The Plight Of Partner Portals

We are well past a decade of investment in partner portals, and the only thing we have to show for it is a neverending expansion of information that is hard to find, largely useless and, were it not for deal registration on the sites, would be hardly ever visited.

Deal registration, which may have been originally launched with good intentions, has become nothing more than a forecasting tool for vendors -- partners know it and the suppliers know it. Sure it was originally launched to help partners get special pricing on competitive bids. This came as a result of vendors finally figuring out that when they gave special pricing to partners in competitive bids, they were often competing against other partners that were bidding the same manufacturer’s product. So in the end, the supplier was bidding against itself, and everyone’s margin was tanking. The only winner was the end user.

I’m not arguing that partner portals are useless; I’m arguing they are mostly useless. Just because a manufacturer spends a lot of money on something doesn’t mean it can accomplish what it’s designed to do. So after spending millions creating and managing these partner portals, and building support staffs to feed the monster, it’s unlikely we will see them go away for a simple reason: They answer a question of where to find information.

One big problem with portals moving forward is we are moving down a path where increasingly information finds us rather than us it.

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The ideal portal should be constructed by the user and return useful information, not clutter. There certainly are some interesting developments happening on the Web that are enabling us to have what we need delivered to us. I’m not referring to social media and other such sites that say things like “We are the Facebook of the channel,” or “We use the power of social media to aggregate information on the portal.” I’m referring to offerings like Flipboard and Zyte that are largely being written in the publishing world and build customized offerings based on what an information gatherer wants to see.

Portals could become more relevant to the partners they are intended to support if they were reconstructed from the ground up with the user in mind. They should only provide what the partner needs, not what the manufacturer believes they want or has a desire to put in front of them.

They also should be built with mobility in mind and optimized for devices other than PCs, such as tablets and smartphones. Today, we all want the information we need when we want it and on the device that is most convenient to us at that moment. It’s a tall order but an increasingly necessary one.

In the end, high-tech suppliers will continue to build out partner portals and cram more information into them every year because that’s what they do.

Partners, on the other hand, will continue to access the portals in very narrow ways only because they are forced to. And they will do so as infrequently as possible because that’s what they do.

I, however, will continue to have discussions with suppliers who ask, “How do I get more traffic on my partner portal?” Who said the partner portal is dead?

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of UBM Channel. You can contact him via email at [email protected].