Welcome to 2016! The beginning of a new year is a great time to look at your business and think about the priorities for the year ahead. The old adage ‘Failing to plan means planning to fail’ really could not be more true.
For many, the planning process can be a bit daunting, but in essence it comes down to looking at the following four factors:
Tip number one for all in the channel is to set aside half a day at a minimum with key stakeholders in the business (or business unit) to look at these four questions. This is simply good business practice as it is critical to work on the business, not just in the business.
Given we are a channel consulting business however, let’s look at some ideas to consider for the New Year from a channel perspective. Here are some thoughts and tips that we have picked up from the various research or consulting projects we conducted last year.
Vendor Ideas For 2016
For vendors it is all about the partner program. So our number one tip for vendors is:
1. Program understanding and utilisation
A number of vendors had quite significant changes to their partner programs last year. Also, given that January is the start of a new fiscal year for most of the US vendors, we anticipate that there will be more changes coming. The number one thing we hear from partners is that program rules, profit opportunities and funding requirements such as MDF are not well articulated or understood. Therefore it is fair to conclude that these programs are often not able to be fully utilised by those that are eligible.
In summary, don’t assume that the majority of partners (or the majority of people within the partner) know enough about the program to maximise their engagement or returns and therefore their “stickiness” to you.
The second tip is not to assume the largest or top tier partners are the most important from an incremental revenue perspective.
The program is essentially a set of business rules that both parties agree to abide by, mostly. However, the limitation of many partner programs is that they tend to pigeon-hole partners to a size/tier/capability/market etc. .
Some partners may never want to make the investment or commitment to go up a tier (eg. Silver to Gold) but have great growth or vertical market potential that can remain untapped if all that is considered is the program criteria.
Therefore the second tip for vendors is to look beyond the program where there is a partner with great fit for your products, services or technology. Often when it comes to these partners with a bit of focus and encouragement they can deliver solid revenue (and partner profit) yet they may not be the largest or top tier partner today.
Distributor Ideas For 2016
An observation from the work we did with a number of vendors and distributors last year was that many distributors made a significant investment in their portals or automation systems around cloud/XaaS tools, online capabilities and new or changed vendor line ups.
Therefore, in a similar vein to the tips provided for vendors, ensure that the partner base is actively aware of the capabilities that you offer, including any changes to the vendor portfolio, and perhaps look beyond the obvious core customers.
With the growth of cloud and annuity revenue set to continue in 2016, there is a huge opportunity for distributors that have launched these types of aggregation, orchestration and customer lifecycle management services to grow their partner base.
Many resellers are also looking for help to transition their existing business to be more annuity/cloud centric. Last year’s roadshows and announcement emails are now long forgotten, and distribution is often best placed to assist partners with these new tools and vendor line ups, so communicate these messages again.
Reseller Ideas For 2016
Customers’ requirements or expectations of their technology partners have changed significantly in the last few years, especially around Cloud & XaaS offerings. Additionally there have been huge changes with maturing technologies such as flash, hyper converged, analytics etc. With change comes opportunity.
We were recently facilitating a partner offsite planning event and I asked the following questions:
1. Who are your strategic vendors and distributors and why?
2. Do they still align with the needs of your business and those of your clients?
3. Do you prioritise how you engage with vendors/suppliers to maximise your potential to your customers?
The answer was clear around a couple of key vendors for the first question, but there were more “I am not sure we know” and “no we don’t really” answers to the second two.
Therefore, the tip for resellers is to look at the vendor portfolio and assess the current supplier fit. Prioritise or categorise the vendors or suppliers from a technology, engagement/support, and a business profitability perspective. You need a clear picture of which vendors you should prioritise because of “best fit” and which ones should no longer be part of your line up.
The second part of this tip is then to communicate to the key vendors (or distributor representative) that they are a key vendor for you. Therefore, sit down with them and do the planning session we outlined around how they will engage and support you and of course your clients with these vendors or technologies. If they really are a key vendor and recognise this to be the case, then this should be a win/win scenario. They get the focus and you get the resources and assistance to grow or differentiate your offering, profitably.
The IT market and channel is a constantly changing environment with new products, technologies and associated markets, M&A’s, personnel, programs, compliance etc. Businesses that thrive are the ones that can see and plan around these opportunities and so invest appropriately. Successful businesses also however actively reassign resources to higher performing markets or opportunities rather than just hoping for the best..
Good luck and have a prosperous 2016.