In the quest for completeness of partner resources - ensuring the now ubiquitous ‘partner portal' is fully stocked with anything that any reseller partner could ever need - many IT vendors are in fact missing the central purpose of their partner strategy: the quest for effectiveness. If a big fat partner portal risks draining resources that could be better spent instead on proven, targeted channel activities, then we would all be better off without it.
I've long taken issue with the futility of overinflated partner portals, but there is another branch of vendor complacency to expose: the accreditation programme.
Partner accreditation programmes used to be Gold, Silver and Bronze, mirroring the Olympian prizes for ‘best', ‘almost best' and ‘recognition for trying your best', and signifying rarity as well as value. Now you'll find Platinum, Diamond and - for all I know it - Asteroid. In many partner programmes, the exciting new names represent the sum total of the imagination that anyone has ever invested in them.
Incidentally, Platinum isn't the most valuable, or rare, metal. Students of the periodic table will be familiar with Rhodium (Rh), known for its shininess, density and ability to appear new despite its age. Like a few reseller salespeople I could mention!
The purpose of the partner programme is to efficiently run individual partner relationships at the most effective level possible, investing the vendor's limited technical and pre-sales resources where they count most, and providing a strong and equal commercial framework for rewarding and incentivising sales activity that makes a real difference. Partner programmes are also the communications point for knowledge transfer, new opportunities, propositions and other important sales and technical information.
Often, these objectives are simply lost in the context of a tiered accreditation programme. And as with the partner portal argument, resources are wasted where they could so easily be focused on driving great results.
Indeed, many vendors are sucking their thumbs with partner programmes - getting comfort from a fake substitute for some genuine care and nourishment.
Here are some examples:
- The communications flow is frequently ‘broadcast' orientated rather than a real two-way conversation where partners feel they are listened to and where the vendor can apply its expertise to channel issues.
- Tiers are typically based on size rather than commitment, meaning a big partner with minimum commitment is better supported than a smaller partner with total commitment.
- Too little effort is invested in understanding the DNA of the most successful partners, and trying to copy, develop and improve their blueprints for success
All IT vendors that pursue a tiered accreditation programme do so to avoid giving a ‘one-size-fits-all' solution to every partner. Think of it like a T-Shirt - the one-size-fits-all never fits anyone! But providing Large/Medium/Small, in the manner of Gold/Silver/Bronze is not the answer either. Remember we are talking about partners creating market opportunities for disruptive, high margin enterprise technologies. They will benefit from tailored support, and benefit the vendor in return.
Barrie Desmond is chief operating officer at Exclusive Networks
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