The benefits of transitioning partners to the cloud have been discussed ad nauseam–there are significant opportunities for value add services, recurring revenue streams and annuities, and so on. But what has been a key area of focus for us at AMI-Partners has been the topic of partner enablement. That is, how can vendors support partners in their journey towards the cloud?
AMI’s Cloud Partner Benchmarking Tool examines this key question. We have developed a set of metrics and Key Perfomance Indicatiors (KPIs) to help vendors benchmark and score their partners against what a Best-in-Class partner would look like. Without giving too much away, some of these metrics include the sales and marketing techniques partners use to sell cloud and the investments they are making over the next year. Once vendors have assessed where their partners lie on the transformation scale–a scale that measures how far along the journey to the cloud partners’ are– vendors can tactically decide what steps to take to help partners move up the scale. With this in mind, I thought it would interesting to examine a few real world examples of what sort of actions vendors are taking to transition or enable partners.
The first vendor under the microscope is IBM. IBM takes a 3 pronged approach to enabling its partner base: Assess, Enable & Monetize.
- Assess – Here, IBM does a self assessment (similar to AMI’s Benchmarking Tool) to understand what solutions and areas of expertise the partner has. Then they create a report specific to that partner with goals, targets, and expectations.
- Enable – After the assessment stage, IBM helps partners (especially independent software vendors or ISVs) to enable and extend their existing applications to the cloud. IBM also offers new pricing models such as monthly software rentals to help partners drive new deals.
- Monetize – Now that partners are cloud ready, they need help in winning deals. To that end, IBM offers partners access to IBM co-marketing funds and leads.
The second vendor I want to take a look at is Avaya. Now of course, Avaya and IBM aren’t direct competitors, but it is interesting to note the similar approaches they take to enable partners. Avaya also has a similar 3 stage approach:
- Create growth for partners – To help SMB focused partners create growth, Avaya has created a cloud affiliate program (called Avaya Live Connect). This program enables Avaya to offer their highly anticipated mobile collaboration applications through the channel partners.
- Improve ease of doing business – Avaya has created design tools to help partners provide quotes for vertical specific clients, such as Professional Services with the goal of reducing turnaround time. Avaya is also providing coursework & exams to improve technical expertise and marketing programs for partners offering unified communication (UC) solutions.
- Improve access to Avaya resources/support – Previously, Avaya partners were dissatisfied with Avaya’s online resources. To improve upon this, Avaya is launching a new partner portal with improved usability. The improved search functions will make it easier for partners to find the specific resources they are looking for.
As I previously mentioned IBM and Avaya are not direct competitors by any means. However, they both have similar strategies to enable partners to transition their business to the cloud and to be effective in selling the cloud once they are there. Now, these are just two examples of what we are beginning to see in the partner ecosystem.
Overall, AMI has found that there are 3 key areas for vendors to focus on in order to successfully transition their partners to the cloud. Vendors should:
- Help partners invest internally to enhance their cloud expertise. This will help partners maintain a dedicated workforce that focuses on cloud business.
- Provide support to create symbiotic relationships, which will allow partners to set cloud sales goals and obtain the necessary sales tools to succeed.
- Develop proactive marketing strategies to engage clients. Promoting cloud services through hands-on marketing activities while keeping the SMB end users in mind will provide partners with a distinct advantage.
Most vendors have already begun to take the necessary steps to transition their partners. But those who are lagging may be left behind for good.
-Rohan Bose, Associate