One year ago, I wrote a blog entry titled “Can PS Partner?” It was a response to recent data TSIA had gathered on how embedded PS organizations were working with sub-contractors, System Integrators (SIs), and Value Added Resellers (VARs). The data clearly showed the embedded PS organizations struggle in working with and enabling SIs and VARs. Since that entry, I have spent more time with member companies on this topic of successfully engaging service partners, and there are two key observations that have emerged from that work.
Challenge #1: Signing vs. Enabling
The first barrier I see when product companies fail to successfully leverage service partners is related to TRUE enablement. Every product company has someone responsible for signing new services partners that could potentially resell company products. However, signing partners is only the beginning of a journey. Next, partners need trained on both product and service offerings. Now, I must admit, almost every product company I know has programs that train partners on offerings. Yet, training is also just another step in the journey. The complete journey of partner enablement would involve best practice activities such as:
- Market Sizing: Before asking partners to invest in training their staff to deliver specific services, the services organization should be sizing the market opportunity for those services.
- Setting the Capture Rate: Embedded: service organizations rarely are sized to serve the entire service opportunity created the sales of company products. This is why service delivery partners are so critical. To help reduce conflict, services organizations should clearly define not only the estimated total service opportunity created by company products, but the services organization should define what percentage of that total opportunity they intend to capture directly. This analysis aligns the revenue objectives of the services organization with the reality of the market and helps partners understand how much service opportunity is left to be served.
- Skills Forecasting for Partners: Beyond market sizing and sales pipeline data, partners benefit from guidance on what specific skills will be in the greatest demand so that hiring and training efforts can align to that demand.
- Reviewing Delivery Quality: Beyond customer satisfaction data, the actual quality of service engagements delivered by partners should be periodically reviewed. Are products being deployed correctly? Are all aspects of services offerings being executed? Are the quality of customer deliverables meeting company standards?
- Joint Solution Development: Partners have unique expertise that can and should be leveraged to develop differentiated service offerings.
These are just some of the best practices in partner enablement that are documented in TSIA’s development program for service organizations. I see time and time again where product companies have massive gaps between their current partner practices and known best practices required for TRUE partner enablement.
Challenge #2: Ownership of Partners
The second barrier to successfully enabling service partners is related to organizational structure. If I asked the question: “Who owns service partner success in your company?” how would you respond? “Let’s see, our Alliance team is responsible for signing up new service partners. Um, Education Services is responsible for training partners on product capabilities. Oh, and Professional Services is supposed to share best practices with partners.” OK, but WHO REALLY OWNS PARTNER SUCCESS? What group owns the types of partner success tactics itemized earlier in this blog? Often, the answer is no one. And this is a problem.
So, let’s end this blog with a quick poll. Who do you think should REALLY own the success of service partners? Your existing Alliance or Partner organization that signs partners? Education Services because they do the training? Professional Services because they ultimately have to work out solution success? Or a separate group, focused specifically on partner management and enablement? Let me know your thoughts.