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For all the right reasons, collaboration as a strategy has taken the
industry, both vendors and solution providers, by storm. Whole product
categories today are marketed as collaborative, while business and work
structures are increasingly based on collaborative communications
platforms. That’s true even more so with the explosion of social
networking media and affordable pricing trends for technologies such as

Collaboration can foster fruitful outcomes, but only when done
right. Case in point: Vendor-partner relationships. Collaboration
between vendors and their partners has always been about effective
communication and this is where the rails fall off sometimes: The two
parties first must agree on how best to talk to one another before
anything meaningful comes out of the discussion. Sure, vendors tout the
latest speedy, automated PRM tools and pride themselves on routine
satisfaction and feedback surveys as a way to give their partners a
voice. But are these the most effective ways to talk to partners?

Apparently not. Channel Insider and Amazon Consulting recently
questioned partners in a wide-ranging survey on the use of social
networking tools and uncovered some startling results with respect to
how partners view the state of vendor-to-partner collaboration. Bottom
line? The principle vehicles vendors employ to communicate with
partners are not the ones partners find the most useful. Let’s take a
look by the numbers:

When asked about the main ways in which vendors communicated with
them, 80 percent of partners cited the partner portal, while 78 percent
said vendors used their partner-facing field staff. Those were Nos. 1-2
in the ranking. However, when asked which vehicles were most effective
in generating collaboration between the two parties, partners cited
neither portals nor field relationships. Instead nearly half of them
said small, regional face-to-face meetings drove the best
collaboration, while more than a third cited formal partner advisory
council meetings and user groups, respectively.

Clearly, partners crave the human touch – and not just that of their
field account managers. Collaboration also involves other partners to
cultivate networks that can bounce ideas off one another and their
vendors. Strength in numbers, so to speak, works best to generate
effective changes, enhancements and initiatives to partner programs,
business plans, enablement schedules, etc.

For now, partners seem to believe this kind of collaboration is best
achieved in live interactions. Consider that fewer than 20 percent of
partners found portals to be an effective collaboration tool and none
— yes, NONE — said that a vendor’s use of social media was useful to
them. This goes to the heart of what collaboration is supposed to be: a
two-way street. From a vendor perspective, portals make sense as an
effective way to disseminate tons of information, but too often they
blast a fire hose of stuff at partners who are looking for a place to
bounce an idea for discussion or frankly, to vent.

As we look at head to this year, collaboration is going to gain even
more momentum. What would you like to see done differently as you
navigate your vendor relationships and seek to get your voice