The Problem With Tech Vendors’ “SMB Specialist” Partner Certification

Tim Harmon

SMBs have historically led the way out of recessions – and with the impression in mind that this recovery will prove likewise, tech vendors have been clamoring to roll out new “SMB Specialist” partner certifications. The problem is that most of these SMB certifications are meaningless. The requirement for channel partners to achieve SMB certification in many vendors’ channel programs is that the channel partner has to prove that they have successfully sold to and supported SMB customers. Huh? Sounds like the “chicken and egg” syndrome, doesn’t it?

A few vendors, primarily those with large product portfolios, place the appropriate “breadth” value requirement on their SMB channel partners (as opposed to “depth”, i.e., deep knowledge in one particular technology domain) and require their SMB partners to test on several technology domains, albeit at the “101” (“beginner”) level. Note that most vendors, too, provide no path for their SMB-certified partners to reach their top partner tier (most vendors still reward revenue contribution over everything else), so those partners are at a competitive disadvantage to large channel partners that target both the enterprise and SMB markets.

The problem is vendors’ view of “breadth” with respect to SMB partner certification. Cisco Systems’ view of “breadth” is competency across the network and collaboration domains; Symantec’s is competency across the security spectrum; Microsoft’s is office suite and application software; and HP’s is primarily hardware and IT management (at least until it integrates the 3Com channel program).

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What Is “Sales Enablement” And How Did Forrester Go About Defining It?

Scott Santucci

There are other definitions floating out there about sales enablement – some are from our competitors, there is a Wikipedia definition, and several vendors in the space are promoting the phase pretty heavily.

  • So why did we just publish a huge research document on the topic? 

Let’s start with how we decided we needed to invest a lot of cycles writing a big report about defining something some could argue was already defined.

  • In August 2008, we convened our first Sales Enablement Executive roundtable (a roundtable is where I facilitate a group discussion about relevant issues facing our community and drive shared understanding about changes that need to be made moving forward) near Leesburg, Virginia. We assembled a cross-functional team of VP-level executives from sales and marketing roles, representing 16 blue-chip companies like: Accenture, CSC, IBM, CA, Siemens, BMC, etc.
  • During that session, as a group — we debated, painfully, the definition of sales enablement, which Forrester subsequently reviewed (to gain buy-in) from other roundtables we convened in San Mateo, California and London.
  • We published our short definition in our Uncovering The Hidden Costs Of Sales Support report in April 2009, where we worked with several CFOs to understand their point of view about managing “cost of sales.”
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Reaching SMBs Through SMB Communities

Tim Harmon

It’s a well-established fact that social media is every bit as – if not more – influential for business decision-makers (B2B) as it is for consumers (B2C); Forrester clients can read more here. And SMBs are the most prolific of all business-size segments in utilizing social media and online communities to inform their technology purchase decisions. So where are SMBs turning to for that information? Where can you check the pulse of SMBs’ thinking?

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Want To Be Bought? Then Talk Cloud

Peter O'Neill

Continuing my musings about the impact of cloud on our industry (see last week’s blog), I’m in the middle of a cloud project where we are identifying and profiling potential channel partners for an ISV that is about to launch a systems management product for cloud environments. I must say, I’m surprised by the number of channel partners already talking about cloud.

It reminds me of a conversation with staff at Nimsoft, a company recently acquired by CA, about how they were promoting their cloud offerings. My personal view is that Nimsoft managed to complete their exit strategy so quickly and successfully because they focused all of their new product announcements and general positioning toward the cloud. Coincidentally, CA had decided to turn up the heat on its own cloud campaign and promptly bought three technology companies to strengthen the cloud offering and show their commitment — Nimsoft, Cassat, and 3Tera.

While Cassat and 3Tera were cloud-specific solutions, Nimsoft was already successful as a provider of systems monitoring software to enterprises and managed service providers. My theory is that their cloud image was the result of a considered repositioning exercise that culminated in their placement on CA’s wish list. Here’s another example: Yesterday, Adobe announced its intention to acquire Day Software, the Swiss content management ISV. Day Software had a consistent ECM business with modest growth, but I notice that they turned up the cloud messaging over the last months — I suspect this is what got them into Adobe’s sights.

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Microsoft Truly Does Have Its Head In The Cloud – And Wants Its Partners To Join It!

Peter O'Neill

This week, I was at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., and it was all about THE CLOUD. Now, many colleagues argue that Microsoft will be the second-to-last major vendor to show a 100% cloud commitment, saying that “it’s too embedded in its traditional software business,” “it doesn’t understand the new world,” and “it’d be scared of cannibalizing existing and predictable maintenance revenues.” But I remember Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Systems, tell me with a mischievous grin that he’ll probably earn more money from Exchange Online than the on-premise version — “firstly, it’s mainly new business from other platforms like Lotus Notes, and second, I even generate revenues by charging for things like the data center buildings, the infrastructure, even the electricity I use.” That was in Berlin last November. I suspected then that Microsoft did get it but was just getting its platform ready. This week, I am convinced — Microsoft is “all in,” as they say.

