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Monday, 07 December 2015 17:10

Don’t forget your partners: How cloud technology can transform partner relationships

Posted By  Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor explains why companies must stop believing their IT challenges are unique to them and that their needs for scalability and interoperability are exclusive.

As businesses continue to look to disruptive innovation to induce growth, the pressure of faster, better and cheaper software can leave IT teams on constant lookout for new software for a number of specialist needs. Often there’s a natural temptation to put IT professionals to work on a custom development project. But for today’s companies, this is often the slowest and most expensive path to the market. In short, internally developed IT software is a decelerator to business.

After years of gaining popularity, software-as-a-service (SaaS) is becoming the main way that business access core applications. Gartner said recently that of the $149.9bn it estimates have been spent on enterprise application software in 2015, "the majority" will have gone towards modernising, replacing or extending existing business software using SaaS. But despite the benefits - such as operating expenditure and speed of deployment - when it comes to using the cloud service to improve partner relationships, the concept is a big conversation and the market has been slower to oblige.

Many companies remain mired in the misbelief that they know their unique requirements and technology platforms better than anyone else and no one else could “build it like they could.” A big case in point is the Partner Portal and Partner Relationship Management (PRM). Most companies address their partners through a portal, usually connected to their CRM, together with a set of technologies that serve their specialised functions such as MDF (Market Development Fund) distribution, lead distribution, and deal registration.

But while the specific modules used may vary, the process of wrapping these functions together into a world-class Partner Portal is surprisingly scalable and repeatable. Expert providers in the category know the standard sets of technologies that need to be integrated and how to connect the data with existing systems. Specialised experience has taught them the features that a great portal requires.

Ironically, though, as indirect channels continue to increase in importance, when the time comes to take technology support for partners to another level, a number of companies still opt to build their own portal in the mistaken belief they are alone in the challenges they face in servicing their partners. The onslaught of cloud together with increasing demands on business have meant that what passed for portals in the early 2000s (FTP sites, flat-file data repositories) is no longer sufficient in 2015.

Where partner relationships are suffering, however, the cloud service SaaS is now providing the answer. For example, Saas-based marketing/work management company Workfront (formerly AtTask) recently turned away from custom development and incorporated a modular SaaS solution to manage recent and explosive growth in their channel. Instead of building a portal, they snapped a turnkey offering in place. In only a couple of months they achieved a scalable solution that allowed them to retain focus on their core business while their channel revenue continued to rise unimpeded, all while leaving their IT team to focus on their core business.

“We were able to address the operational basics of our partnering in a way that has allowed us to grow much more smoothly,” said the company’s director of Partnerships and Alliances, Ed McGarr. “We needed a completed portal that would blend seamlessly with the branding and user experience of our corporate website.”

The Cisco Cloud Index 2014-19 found that by 2019, 56% of cloud workloads will be SaaS, up from 45% in 2014. The conclusion is clear: companies must stop believing their IT challenges are unique to them and that their needs for scalability and interoperability are exclusive.  Truth be told, you have less “unique” and more “in common” with the majority of companies today than you realise.  Thanks to the increasing “lego-isation” of IT, the modular SaaS model is replacing the final bastions of custom developed IT infrastructure as a better way to allow a business to grow – and crucially – allowing partners to grow with them.

About the author

Dave Taylor is CMO for Impartner and brings more than two decades of marketing experience and a legacy of success in building high-tech businesses to his role. He most recently served as vice president of marketing, product and corporate strategy at WatchGuard Technologies. Prior to WatchGuard, Taylor co-founded Sparxent, a rollup of value-added service providers in the mid-market space, which grew to more than $50M of annualised revenue within two years.

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