Nearly one quarter of partners no longer see vendors' partner programmes as important to their business, according to Canalys, which warned that vendors need to evolve faster to stay relevant.
Research released by the analyst firm found that 77 percent of channel companies rate partner programmes as important when evaluating vendor relationships compared to 94 percent in 2016.
Moreover, nine percent of respondents surveyed in 2018 rated partner programmes as "not at all important", while almost a quarter rated them as lacking importance.
Canalys says the results are a warning to vendors that they must get partners aligned as the market faces disruption from cloud and digital technologies.
"Increasingly, the ball is in the channel's court," Alex Smith, senior director of channels research at Canalys, said in a statement.
"Partners have more levers to pull. They can provide more of their own services or make new technology vendor partnerships to fulfill specific opportunities," Smith noted. "Meanwhile, vendors often change programmes to reflect changes in partner business models and to spur loyalty, but such changes can have the unintended consequence of increasing complexity, leading to frustration."
Canalys cites a lack of consistency or changes to programmes as the top complaint, with 16 percent of respondents selecting it among their top issues.
Complexity in achieving certifications and specialisations was the next highest at 15 percent.
However, Canalys said it believes partner programmes will continue to be vital to partners "as they are fundamental to how they navigate relationships with vendors".
But the researcher maintained that its ongoing research with channel partners shows vendors must involve partners more in their programme planning and strategy discussions to ensure programmes are valuable.
"As partners develop different service models, the most successful vendors will be those that effectively help partners adapt their technical capabilities. The huge challenge is to keep programmes simple while our industry embraces complex new technologies," Canlays analyst Sharon Hiu said.
"Vendors must take action, such as investing in stronger digital tools, including integrated automation and AI-enabled capabilities, to help reduce partners' manual administration work," Hiu advised. "Partner managers must also become more empowered and offer personalised support for individual partner needs. The channel is pressuring vendors to do just this."
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