In the latest of our ‘Meet the Shortlisters’ series, Martin Rutterford, head of UK managed channels at Check Point (pictured with the vendor's channel team), talks to CRN about the vital role of communication with partners, why it will always be 'channel first' for the vendor, and what it means to make the shortlist for Security Vendor of the Year, plus more
Give us a flavour of your channel strategy - how long have you worked with the channel, how is your programme structured, how many partners do you work with etc.
Since our conception, 26 years ago, Check Point has been 100 per cent channel driven, with its UK partner community consisting of over 300+ trading partners. Check Point's partner programme is constantly evolving through periodic additions of new commercial and educational layers which better aid our partner community, drives partner profitability enabling them to develop as Check Point trusted advisors and to offer additional complementary and supporting services as additional revenue streams. We continually look to grow our existing partnerships and strategic alignment while building new partnerships and building further the Check Point channel community.
In 2020, with the introduction of the Check Point Partner Growth program, the main objective is to reward, enable, and expand our partner's capabilities to deepen customer relationships. The focus for the Check Point Partner Growth Program is to grow and reward partners, align our strategy with our partners with clear objectives to drive new technologies and new customers and keeping customer security at the forefront of everything we do, while supporting our partners to be more successful and profitable.
What is the biggest benefit you have seen from working with channel partners?
We see our channel community as an extension to our sales, technical and marketing functions; broaden the breadth and depth of our reach and communication streams into the customer accounts. Working together with our loyal partners has enabled us to combine our skills and strengths, making our go to market approach stronger and creating a better experience for our customers.
How have you supported your partners during the pandemic? Has it made you change your strategy in any way? If so, how?
Despite the physical barriers with our partners, that COVID-19 has created, we have quickly modified to deliver all of our training courses online to ensure our partners are able to develop and maintain their sales and technical skills. Our channel teams also rallied to adapt the more social aspects of Channel management; through creative virtual socials. Many partners have reported greater synergy than ever before. This year has shown the real strength in relationships that we have with our channel partners and created stronger bonds, both professionally and personally.
What has been your company's biggest challenge during 2020 and how did you overcome it? What role did your own teams play in that?
As with everyone else across the global, we have adapted quickly, transitioning over 5,000 employees to remote working in fewer than two weeks. Closer team work, agility and no slowing down we have continued to deliver growth across technologies this year. The local channel team have gone above and beyond to work with partners and customers to minimise disruptions and barriers caused by the pandemic.
What lessons have you learned from this year?
While Check Point has always been a channel first organisation, 2020 has highlighted and solidified the importance of our channel partners from a sales, marketing and technical perspective. Furthermore, this year has reinstated the importance of communication at all levels of the organisation in order to continue to nurture and service end customers effectively.
Even though a large proportion of the communication this year has been over Zoom calls, the ease of doing business with our channel partners has continued and our channel team have successfully strengthened relationships with their partner counterparts.
What has been the highlight of 2020 for your business?
We can all agree that 2020 has been a challenging year for all, however, what has been amazing to see is how well and how quickly our internal teams, HQ departments, and the channel have adapted for us to maintain continued growth in our business and thanks to our solid financial position we are still growing our teams to full headcount
One of the biggest achievements and highlights of 2020 for us has been the increase in net new business across all our solutions and achieved through close collaboration with our partners, we have also been able to on-board over 100 new trading Channel partners to date.
In a competitive environment, it's increasingly important to stay relevant with new technologies and market offerings though acquisitions. 2020 was no different, Check Point recently acquired Odo Security, an Israeli start-up, to add to our security solutions and provide customers with a SASE offering.
What does it mean to you to be recognised for the shortlist/an award?
It feels great and we are very proud to be shortlisted as part of CRN's annual Channel Awards. While there is tough competition in the category, our partners believe we are already the Security Vendor of the Year and having their support in the submission, is an award in itself. Indeed, our greatest recognition is the feedback from our partner community that has been built over the last three decades. It empowers the team to continue their good work and build on their relationships to remain a vendor of choice.
How do you think the industry will change as a result of Covid-19 and how do you plan to thrive/grow?
Digitisation has happened over night and the world is adapting quickly, Tomorrows digital projects have become today, The perspectives of senior decision makers across industries and organisations are changing towards a more flexible workforce, which undoubtedly will continue as we all maneuver around the pandemic. For us at Check Point, we know and understand that if we want to continue our success in the immediate future, our focus should be on expanding our ecosystem, strengthening our alliance partnerships and continue our channel first approach to towards growth.