The Value of Partners: Q&A with Stephen Kowal

We often hear companies talk about partners. At some companies, such as CommScope, partners play a valuable, sometimes behind-the-scenes role. What’s your view of partners in the networking industry?

We often hear companies talk about partners. At some companies, such as CommScope, partners play a valuable, sometimes behind-the-scenes role. Let’s explore the partner role a bit further with Stephen Kowal, vice president of the global partner organization at CommScope. One of his jobs is to organize and manage CommScope’s PartnerPRO Network. The PartnerPRO Network is CommScope’s comprehensive network of certified partners supporting cable television, business enterprise, wireline and wireless customers. I recently asked Stephen a few questions about the role partners play in the communications network industries.

Q: How long have you worked in business partner programs and how did you get started?

A: I have been involved with partner programs for over 20 years. Early in my career I was the customer of many partners as an end user. When I joined CommScope, I managed a territory and worked with partners to build a strong and successful business. I then joined CommScope’s global account organization, where our partner programs and training opportunities were a great asset to global customers. Three years ago, I was honored to be asked to lead our global partner organization, where I became responsible for CommScope’s partner programs globally.

Q: In general, what role do partners play in serving customers?

A: Our partners play a crucial role. At CommScope, we engineer and manufacture some of the best solutions in the world but they often require the expertise of a partner to be implemented and made functional. Customer networks are more complex than ever, which makes the selection of qualified partners even more critical.

Q: How have partner programs changed over the years?

A: Partner programs in our industry historically have been fairly one dimensional, focused mostly on installers. Today, programs need to be more robust to help solve more complex customer problems. Customers now need consultants, distributors and integrators plus installers. A company’s partner program must be complete and able to address more of the customer’s needs.

Q: What is the value of partners to companies like CommScope?

A: Our partners are one of the foundations of our business. It is important to CommScope to join with the best companies in each of our markets. CommScope has a history of integrity and quality, and we want to ensure that we work with companies who share the same values. If we don’t have the best partners supporting our world-class solutions, customers may not have their needs met and quality could be an issue.

Q: Why do firms aspire to join partner programs such as CommScope’s PartnerPRO?

A: Today there are a lot of companies trying to differentiate themselves. One way to do that is to associate with an industry leader like CommScope. CommScope’s customers recognize that we place a lot of requirements on being a partner and hold every company in our program to high standards. By being a part of CommScope’s PartnerPRO Network, our partners enjoy a globally recognized industry association. Another reason is that certified partners can offer CommScope warranties, which customers value. Finally they want to partner with companies that can solve more of their customers’ needs. When they work with CommScope they are able to offer complete solutions—they don’t need to find one company to partner with for part of a solution and another for the rest. Our partners and our joint customers have the assurance of working with a single company to meet their needs reducing the number of relationships they have to manage.

Q: What has been the response to the PartnerPRO Network?

A: We have had an extremely positive response from our customers and our long standing partners. I believe this is the most comprehensive partner program available in our industry and that is quickly being recognized.

That’s the word from Stephen. What’s your view of partners in the networking industry?