Partner Relationship Management Proves Its Value

By John Moore  |  Print this article Print


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Opinion: Columnist John Moore finds proof positive that PRM systems and IM help VARs manage their business.

I described in one of my recent columns how PRM (Partner Relationship Management) systems have evolved from electronic brochures to tools that help VARs manage their businesses.

Software Information Systems' use of the Avnet Channel Connection system provides a proof point.

The Lexington, Ky., VAR, also known as SIS, signed up with Avnet in October 2003. Channel Connection, which includes IM (instant messaging), order tracking and sales reporting among other features, was a key factor in the reseller's decision to work with Avnet.

"The decision to do that was a technology decision," says Steve Sigg, CEO of SIS. "The use of these kinds of tools is very, very important to the productivity of our people."

Sigg cites IM as a particularly important feature. "All of our people are on IM, interfacing back to their counterparts at Avnet," he said. "That alone is a huge productivity gain." The VAR's reps use IM to structure deals and strategize with Avnet personnel. The method is often more efficient than using the telephone and more immediate than e-mail, Sigg says.

Click here to read about promises of IM interoperability.

But deal-making via IM is just the beginning. SIS has integrated its proposal process and back-office operations with Channel Connection to further boost efficiency. Reps electronically receive Avnet quotes and configurations, from which they create customer proposals.

Sigg notes that a proposal may go through half a dozen revisions before a final version is ready for the client. The ability to go through those iterations electronically is a standout capability, he adds.

Once the customer approves a proposal, the back-office integration kicks in. A purchase order is automatically generated back to Avnet. Shipping notices and invoicing are also handled electronically. Integration eliminates multiple manual steps, Sigg says. Accuracy is another benefit, as proposals, purchase orders and invoices all need to match.

Sigg says integration with Channel Connection has helped SIS grow its business without adding reps. That kind of productivity gain speaks directly to the bottom line.

Sigg's experience sheds light on what distributors and technology vendors aim to achieve in partner community systems. Ray Fischer, Avnet's senior vice president of services, describes a transformation in which a collection of tools becomes a suite of services that can help manage a reseller's business and boost operational efficiency.

Chris Heidelberger, president of PRM vendor ChannelWave, has also witnessed this progression. He says first-generation partner portals were mostly "infrastructure replacement." That is, companies deployed portals to deliver the same content they had delivered through mail and other means.

PRM's real value, Heidelberger says, comes from helping channel players execute programs that, in turn, help partners build revenue.

And once that value is demonstrated, PRM goes from a nice-to-have feature to a "strategic imperative," he says.

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John writes the Contract Watch column and his own column for the Channel Insider.

John has covered the information-technology industry for 15 years, focusing on government issues, systems integrators, resellers and channel activities. Prior to working with Channel Insider, he was an editor at Smart Partner, and a department editor at Federal Computer Week, a newspaper covering federal information technology. At Federal Computer Week, John covered federal contractors and compiled the publication's annual ranking of the market's top 25 integrators. John also was a senior editor in the Washington, D.C., bureau of Computer Systems News.


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