Big Data and the Channel: What You Need to Know

Scott HerronBy Scott Herron

Big data is like a crystal ball: When properly utilized, it is capable of allowing channel partners to see into the future to know what their customers want even before they do.

What is big data? It exists across unstructured and structured data sets, which include everything from Word and PDF files, to email messages, video, audio, photos and even enterprise-class database systems. Its called big data because it can scale to multiple petabytes, with additional files constantly being created and added to the collection. Each company has their own big-data repository, but the ecosystem that makes up this extensive volume of information can extend out to vendors, distributors and channel partners.

Channel Set to Play Big Role in Big-Data Equation

In the past few years, the business world has discovered that traditional database-management tools are not equipped to handle the volume and reach of big data, which emanates from a wide variety of sources and encompasses a complex array of data types. Thats why new methods for tapping into its potential are emerging, and those manufacturers that have put in place specialized analytical systems and broad-based, multi-structured data mining, cleansing and management platforms are now reaping the rewards. These innovative technologies are driving sales success with newfound ways to analyze customer buying patterns to predict what might be purchased next; to track product life cycles to understand the most optimum timeframes for technology refresh sales; and to monitor service contract expirations to ensure timely renewal offers are made. Armed with this information, businesses have the capability to reach out to the right customer at the right time using a sales pitch that is precisely in tune with the customers needs.

The channel, with its close proximity to the customer, is well positioned to play an important role in the big data equation. Vendors would be remiss if they did not leverage their resellers as well as the data sources these partners rely upon day in and day out such as ordering, sales and CRM platforms to further fuel big-data initiatives. Some big-data systems are already doing this and are currently in use in the channel today in the form of pioneering cloud-based service contract management platforms that pull valuable data from across the supply chain, ultimately using it as the backbone of automated and enhanced global sales processes that generate millions of dollars in incremental revenue for resellers.

Capitalizing on Customers Big-Data Initiatives

In the coming years, even small-to-midsize businesses (SMB) will see the value of investing in big data systems that will drive increased sales. Demand will rise for platforms that can pull together everything a business needs to more effectively reach out to customers to close a deal from accurate contact details, to histories of products and services purchased, to suggestions for related follow-on sales.

To make the most of this opportunity, savvy resellers should invest in the skill sets that will be required for putting these platforms, tools and technologies in place and even managing them over time for their customers.  Indeed, making big-data technologies and services a part of a channel practice or portfolio of offerings might very well be a direction that the market will take.

Theres clearly no better time than the present to get a handle on big data. Reach out to your vendors and distributors to find out how you can latch on to their new and emerging programs, and make a point to prepare your firm for the demands that your customers will have as they push forward with their own big data initiatives.

Scott Herron is president and chief executive officer of MaintenanceNet, a provider of cloud-based service contract management platforms.  At
MaintenanceNet, Herron drives the ideas and innovation that empower
the worlds leading manufacturers and their channel partners to expand the scope and success of their service sales initiatives .

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