Channel Landscape Changes as Partnering Gets Personal

Expect to see a shift in how vendors relate to and enable their partners.

Lynn Haber

January 3, 2018

5 Min Read
Job Interview


Lynn Haber

More personalized relationships with your vendor partners are on the horizon.

Referring to this shift in the way that vendors engage with their partners as “Partnering is Personal,” Diane Krakora, CEO at PartnerPath, explains that as vendor organizations realize their partners’ business models are all different, and evolving, and that it’s the individuals in the partnering organization that execute demand generation activities, sell solutions and provide support – not the partner firm – a different type of support is required.

“The “partner” doesn’t do these things … the people, or individuals, in the partner’s organization do,” she told us.

Partner-firm categories such as reseller, managed service provider (MSP), solution provider, or ISV, for example, are blurring, with many doing some of each. And certainly, cloud adoption has had a lot to do with the change. So, vendors, rather than dealing with partners en masse and shoving them into program tracks and tiers, are looking at ways to engage partners in a more customized way, depending on their strengths and their business models.


Ciena’s Sandra Glaser Cheek

Clumping partner firms into homogeneous partner types, programs and tiers, may have worked well for the past 15 years, but not anymore, Sandra Glaser Cheek, vice president, global partners and alliances at Ciena, told us. “The way we’ve approached the channel in the past has been very dependent on our partner programs. This worked mostly because technology has been evolutionary and programs could be evolutionary. But we’re in such a disruptive time right now that we’re leapfrogging from a technology perspective. So, you’re not having a version 1.0 going to a 2.0, 3.0, etc., which would not have impacted how you go to market with partners through programs and initiatives,” she said.

In fact, Glaser Cheek suggests that we’re getting back to basics, the ways things were more than a decade ago when partnering was about the personal relationship and understanding the differences in partner business models.

In the past few years, in order to be successful, partners have had to find other selling motions, i.e. around services, consulting and analytics advice, in order to grow and be profitable. This change/transformation isn’t slowing down. Looking ahead, “Vendors will recognize their [partners’] uniqueness, as well as the differentiation between organizations and the individuals that are executing within these organizations,” Krakora said.


PartnerPath’s Diane Krakora

Forget about one size fits all.

With time, it’s becoming more evident that partners don’t need benefits of being in a particular partner program tier level, yet they’re very valuable to the vendors.

“They may not have that $5 million quarter run rate to get to a platinum level, but they’re a cloud aggregator or cloud services provider – so we’re seeing that the traditional tiers don’t always work for everybody – and partners get lost in that,” she said. “So how do you, the vendor, fit into their business model rather than shove them into your medallions and make them live there?” she added.

Glaser Cheek, who has spent her 20-year career in the channel, agrees and views it necessary to …

… move away from the cookie-cutter approach.

What might this look like?

Krakora outlines three scenarios for personalized enablement: enablement by partner as well as by person; the fostering of “community” within a partner ecosystem; and the growth of agent programs.

  • Individualized enablement will focus on the unique needs of partner types — and taking a deeper look, each individual in a partner firm has a unique background, skill set and interest. We will see partner “types” and “tiers” in programs minimized in favor of more individualized engagement blueprints. We’ve always talked about enabling a partner, but as a vendor you really enable people within the partner firm to be successful. Management will be an early challenge.

  • We’ll see more vendors build and foster a “community” within their partner ecosystems or treat their ecosystems more like a community. The individuals in the partner organization will join the communities to learn, share and support prospects and customers. The vendors – and possibly aggregators and distributors – will develop the community forum and stoke it with content and collaboration. It’s individuals connecting with other individuals.

  • We will also see the growth of agent programs from traditional IT vendors — not just the telcos. We’ve seen vendor referral programs for years, where the vendors pay a solution provider a finder’s fee for referring an opportunity that the vendor then closes and provisions on their cloud offering. In 2018, expect to see more true agent programs coming from IT vendors — where the vendor rewards an organization/individual not only for the sale, but the ongoing support and satisfaction/management of the customer. The channel organization (individual) “owns” the relationship with the customer, even if the billing is done directly from the vendor, and the vendor pays the agent monthly, for a significant period of time.

Krakora said that vendors such as Ciena, HPE, IBM, NetApp and SAP, are dipping their toes in the personal partnering waters, as are AWS and Intel, particularly around the community concept.

She noted that the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), will help drive the management of personalized partnering.

“Using data and AI is the only way that vendors will be able to manage the complexities around individuals rather than lumping them into huge groups,” Krakora said. The incorporation of AI will happen beyond 2018, she added.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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