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Time was, PRM (partner relationship management) was just a new way to deliver old information: product information, collateral material and the like. Most distributors can tick off the PRM box on a checklist of reseller support mechanisms. But that was then. This is now.

The technology has matured since its emergence in the late 1990s. Recent deployments are intended to help resellers pick their sales spots and win new deals.

That’s the aim of the PRM system Arrow Electronics Inc. is rolling out for its North American Computer Products group. Arrow purchased PRM software from ChannelWave Inc. last year and has been working on its system, dubbed Information Support Services, ever since. And while the name isn’t especially flashy, the company believes its PRM offering will provide substance over sizzle.

“One of the things partners ask us for is more information about their businesses,” said Kathleen Boyles, director of sales administration for Arrow’s computer products side. Resellers, she said, want information they can use to make business decisions.

To that end, Arrow is developing a number of reports that resellers can access and run at any time, Boyles said. The reports are essentially snapshots of a reseller’s business with Arrow. A sales history analysis report, for example, will look at the segments in which resellers have sold products over time.

“By reviewing the report, they could be making decisions on where they want to put more of their sales effort to get into particular product segments,” she said.

Arrow also will make open-order and open-invoice reports available. The PRM will deliver its reseller-oriented reports as Crystal Reports, but they can be downloaded into Excel, Boyles noted. The reports are slated to debut in the latter part of the third quarter.

Arrow’s Information Support Services also lets resellers track sales opportunities. Boyles said this feature may prove particularly useful for resellers who lack a formal opportunity management tool. This element of the PRM system can be used to track the sales of Arrow products as well as those not on the distributor’s line card.

Boyles said a reseller can set up a non-Arrow product within the PRM system and then track that item with a dollar value and projected close date. This feature also can be used to track product bundles consisting of Arrow products and gear sourced elsewhere.

The various PRM services will be available to all resellers within the North American Computer Products group’s Enterprise Computing Solutions unit. Enterprise Computer Solutions houses Enterprise Storage Solutions (EMC and Hitachi, among others), MOCA (Sun), SBM (Hewlett-Packard), and Support Net (IBM).

Among Arrow’s main PRM goals is to bring all of the company’s resellers under a single portal. “Our partners are cross-platform selling—IBM, HP, Sun,” Boyles said. “We wanted to bring them into one Arrow.” Information Support Services will permit single-sign-on access to electronic resources supporting the storage, HP, IBM and Sun product organizations.

In another push, Arrow is working with suppliers such as Hitachi and IBM to integrate Information Support Services with the manufacturers’ partner-support systems.

“One area where Arrow has been particularly innovative is as a distributor using PRM to add value to its reseller partners downstream and its OEM partners upstream by offering [Information Support Services] as a vital resource to help them work together more effectively and provide value to their customers,” said John Gill, director of marketing at ChannelWave. “This is a very interesting model, and differentiates Arrow and the Arrow brand from competitors.”

In summary, Boyles characterized the ability to “gather information and package it in a useful way for resellers” as a distributor value add. Arrow’s PRM looks like it may actually deliver on that promise.

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