And at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, it was driving its partners to the cloud as aggressively as any vendor has ever talked to its partners at such an event. All of the Microsoft executives preached a consistent mantra: “MOVE to the cloud, or you may not be around in five years.”

Microsoft’s cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is already being promoted by 16,000 partners that either get referral incentives for Microsoft-billed BPOS fees or bundle it into their own offerings (mainly telcos). There are nearly 5,000 certified Azure-ready partners. This week, Microsoft turned up the heat with these announcements:

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Highlights Of Recent ITSMA Webinar On New Marketing Organization And Competencies

Peter O'Neill

 

By Peter O'Neill

Last week, in addition to presenting at my quarterly Forrester Teleconference, I spoke at a Webinar hosted by the IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA). I was in illustrious company: David Edelman, partner for the marketing and sales practice at McKinsey; John Lenzen, VP and global head of marketing at TCS; plus our host, Richard Seymour, managing director at ITSMA EMEA. We talked about the emerging organization model and competencies for marketing organizations in the tech industry.

Richard opened with this really interesting data slide, which shows that service providers are actually reducing their marketing spend in a dramatic fashion (see below). 

Our recent survey confirms the 2010 increase in marketing budgets and reveals much more about how service provider marketing differs from other industries (see this report). Richard then listed some of the challenges that marketing is facing and postulated that “marketing has to change.” 

David talked about the impact of the digital marketing challenge and discussed four critical questions that marketers should be asking themselves:

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Oh, Yes! Tech Buyers In Germany Are Well Into Social Media

Peter O'Neill

 

By Peter O'Neill

Last week, I held my quarterly Forrester Teleconference and discussed my April report on how European tech buyers use social media. Usually, we Europeans are asked to speak twice in the day - once at a convenient time for European audiences and once for our clients in North America. Unusually for an analyst, I hate repeating myself. So I elected to present the European slot in German and present specifically about Germany. This was, I think, a first for Forrester. Of course, we also leveraged the opportunity to get a few prospects listening in and even had several journalists collecting information. Now, not every Forrester analyst can present in German, so don’t expect all of us to do this, but the fact is: We actually have more German-speaking analysts than that other research company. 

Our B2B Social Technographics data shows that German social media activity is really quite heavy: In some categories, the numbers we report show more aggressive behavior than in the US or other countries. After several client meetings where our data was questioned - especially by more experienced marketing executives who themselves are not using social media and expect the same backwardness from their peers - I am now well equipped with backup data that proves our points. So here is what I told the audience about German social media usage by tech buyers:

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Do Your Value Propositions "Go To Eleven"?

Scott Santucci

In Rob Reiner’s 1984 “rockumentary,” This Is Spinal Tap, one of the main characters, Nigel Tufnel, proclaims that they are different than other bands because their amplifiers “go to ll.” (You have to watch this clip if you don't know what I am talking about).

What a perfect analog of how B2B companies are trying to differentiate themselves today. I have the opportunity to work with sales and marketing professionals on the topic of competitive preference, and here are some actual quotes from vendors about how they think they separate themselves from “other blokes”:

  • “But we are truly global and our competitors are not” – a managed services provider
  • “We are much more scalable than them” – a software provider
  • “We deliver our services in the cloud” – a software-as-a-service provider

Translation? “These go to 11.”

You know the show MythBusters?

Forrester’s Sales Enablement team is testing the conventional wisdoms of sales and marketing by asking executive level buyers what they think. 

So, does “11” differentiate you? No.

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Report From HP Software Universe: Is HP Software Going To Boldly Go Where No One Has Been Before?

Peter O'Neill

By Peter O'Neill

Last week, I was in Washington working for HP at their Software Universe event. I moderated their customer press conference, had several strategy meetings with HP execs, continued my preview of a new product they’re planning, and even got to play golf with three of their execs. Life can be tough as an analyst!

In the press conference, attended by around 40 journalists from all continents, I encouraged five HP customers to talk about how they were innovating within IT: Neuberger Bergman, Seagate, McKesson, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, and CollabNet. My challenge as moderator was to help these spokespeople bring across their messages (not everyone is a public speaker) and ensure that there was some “news” for the journalists to write about. So I kicked off the session with a Forrester slide with these five trends/challenges in IT. Each customer then spoke to the trend that affected them the most:

  • Virtualization and "cloud" adoption adds to complexity of IT management
  • Continued pressure to prove the business value of IT
  • Automation of optimized processes within IT
  • Understand and measure IT delivery in business terms
  • Agile development brings Business, AppDev and IT Operations closer together and coordinated

 

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The Key To Sales Enablement Success Is To Focus On The Conversation

Scott Santucci

Why are sales and marketing professionals seemingly in a constant firefighting mode, moving from one fire drill to the next, one meeting to another? We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model. Your company is caught between a rock and a hard place because your investors want to see accelerated growth and improved margins. However, your customers have the same pressures, and all have some form of enterprise-wide strategic procurement initiatives under way. Your goal: sell at a higher price. Their goal: buy only what they need at the lowest possible price. Something has to give.

In response to these tectonic forces, we find many companies have a variety of internal projects designed to combat the commoditization trend. Some common efforts include:

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