At the Channel MeetUp UK, Channel Mechanics hosted a roundtable discussion on “How channel tools drive behaviour and track partner program performance”. The session was run across four roundtables throughout the day, incorporating attendees from 27 vendor companies and one distributor.
The session’s participants incorporated a broad range of job titles. These included Senior Channel Marketing Operations Lead, Channel Partner Marketing Manager, Marketing Director, EMEA Renewals Manager, Partner Marketing Programs Leader, Director Global Channel Programs, Partnerships Leader, Channel Manager, Global Program Director, and Global Channel Operations Director.
During the roundtable sessions, everyone was given a chance to outline:
- How they use channel tools today within their current organisation,
- What types of tools they use to support their channel business and
- How these tools drive partner behaviour and measure partner performance.
Channel Tools Suite
The general consensus from the roundtables is that there is no shortage of channel tools deployed in most companies. In fact, the majority of participants have at least the following suite of channel tools in play (or in launch mode).
CRM – several companies reported that they have several instances of a CRM. This is primarily due to the hierarchy of their business divisions, or product lines. Or due to recent acquisitions. In these cases, consolidating CRM systems was one of their goals.
Partner Portal– the majority of participants advised they have some form of partner portal in place. While some portals are home grown, others are commercial platforms from their CRM vendor. Or, as noted below, from their PRM platform.
PRM – the majority of the participants again reported that they have a Partner Relationship Management platform in place. In some cases, this also serves as their partner portal. Several vendors advised they have more than one PRM platform deployed simply down to the fact that different PRM solutions offer different capabilities. Therefore, they deploy multiple platforms to meet their full channel go-to-market program needs.
Marketing Automation – most participants advised that they have a marketing automation platform in play. In some cases this was a capability they could get from their existing CRM vendor, but in general, it was a dedicated marketing automation platform.
LMS – some participants advised they also have a Learning Management System deployed to offer up their specialist suite of training courses and certifications to partner.
Business System Application Tools
When we explored further, we discovered several other business system applications that participants have deployed as standard:
ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning (default for everyone),
Quoting System (used by very large enterprise vendors),
To summarise, most vendors/companies reported that they have on average between four and seven applications deployed to support their channel business.
We asked attendees to list the main challenges they have today with their channel tools suite in relation to how they support their partner needs. Here are the top five:
1. Data is a mess. Its inaccurate, not complete and there are massive volumes of it. In many cases, the process of “channel data” collection is labour intensive. Therefore, huge effort is needed to clean data to make it useful for downstream system usage, analytics and reporting.
2. A lack of integration or very poor data synching between the tools.
3. There are no defined owners for maintaining the tools and the data within them. Therefore there is limited automation in place to drive up efficiency and effectiveness across diverse channel teams. From Channel Ops to Sales to Partner Program teams.
4. Getting meaningful reporting and analytics from the existing tools and data is highly manual and laborious. Most companies had no clear agreement internally on what KPIs to track and report on, or what dashboards to serve up to present the business metrics.
5. The channel tools, specifically the reporting and analytics tools, are not available externally to partners. This puts additional load on channel ops and channel account teams to provide the information out to partners for QBRs and Annual Business Reviews.
Real World Impact
Participants were also asked what the real world impact of these challenges are on how they drive partner behaviours. The most critical impact is on the Channel/Partner Account teams (CAMS/PAMS). They do not have access in a timely manner to the data and reports that they want to use to drive Partner Quarterly and Annual Business Reviews (ABRs). Moreover, because the existing channel tool suite is only sharing information with internal teams, when the CAMs/PAMs meet with their partners teams, they have their own data/reports from their systems on how they have been performing.
However, the two datasets rarely, if ever, match, leading to a lot of discussion time. This in turn leads to channel conflict on what is the mutually agreed source of truth. Too much time is then spent focussing on and fixing the data/reports rather than proactively discussing how the vendor and partner organisations can work together to jointly grow their revenue, market footprint and customer base.
In concluding, we asked the attendees what would “good” look like if they could wave a magic wand and leverage the full capabilities of their channel tools. The overall consensus was to have a suite of seamlessly integrated best of breed tools supporting each channel persona’s role, with accurate and current data that automatically generates Dashboards and Reports with “Metrics that Matter” for the channel. These Dashboards and Reports would be viewable by both vendor teams and partner teams. Thereby enabling the presentation of “Decision Grade Information” to facilitate meaningful conversations at QBRs/ABRs. This in turn would drive behaviours aligned to common goals of increasing revenue, driving more net new logos, and pipeline generation etc.
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