RIM To Deploy ChannelWave PRM Upgrade

New version to help users measure sales, partner performance

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Research in Motion this fall will begin implementing version 6.0 of ChannelWave Software partner relationship management software, which is expected to become generally available in August. Don Morrison, COO for the vendor that makes the BlackBerry wireless handheld devices, says his company has been using versions of the software for the last couple of years to help it create competitive advantages by maintaining close contact with its network of 300 carrier, reseller, and systems-integrator partners.

In February, RIM went live on ChannelWave version 5.5, a point release that includes some of the capabilities that will be fully implemented in version 6. Features in versions 5.5 and 6 will help RIM get better at capturing information and identifying performance metrics--such as measuring the effectiveness of specific campaigns--as well as being able to share that information with the partners that sell and distribute its products, Morrison says. Version 6.0 of the software lets users track sales performance against targets and create scorecards to measure partner performance. With the new version, RIM can link back to its SAP system to import order data for use in determining metrics to evaluate channel sales.

As RIM grows, so, too, does its need for effective channel management. For instance, the company has gone from having signed as partners two carriers in the United States and two in Canada in the last couple of years to more than 30 carriers worldwide; it's now looking at developing a presence in China, too. "We're needing to scale the business and reach out to thousands of sales reps and technical reps out there working on their behalf and ours," Morrison says. It's taking advantage of such new features as French and German language support and internationalized currency capabilities as part of its worldwide growth efforts.

A conventional CRM package couldn't have delivered what RIM needs to work effectively with partners, Morrison says. Its partners require portals with front-end applications tailored specifically to their needs. "Some vendors are trying to kludge CRM into PRM and it doesn't fly," he says. "The processes you have for supporting your channels have to be enhanced by specific applications like lead management, sales tools, presentation materials and success stories." Morrison says RIM's role is to be the "yenta" to help channel partners grow their business. That means, for example, that a carrier partner must be able to search via its portal site and find the systems integrators they can work with to provide a solution for a sales lead, for instance.

RIM says it has 3,500-plus active users of its ChannelWave deployment today. Two weeks after it first deployed the software, it saw the frequency of visits and use increase by 535% compared with the previous solution it was running for its partner site. In its most recent quarter ended in May, RIM did 81,000 net new activations, up from 70,000 in the previous quarter; Morrison says it's on track to beat 80,000 this quarter.

ChannelWave says the new version of the J2EE-based software, aimed at high-tech and telecom companies, now supports both indirect and direct sales forces; multiple tiers of vendors, business units, and sales channels with leads, forecasting, communications, and branding; a single sign-on infrastructure; and an enhanced software development kit for easier creation of extended functionality, customization, and integration. "The technology is flexible versus client server. When you do everything on a Web server and make the software highly configurable to a specific business problem of selling through multiple tiers, it's pretty easy to model the structure of the business," says ChannelWave president and CEO Christian Heidelberger.

RIM helped ChannelWave determine some of the functionality that's appearing in version 6 of the product; though the companies don't have a formal partnership, they expect to work together formally in the future to develop strategies and offerings for wireless deployments of PRM applications. There's already a prototype for this functionality. "The benefit is the immediacy of information," Morrison says. "Being able to take advantage of a sales lead faster than competitors is a good thing." In addition to sales leads and alerts, the BlackBerry-enabled wireless applications will include profile and account information and eventually capabilities such as being able to view order status.

This story courtesy of InformationWeek.

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