Business Intelligence - Q&A with RPM Softwares Dana Dwyer

Channel Partners

January 1, 2004

7 Min Read
Business Intelligence - Q&A with RPM Softwares Dana Dwyer

Q&A with RPM Softwares Dana Dwyer

Whats ahead for channel management and the back office? In December, TAG caught up with Dana Dwyer, president of RPM Software, to find out.

TAG: What are the components necessary for a successful back office?
DD: A successful back office is fundamentally built upon successful processes. That means having a well-organized process workflow to make sure things dont get missed and focusing on doing the right things well.

Ideally, you want to be able to take as much of the intelligence surrounding how things are done and model that in your information systems. Youll also want to centralize your storage of information so that people and processes can easily access and use it in their value-adding activities.

For instance, an example of how this should all work together may be seen in the agent recruitment process. To be successful, youll want a well-organized framework that outlines all the steps involved in recruiting. Youll want to know which people are involved at each step, and what information they will collect and store for later use by themselves or someone else. Preferably, youll want a system wherein this process has been modeled and then guides your back office, ultimately freeing people from the nuisances of process workflow and allowing them to focus on developing and enhancing relationships with your agents.

TAG: How and why has channel management changed over time? 
DD: Well, for one, the importance placed on channels within the telecommunications marketplace has increased. Channels have proven themselves in many other industries to be a cost-effective way of getting products and services to a greater base of customers. Today, many organizations are cutting their fixed costs but must still show growth channels are an effective way for them to do that.

Secondly, the tools used to manage channels have changed. It is no longer enough to build a channel around e-mail and spreadsheets. Channel programs, with their abundance of service and product offerings, are too complex and dynamic to manage in this fashion. Without the right infrastructure, the right channel program with the right partners can still fail.
Thirdly, increased competition for channel partners is occurring. More providers are looking to attract agencies, and the result is that agents are demanding more in order to do business. Providers need to do more than in the past to win agents and the business they bring in. 

TAG: What are the main market drivers today for implementing partner relationship management [PRM] systems?
DD: It really comes down to two things. The first is revenue growth. In order to attract the best agents, companies need to offer tools and an environment that makes it easy for them to do business with. The second is cost-reduction. Market pressures are forcing companies to reduce the time and resources spent performing tasks, searching for information and performing manual actions that could be automated.

TAG: What do channel partners and vendors tell you they need?
DD: Channel partners say they need a vendor who is easy to do business with, they can trust, and when there is a problem, provides a quick and fair resolution.

Vendors say they need partners who understand their unique value proposition, can pre-qualify their customers and bring them the right opportunities, and, most importantly, can make their quotas.

TAG: Any difference in the two viewpoints?
DD: While they have different needs, at the end of the day, they really want the same thing a profitable business. The trick is satisfying the other partys needs in a way that leads to a bigger bottom line. If vendors and master agents invest in the necessary systems and processes to make themselves more responsive, they will attract the best agents, their agents will do more business with them and they will spend less on support.

TAG: How important is commissions tracking and why?
DD: It comes down to two things trust and money. Running an agency is a cash flow business. An agencys bills have to come out of their pocket whether their provider pays them or not. If commissions are calculated incorrectly it costs more than just the difference from the correct amount. It results in lost selling time on both sides to resolve the problem. Agents will spend more of their valuable revenue-generating time double-checking their commission statements, looking for inaccuracies and tracking down the source. It also creates an environment of mistrust. Agents will be less likely to place their business with providers they feel dont pay accurately, or on time. In every conversation weve had with agents, commission payment and reporting comes up as one of their main pain points. So clearly, if this is something thats being continuously discussed, not enough is being done today.

TAG: What can we expect to see in this space in the next 12 months? 
DD: Well see a blurring of lines between commissions management and channel management. Managing commissions properly is the most important aspect of effective channel management. If you cant do that right, you wont have a channel to manage.
Well also see software tools that continue to improve the efficiency of internal processes. With a lot of companies offering similar value propositions, process efficiency can be the key differentiator.

We will be less likely to see investment in tools for collecting prospecting information from agents, marketing to agents and training agents in an attempt to decrease costs and increase revenues. The key reason is that these tools are not indicated as important to agents. They just wont use them. While providers and master agents like to understand the prospecting funnel and promote product information to selling agents, these are not the things that agents are asking for. The key to doing more business is to deliver what the agents want. This means providing timely information to agents that will allow them to deliver value to their customers and make running their business easier. 

TAG: Where does the long-term future of commissions tracking lie?
DD: The goal of commissions is to direct and drive sales behavior. Youll see more functionality related to forecasting and modeling — to enable better decisions in compensation plans upfront, so that sales channels are properly aligned strategically. Youll also see a greater emphasis on tracking sales metrics and tying compensation to these. This is especially true for internal support staff and managers who will face greater accountability for their effectiveness in supporting sales channels.

In addition, as alternate channels continue to grow revenues for their vendors, youll see an increase in channel conflict between the direct and indirect sides. Vendors will need an integrated commission management system that supports channels working together and provides a clear picture of sales compensation for the entire organization.

Finally, youll see more direct integration with systems such as billing and CRM, to create a complete view of the enterprise, reduce and even eliminate data re-entry, and increase access to critical business information. 

TAG: Tell me a little about RPM’s specific solution.
DD: The RPM solution has been designed specifically around addressing internal costs and delivering increased value to partners. This has meant an evolution from addressing the problem of commission management to including work flow automation, status reporting on things like quotes, orders and provisioning, and trouble-ticket management. The solution also has been designed to minimize or eliminate the custom development typically required with other solutions to make it work for any type or size of business. Too many companies have been burned by the high cost of software with no return on the investment. Weve tailored our solution to be affordable and demonstrate a high ROI in a very short time to companies of all sizes. With our ASP [hosted] offering, our customers get absolutely everything they need with no hidden costs, for as little as a few hundred dollars a month. 

The real testament to the value of RPM is how our customers are using it. By eliminating the problems associated with commissions, theyre now free to focus on other aspects of their business. Theyre using the process management features of RPM to model or even re-engineer their entire back office to enhance the value being delivered to their partners, suppliers and customers. Its been a major success for every company thats implemented it.

Dana Dwyer[bold] is the president of RPM Software, a company he co-founded with Bill Boyd, vice president of business development. Both come from an agency background, having founded Bandwidth Place, a master agency focused on Canadian call centers and Canada U.S. cross-border data traffic.
RPM Software, based in Calgary, Alberta, develops Web-based applications based on Microsoft Corp.s .NET architecture. It offers commission and process management software, and services for master agents, resellers and service providers in the telecommunications industry.

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