A Successful Partner Program Shouldn't Be A Guessing Game

March 6, 2009

4 Min Read
A Successful Partner Program Shouldn't Be A Guessing Game

By Scott Dahlgren

I’ve seen my share of  ill conceived and  ineffective partner programs and I’ve often wondered why that is the case. As discussed a few weeks ago in “The Secret to A Successful Partner Program,” one of the basic elements of any successful partnership is creating a win-win relationship. But how do you know what is most important to a partner, how they decide who is strategic and who isn’t, and what they need from software vendors to be successful?

Well all you really need to do is ask. A few weeks ago I did just that with a number of well known system integrator/solution partners who focus on developing and implementing open source solutions for their customers. What I learned was interesting and insightful, and if you are a software vendor looking to grow the adoption of your technology through partners, it will help you separate yourself  from the others. Keep in mind though that for any of the following to be relevant, your solution first needs to be technically sound, have  a growing and active community, and your go to market strategy needs to be centered around a partner channel.

Key Examples

There was strong consensus that software vendors should focus on what they do well  — developing and supporting software — and let partners focus on what they do well – software implementation and service delivery.  If you can help a partner expand their services business you will become very important to them. For instance:

Paul Anthony, CEO for CIGNEX, knows that his company is better able to implement open source solutions because they focus on understanding the customer’s business problem and then architect the right solution to meet their needs. His relationship with customers is as a trusted advisor with no specific product agenda – something that is very difficult for a software vendor to do well. He recommends that software vendors focus on what they do well, building and maintaining a product that customers want, and let partners focus on implementing that solution with customers.

Mike Vertal, president and CEO for Rivet Logic, understands that there are some services that software vendors are better able to provide but cautions that it is important for them to differentiate their services enough so as not to compete with partners or confuse the customer. Packaged offerings such as code reviews, architecture design, and security or performance audits that require software expertise are appropriate for software vendors to deliver and usually don’t overlap with partner services as long as these engagements are short term and priced at a premium. In some cases partners may even want to bundle these packaged services into their offerings allowing them to deliver a more complete solution or provide larger accounts with greater confidence.

Yair Spitzer, CEO for Ibuildings, is looking for deeper relationships with software vendors where his service and training delivery capabilities can be put to good use, and where Ibuildings can become a “certified” service delivery and training provider in the geographies they cover. He typically hires top technical talent and invests in developing and maintaining the necessary competency to ensure consistent success even with the most complex solutions. Software vendors who rely on partners to deliver services and have formal certification that provides an industry “stamp of approval” allow him to consistently grow his services revenue each year. In addition, formal certification distinguishes partners who are willing to develop the necessary competency and provides customers with greater confidence in selecting a particular software product.

If you can structure your partner program to optimize service revenue for your partners, you will find yourself at the front of the line and a very strategic partner – but services are not the only way to be valuable. Next week we’ll hear from these partners about  other elements that they look for in deciding who to invest in.

The VAR Guy contributing blogger Scott DahlgrenContributing blogger Scott Dahlgren is an independent consultant helping small and mid-size technology companies extract greater value from their partner and channel relationships. And he also runs marathons through the woods of Connecticut. Here are all of Scott’s blog entries. The VAR Guy is updated multiple times daily. Don’t miss a single post. Subscribe to his newsletter, RSS feed, Twitter feed and Resource Center.

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