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The sharing of transaction information and deal flow in a structured format has long been a cornerstone of the channel. Over the years, vendors have made the sharing of such data a prerequisite for participating in their channel programs.

But with the rise of big data analytics platforms, vendors will soon begin collecting massive amounts of unstructured data that will be used to give them more insight into not only how end customers perceive a particular channel partner, but also increase actual sales.

Just about all the major vendors have already begun to invest in the big data analytics platforms required to gain those insights. ChannelEyes, a provider of channel sales and marketing management tools, is betting that vendors will soon become a lot more interested in a big data analytics platform that provides insights based on a much broader spectrum of data than many of them can collect.

To that end, ChannelEyes launched OPTYX, a workflow tool based on a predictive analytics application. ChannelEyes CEO Jay McBain said that rather than requiring every vendor to invest in hiring their own team of data scientists, OPTYX is designed to process transaction and behavioral data alongside data from external sources to give channel account managers more accurate visibility into how specific channel partners are likely to perform.

“In a lot of cases, the inside sales team and the marketing department can make very detailed forecasts using big data analytics,” McBain said. “OPTYX will give channel managers the same capability.”

Of course, ChannelEyes is not the first provider of channel management tools to explore the benefit of big data analytics opportunities. For example, Zyme Solutions, a provider of channel management tools, has made available a customer sentiment analysis tool as a module within its e-commerce platform.

Zyme Solutions CEO Chandran Sankaran said channel management teams are starting to appreciate the value of unstructured data.

“Channel teams want to be able to layer all the unstructured data they can collect on top of their structured data,” Sankaran said. “They want insight into how a solution provider is perceived by customers in real life.”

Once that data is collected, the channel management team can better understand how they might be able to help a specific channel partner, Sankaran said.

Role of Channel Data Management

At a recent Zyme Channel Data Management Summit conference, Gillian Campbell, director for channel data for the newly formed HP Inc., described how the PC and printer manufacturer is working with Accenture and Zyme to create a standard platform for managing the channel.

“We’re really focused on how we can simplify, how we can transform, how we can standardize, so we can move forward in this new world of channel data management,” Campbell said. “The challenge we had was [gaining visibility into how] sales flow right through to end customers. We have a pretty good view of what goes into the channel, but we don’t have a great view of the back end of the channel.”

However, vendors have to be willing to make the investment in channel data management to realize that vision, said Gerry Murray, research manager for IDC’s CMO Advisory Service, during the same conference.

“[Vendors] can understand the marketing investment that went into closing the deal. Now they can start to compare that some of the partners are taking seven months to close that deal, and some are taking five,” Murray said. “There’s a huge treasure trove of information that you could potentially get from your partners.”

Naturally, solution providers may not always appreciate that level of intrusion into their business. But as long as vendors are willing to drive business their way in exchange for access to data, the relationship should remain mutually beneficial.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.