Death of the Big Channel Program?
Thanks to the rise of big data analytics, the days of the big channel program that spans multiple tiers may soon be coming to an end.
For some time now, channel managers have been accumulating data to keep track of every deal in real time. At a recent Global Channel Data Management Summit hosted by Zyme Solutions, a provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that vendors use to manage partner programs, Zyme CEO Chandran Sankaran proposed the theory that massive channel programs that historically get updated once a year are, for all intents and purposes, obsolete.
Because channel managers now have more visibility into the channel, they can reallocate sales support as new opportunities warrant. So, rather than having to guarantee a partner access to a certain amount of resources based on the sales volume generated the previous year, vendors can now dynamically allocate resources to the partners selling the most high-margin products and services in the previous 30 days.
Sankaran says that level of granular control means the traditional "Gold, Silver, Bronze" approach to managing different classes of partners—which uses a "set it and forget it" process that usually winds up being a disservice to partners and vendors alike—is no longer required.
Of course, a big part of that theory is based on the assumption that partners are going to be willing to share sales data with vendors in a timely manner. In fact, many vendors have already made sharing that data a prerequisite for participating in their programs.
As channel data management continues to evolve, vendors will clearly look for way to automate the collection of that data from their partners' customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
In addition, Sankaran says Zyme Solutions is coupling the data it collects with external sources of data to create a database of individuals in large enterprise accounts, which can be used by channel managers to drive leads on behalf of solution providers.
However, none of those capabilities will eliminate the hard work associated with identifying partners that have the potential to sell the most high-margin products and services in the first place.
Kurt Higgins, vice president for commercial services at BDS Marketing, a provider of marketing services to channel vendors, notes that being able to match vendors with solution providers that have expertise in specific areas is still more art than science. That means some level of human engagement will always be required to optimize a channel.
The one thing that will be different is that the people charged with optimizing those channels will be armed with a lot more data than ever before.
Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications, including eWEEK, InfoWorld and CRN. He currently contributes to Channel Insider, Baseline, IT Business Edge and CIO Insight.