Friday, 19th April 2019
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How can automation save the partner programme?

The challenge for vendors is keeping channel programmes simple while embracing complex new technologies as well as new regulation and compliance New research has emerged that reveals how the traditional partner programme is no longer held with the same regard by the channel partners. By Peter Olive, CEO, Vortex 6.

The survey by Canalys shows that the percentage of partners that view channel programmes as important when evaluating IT vendor relationships had dropped from 94 percent in 2016 to just 77 percent today. In addition, nine percent of the channel firms questioned rated partner programmes as “not at all important”.

So, what are the main reasons for this? Either a lack of consistency or too many changes to the programmes was the top complaint, the survey found. Complexity in achieving certifications and specialisations was also cited as a sore point by resellers, VARs, MSPs and other channel players.

It is a difficult balance for the vendor to strike. The programmes must reflect the enormous changes occurring in the industry; traditional resale margins are being squeezed, and the channel is having to adapt their business models to the cloud and the new consumption-based services clients are demanding.

This can mean adjusting the traditional revenue thresholds that have been used historically to categorise partners to include more of a focus on training and certification, for example as well as a focus on more annuity based sales.

However, compliance to vendors’ partner programmes can already seem like a complicated and fractured process for the channel, with evidence of some partners leaving thousands of dollars– sometime up to 50 percent – in rebates on the table.

This is exacerbated by the shift away from upfront hardware sales to software, cloud and annuity income, which itself is a significant hurdle to a traditional IT supplier. Instead of the customer buying thousands or even millions of pounds worth of hardware upfront, clients are demanding a pay-as-you-go model for their IT consumption.

The benefits of the cloud to the customers are clear – including increased flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency – but the challenge to the partner to transition to a services-led business can be huge as they struggle to restructure their own sales and compensation models.

Plus, rather than rewarding them as they once did for closing a sale, vendors are now increasingly compensating partners on renewal of business and ensuring clients take on all the features associated with a solution.

The shift from a CAPEX to an OPEX business model means a partner’s revenues are spread now over the contract period. It is therefore more important than ever that they have complete visibility – through automation – into their transactions and their engagement with the vendor, to enable informed decision-making.

However, the situation is complicated by the fact that many channel partners are used to managing their compliance to programmes manually, relying on spreadsheets to juggle multiple vendor relationships and requirements. It is no easy task either for an IT vendor to reorganise its entire channel engagement overnight, especially the global legacy firms that over the years have built up layer upon layer of increasingly complex partner management tools.

Canalys says it believes partner programmes will continue to be vital to partners as they are fundamental to how they navigate relationships with vendors.

“The huge challenge is to keep programmes simple while our industry embraces complex new technologies,” it notes, adding that vendor must invest in stronger digital tools, including integrated automation and AI-enabled capabilities, to help reduce partners’ manual administration work.

This is where we have been helping both resellers and vendors by providing managed services, partner programme compliance and rebate optimization tools to the channel to ensure partners achieve the maximum return from their investment in technology.

The recent launch of our Cisco Value Incentive Program (VIP) Module for our V6 Fusion platform not only automates but optimises the partners compliance and rebate process. This means partners can keep up-to-date with their VIP because it provides wider visibility around the Cisco partner programme and identifies opportunities to increase rebates as well as any risks to them. At the same time, it reduces manual workload costs by automating data flows and analysis.

Never has the channel been so competitive and had such a tough environment to operate. But as vendors evolve alongside their channel partners, automation such as this will be key to the success of the modern partner programme.

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