In my stump speeches at partner conferences this year, I identify the No. 1 challenge that faces channel partners (and the tech vendors whose products they represent): partners’ inefficacy in reaching and resonating with line-of-business (LOB) decision-makers. It’s a disconcerting challenge indeed, due to the fact, of course (as Forrester’s Business Technographics® data repeatedly demonstrates), that LOB executives have strong influence over technology solution purchase decisions.
But that tide could be beginning to change. At Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference last week, Salesforce’s COO Keith Block lauded its channel partners, attributing much of Salesforce’s success in the past year to partners’ success in engaging C-level executives. Block specifically called out channel partners for their ability to empathize with CEOs’ goals of growth and shareholder gain. Block also claims that 40% of customers are insisting on channel partners’ strategic involvement in effecting solutions and business outcomes. And Salesforce tends to direct that business to its channel partners with proven business chops/acumen.
While Block’s partner callout may be considered more the exception than the rule today, it is still encouraging. Some channel partners are making the requisite investments and changes to regain relevance in the largely LOB-driven cloud era. And it shows in the data: Customers’ penchant for cloud channel sourcing has more than doubled, from fewer than 25% of cloud service/solution purchases via the channel in 2012 to more than 50% in 2016.
Infrastructure professionals are now all too familiar with the dynamics of bring-your-own (BYO) technology and devices: Their workers walk into the office with consumer technology all the time. This post is one in a continuing series on how consumer retail stores act as de facto extensions of the IT department in today's BYO world.
The rumors have abounded for more than six months: unconfirmed whispers that Google will open up its own major chain of consumer retail stores. The company has dipped its toes into the retail waters with Chromebook-focused kiosks in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past few years, with installations inside larger retailers like Best Buy, Dixons, and Currys.
A Google Kiosk in the U.K.: Not Yet Reaching Revolutionary Heights
Yet while kiosks – particularly those staffed by Google employees – offer some value in promoting Google’s products and services, the company has a much greater opportunity for late 2013 into 2014. Kiosks aren't going to foment a retail revolution. To quote the popular Star Wars geek meme, "these aren't the droids you're looking for."
No, it's time for Google to think big – to go gangbusters. To do something nobody has done as well previously. Why is this imperative?
This year (next month) Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum will sport a new channels track. With a theme of “Bridging the Strategy-to-Execution Gap,” we will drill into the issues vexing channel professionals on why “perfect” strategies, involving partner recruitment, partner enablement, and partner loyalty, often fall flat with channel partners.
I’m particularly excited by being joined on stage, not just by my colleagues Dane Anderson and Michael Speyer, but by [yes, real live] channel execs Jon Roskill of Microsoft and Wendy Bahr of Cisco. Jon and Wendy are going to share their insights and their most effective techniques around channel enablement – i.e., how their companies’ channel teams empower their channel partners to effect maximum productivity. Attendees will have plenty of opportunity to grill Jon and Wendy with their particular issues.
Moreover, Dane, Michael, and I are going to bring “the voice of the channel partner” directly into our explorations of partner management execution. I’m sure you’re going to take away some valuable, actionable ideas for boosting your own channel strategy-to-execution map. Check it out:
Forrester’s Technology Sales Enablement Forum 2012
A lot of tech vendors – and channel partners – are struggling over what channel partners’ play in the cloud services demand chain is going to be. Technology is decreasingly delivered/consumed in the form of on-premise installation (a function performed by and the original raison d’être of channel partners), and increasingly delivered as-a-service by a service provider. In the software sector, that service provider is typically (but not always) the software vendor (think: salesforce.com).
And, in most cases, for good reason. Software has bugs. Early versions of software can be unstable and unpredictable. In the classic channel-partner-sells-and-installs-software model, the product (the software) remains in the control of the software vendor, i.e., the vendor assumes the risk of customers’ unmet expectations. The license is between the vendor and the customer, and the vendor is on the hook for providing bug fixes and tier-2 and -3 support.
As much as many channel partners would like to act as application hosters (and many of them do – approximately 15% of software is delivered via a hosting model today, and 20% of channel partners today have a hosting business [see “Channel Models In The Era Of Cloud”]), when it comes to early-version or mission-critical software, vendors simply can’t risk putting the as-a-service service level/performance responsibility in the hands of channel partners. Service failures, over which the vendor would have no control, would result in egg (or worse!) on the vendor’s brand, not the channel partner’s. Until tech vendors’ partner programs mature to the point where they can certify partners’ data centers, those vendors are going to be reticent to hand over the data center reins to partners.
There were two important pieces of Nokia news of interest to mobile platform developer partners leaked today. First, Nokia’s MeeGo platform, designed to replace Symbian, will likely be killed before ever reaching the market. Second, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop purportedly sent a 1,300 word memo to all Nokia employees that includes key sections such as: “We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning”; and “The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.”
This dovetails with what we predicted in a November 2010 report, “The Feeding Frenzy Over The Mobile Developer Channel,” in that it would not be the quality of the underlying platform software (Nokia has remained strong there), but the ease of development, viability of the platform, size of the market, and availability of distribution channels that would settle the mobile platform battle. In all of these factors, Nokia has been steadily falling behind its competitors, led by Apple (iOS), Google (Android), and Microsoft (Windows Phone).
NetSuite, a leading SaaS ERP/CRM provider, recently announced that it is revamping its channel partner comp model: 100% on Y1 subscription revenue, and 10% thereafter. VARs have been remiss in taking up the SaaS torch, largely because most SaaS vendors haven’t provided a financial model conducive to VARs’ cash flow requirements. Per the on-premise license model, channel partners make a big portion of their nut on initial product margin, i.e., up front. But vendor SaaS economics minimize up-front remuneration and spread revenue out over a long period of time. Though it sacrifices year-one revenue, NetSuite’s 100/10 model more closely mirrors VARs’ accounting practices.
NetSuite’s model will be the first of many SaaS channel model “experiments” that will ultimately be a shot in the arm for the SMB market in particular. Contrary to popular belief, SMBs have been slow on the uptake of SaaS (application hosting outpaces SaaS adoption by SMBs by a factor of 3-4x) ...
... due to the fact that VARs, in ownership of the customer trust asset, haven’t been pushing SaaS. But the financial barriers to channel partners’ SaaS advocacy are being broken down.
Now that the path for VARs to play in the cloud is being forged, and their play along with software vendors, aggregators, and ISPs being validated, distributors and DMRs, long wedded to on-premise license models, are going to have to figure out their place in the new cloud channel order.
What do you think? Is this one of many experiments? What is the role for distributors and DMRs in cloud computing?
In an analyst event on Apr. 22nd in London, Symantec outlined their new Partner Management concept – increased focus on a decreased number of partners.
Channel partners are the lifeblood to Symantec’s sales and already contribute ~85% of the business in EMEA - which is expected to increase. This is split into segments; Small Business, which Symantec simply classifies by deal sizes below $5k, Commercial Business, which is above that threshold, and Enterprise Business with named accounts. To better execute on this segmentation Symantec has introduced a new dedicated SB (Small Business) organization and the cross-segment role of Business Development Managers to their ranks.