Partners: Collaborate, Strategize as Channel Changes

The times, they are a-changing. And partners shouldn’t run from or fear that change, said Tiffani Bova, who presents the Fall 2008 Channel Partners Conference & Expo Industry Address. That’s because partners can understand industry trends and do some strategic business planning to establish a competitive edge, all of which Bova will discuss.

“Solutions that made you money three to five years ago may not be where to focus in the future,” said Bova, research vice president of indirect channel programs and sales strategies for research firm Gartner Inc. “Channel companies must be open to evolving their business to stay relevant, competitive and innovative.”

One way of doing that is to make the most of a recent trend: partner-to-partner collaboration, Bova said. “As partners continue to get more specialized around certain solutions, while customers are still demanding one provider handle a project, partners must reach out to work with other companies in order to meet [the deadline],” she explained.

This approach is proving so effective that some industry players are facilitating partner-to-partner teamwork, a strategy that benefits partners, customers and provisioners alike. For example, Cisco Systems Inc. last fall started the Cisco Industry Solutions Partner Network. The program matches partners, application providers, device makers and others working on projects they might not be able to complete on time working alone.

Bova will address how this type of partnering helps the channel as well as how new types of partners are changing the channel ecosystem dynamics. She’ll also emphasize business consulting over mere technology consulting. And, finally, Bova will talk about alternative delivery and acquisition models – that is, how customers buy, what they buy and how those patterns are changing.

“As vendors continue to respond to market demand around ‘as-a-service’ offerings, channel companies will face a crossroads to determine how much, if any, they are willing to invest in these new models,” Bova said.

That’s where smart business planning comes in (see table below). “If the company is rallied around a strategy, there is a greater chance of success,” said Bova. “But if a plan is not formalized and communicated, how can an organization mobilize?”

Business-Planning Strategy Dos and Dont’s

Do Don’t
Hold a formal business planning session bi-annually or annually Go after too many opportunities at once
Write down your business plan Change strategy every six months – give a strategy a chance before deciding it doesn’t work
Share the business plan with everyone in the organization Not have a strategy

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