Will it help to accelerate your channel by scoring your VAR Channel Partners?

I wrote about the creation of an effective channel program for VARs in my previous blog entry and explained how SolidWorks made a decision to really understand its channel partners, their strengths and weaknesses. What SolidWorks also did was to rank its partners and the question that we of course have is how to make all of this happen. There are a myriad different ways to rank things but what SolidWorks decided to do was to create a derivate of GE Marketing Management Model that enabled them to rank the channel partners.

Based on the analysis from David Skok, clustering the partners based on different criteria helped SolidWorks tremendously to see where to put their focus on and also create a plan how to help its VAR channel.

The criteria that they put together was based on a numeric score (from 1 to 5) and the questions were based on factors such as “Do you have a dedicated sales manager?”, “What percentage of your sales representatives has attended formal sales training?”… I am sure you get the point here… Read more about the questions in the excellent blog by David Skok.

What the interview process revealed was that most of the VAR channel partners did not have written  documents capturing the business plans or any system to track the performance. Furthermore, the business leaders had for the most part a good and solid understanding of their business, but the lack of written procedures and documentation prohibits these organizations to scale and grow.

What was also interesting in the analysis of SolidWorks Channel Partners was that not all of the VAR channel partners bought into the improvement program of different reasons: some just couldn’t and some just did not want to. This is a very tough question to any ISV: should I kick out the channel partner from the program if it does not show its readiness for investment? What if I walk away from considerable revenue source if I do that?

I have built and managed channels throughout my career and I have to say that it is very hard to provide one simple formula for success. What I can say though is that an ISV has to treat its channel partner almost as part of the ISV organization itself. I have seen too many organizations mistreat its channel in many different ways, everything from competing with its direct sales to changing terms during the sales process. Those are things that will cause trouble for the ISV sooner than later.

I have soon lived half of my life in the US (second half in Europe) and I can confidently say that even if the the world is large, it is extremely small in respect to each industry. Europeans see US as a huge market (which it is), but the players are still pretty much known. I know the Microsoft ecosystem and I would be tempted to say that many know me and my company as well. It is the years of collaboration on multiple different levels that has made this happen. I think this is extremely fascinating to think about and it is also a tremendous opportunity for any ISV to grown and build its channel. There is a simple rule to this: “treat your channel as you would treat your own people, and you will see that your interests are aligned”. Nothing else matters.

It the last and final blog entry about SolidWorks, I will summarize the findings, and recommendations of their channel program.

Stay tuned for more….

How to become successful with your Channel–a case study to learn from?

In my yesterday’s blog entry, I gave a few hints of channel development and what kind of things the software vendors should avoid.

Today, I thought to share some perspectives on a case study that David Skok gives in his excellent blog entry.  Like in my previous blog entry, I will give my perspective on the findings of this case study.

The case study software company is SolidWorks and this company is specifically known within modeling for mechanical design. This company grew rapidly and one of the key reasons was an effective and well-managed VAR channel. According to the blog, the success of the channel was based on three distinctive phases:

  1. Hiring an executive that had been part of the channel in the past, so this person really understood the channel and how a VAR business works.
  2. Understanding that the success of SolidWorks
  3. Realizing that the VAR channel as an un-optimized  resource and how decide that it was worthwhile for SolidWorks to educate its channel on business skills. This meant every aspect of the business, almost like a mini-MBA

During the spring/summer 2012 I did some research in the VAR/MSP channel and one of the findings was that a key obstacle for many VARs and MSPs specifically in moving the cloud business is lack of expertise and the business model was seen to be unclear like can be seen in following picture (Source: CTTA 2012):

Obstacles in moving to cloud-2012

The latter is specifically relevant to the discussion of SolidWorks and what they did to make the channel successful. What happened in the case of SolidWorks was that the channel account teams became business mentors for the VARs and educating them to run a better business. In retrospect, I think this is exactly what ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini is trying to do with its resellers in its annual User Group Meeting IT Nation in the beautiful Orlando, Florida in November 2012.

He even brought in my favorite author Jim Collins that has written many bestselling business books and the latest book “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All” was given to all conference attendees.

I had the opportunity to hear Jim Collins keynote and I think it was one of the best speeches I have heard in my life. He brought up things in an interesting way and without every loosing the audience in the session.

In the next few blog entries, I will review what a good VAR channel program should look like and what kind of VAR development program did SolidWorks have to run its VAR business. I will also give my own add to this by looking it from a Business Model Canvas perspective which we use every day for everything we analyze in respect to Business Models. Stay tuned for more!