Can Channel Partner Programs Deliver Radical Simplicity?Can Channel Partner Programs Deliver Radical Simplicity?
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” IT vendors would be wise to embrace that timeless wisdom. A wide variety of global IT vendors indicate "being easier to do business with" is their leading channel initiative for this year. But their partners generally say progress here is not fast or deep enough.
June 7, 2012
By Beth Vanni 1
simplicityLeonardo Da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” IT vendors would be wise to embrace that timeless wisdom. A wide variety of global IT vendors indicate “being easier to do business with” is their leading channel initiative for this year. But their partners generally say progress here is not fast or deep enough. In fact, 35% of solution providers say the simplicity of their leading suppliers’ business processes is only fair to poor.
We all know complexity adds frustration, time and cost. And, when many emerging technologies themselves require a higher degree of skills and resources to support than ever before, solution providers have lost their tolerance for unnecessarily complex business processes with their leading suppliers. It affects their loyalty, profits and customer responsiveness, and frankly, always has. But as web-based tools and mobile applications make access to data and business communication infinitely easier, end-users are making increased demands of their solution providers for fast and easy support. Those demands flow up-stream to the suppliers.
What Needs Improvement
From our 2011 Cost of Complexity Study, over 250 solution providers said their key suppliers’ most complex business processes include (in order of priority):
Obtaining & maintaining technical certifications
Coordinating sales efforts with the vendors’ direct sales teams
Quoting and pricing products
Lead generation and distribution processes
It’s not surprising to us that technical certifications rank No. on the list, given how difficult it can be to get timely access to training and stay in line with vendors’ requirements for up-to-date training or certification audits.
“Some training and specialization programs are really difficult to interpret, digest and execute. So by the time a VAR has investigated the program, made the decision to move forward, and actually invested, they are often faced with changes within six months of beginning the initiative. And they are under the gun to produce immediate results,” notes Cynthia Borland, who manages the professional services organization for XTG Global, a Canadian-based international company that owns value-added reseller BlueRange Technology, Inc.
How refreshing would it be for an IT vendor to make radical simplicity a fundamental design point of their channel programs? Instead of their traditional Partner Advisory Council, they could have a “Partner Simplicity Review Board” made up of various profiles of channel partner who stand in judgement of the time, cost and profitability impact of their programs. There could even be awards for partners who help the vendor identify the most streamlined processes, that benefit all partners.
In their defense, some vendors like IBM, HP, Cisco and Quest Software are putting their money where their mouth is and working hard to make simplification changes real. At the recent Cisco Partner Summit, the company announced a rash of simplicity investments and proof points, including requiring only one annual competency audit, across their various program tracks. The company also announced an enhanced commerce tool, aimed at furthering their quote-to-order efficiency and a streamlining of their 47 unique services-focused channel programs into one global program framework.
IBM has had an ongoing “radical simplicity” initiative in place for years with a large inernal team, and recently posted a business partner savings of 7.75 days per month on average in administrative workload.
So, what will it take for the simplicity bug to bite the broader set of IT vendors? Many of the larger vendors have had to experience some financial shortfall in earnings or growth at the corporate level to have a serious awakening about simplification – think Cisco and HP.
As Steve Jobs once said about his clean, simple design principles for Apple’s consumer products, “I know we’ve got the right design when I make a product you want to just lick.” Simple can be powerful, especially when you’ve got a volunteer army of solution providers telling you they need that to be successful.
Beth Vanni is VP of PartnerPath, which helps IT vendors elevate the impact of their partnering efforts.
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