The 2012 IPED Study on Partner Enablement reinforced the importance of vendor-provided technical product education, even as education requirements are changing in light of blended VAR-MSP hybrid business models and the growth of pure hosters in the reseller ecosystem.
Before we dug into enablement trends, we backtracked for a partner inquiry into the trend toward vendor partner programs tied to partner capabilities rather than revenue volumes. In most cases, capability-based programs are built on vendor product certifications or specializations.
Solution providers who added a new vendor or capability to their line card, were most comfortable with capability- based partner programs or, more frequently, partner programs where a hybrid of revenue and capabilities were required to graduate to higher levels within the programs.
It’s no surprise that resellers who had achieved the highest levels of vendor programs, where graduation to higher levels was heavily weighted toward revenue volume, did not favor a change to capability-based programs. These resellers had typically achieved a revenue run-rate with the vendor, ensuring a discount advantage over other resellers qualifying at lower program levels. It is difficult for new partners to penetrate these volume-based ecosystems that typically result in the big or well-funded resellers getting bigger while the new or small resellers opt for strategic relationships with lesser known brands in exchange for the opportunity to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond with corresponding big-fish benefits.
When it came to education, solution providers scored vendor-provided technical training first and sales training second, ahead of other training disciplines. Further, solution providers indicated an expectation that vendors fund tuition or offer the ability to utilize vendor-provided co-op or business development funds.
New business models yielded new enablement requirements.
Managed service providers (MSPs) and larger commercial hosters or service providers voiced new expectations with regard to sales training. MSPs articulated the need for a 20-minute to 60-minute product sales training curriculum. The shorter, more focused curriculum was tied to the need to guarantee customers products used to deliver a service, though stopping short of actually selling the product to the customer as a reseller would do. In a similar fashion, hosting specific technical support emerged as a requirement for hosters or service providers. The need for fee-based, fast-track technical support access was deemed critical to the ability to publish and deliver on high-availability data center service levels. The fee is intended to be priced into the service level agreement (SLA) and, in effect, be passed on to the customer.
Business model transformation (BMT) training led marketing in terms of other disciplines solution providers required to succeed and lead their businesses. BMT curriculum reviews critical plans and tactics for transitioning from break/ fix contracts to monthly service billing, adding monthly mobile device management, hosted or cloud-based recurring revenue services to solution provider line cards.
We noted an interesting trend regarding preferred sources of BMT training. Solution providers new to recurring revenue in the last 12 to 18 months faced with changing from project-based to recurring SLA revenue were willing to choose cloud-service provider offerings to “white label,” based on the availability of BMT training from the vendor.
If this study reflects your needs, make your vendor partners aware. It’s time for vendors, supporting any type of recurring revenue offering, to update their partner programs.
BACKTALK: Contact SVP, IPED, UBM Channel Rauline Ochs via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.