It's terribly embarrassing to admit this, but I just discovered over the holidays that the PC I have at home has just celebrated its fourth birthday. Meanwhile, I have gone through at least three smart phones, mainly because I'm an information junkie when I'm not at home.
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I'm not bringing this up because I'm anticipating a wave of hardware upgrades in the channel. Rather, this revelation got me to wondering about all the various systems being put in place this year by vendors to help better manage their channel program efforts. Many have been promised for some time, but the buildout has proven tricky. Systems to track customer satisfaction, systems to manage market development funds, systems to track leads, and, as CRN Editor in Chief Michael Vizard writes in his column this week, systems for assessing who actually created the demand that stimulates a particular sale. Some vendors, like Microsoft, are taking things one step further by creating customer-focused Web sites that they eventually hope to link back into those aimed at their partners. Ambitious.
One thing that perplexes me is how on earth solution providers manage to manage all these different vendor-focused portals, especially if you're specifying a solution that happens to include a dozen or so products. Some of you, of course, have resorted to hiring personnel to handle these relationships to get the most out of them. Others pick your battles with a couple of key suppliers. And I'm sure some of you just don't bother. By the way, I haven't even mentioned all the sites your distributors expect you to use regularly.
Since we're probably all in the process of making some belated New Year's resolutions, here's a suggestion: Resolve to step back and take a closer look at which vendors are providing true value with their partner portals. If you're dealing with more than one division of a particular company, is there good cross-pollination of information? Does it save you time on administration or make things tougher? Is there a clear escalation strategy where you can take your issue to a human? I'm sure you can come up with your own gauges of success.
Winning and keeping projects comes down to execution. If instinct serves me, many of you will be too busy with clients this year to deal with systems or programs that are less than perfect.
How system-savvy are you? HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, welcomes your letters and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.