code all over the templates (plain sql queries in templates) and so on. Certified developers only means that they could do things the proper way, not that they actually do it.

  • Dmitry

    Guido, I agree with you about the rewarding the community partners with Silver level for promoting the Magento itself (both community and enterprise) at growing markets. The key thing is for instance, when company is registered not at the high demand market, this case there are a few or no leads or potential EE customers locally. And this team suppose to use more intentions promoting the Magento and their own service