10 Bad Solution Provider Habits That Really Irk Vendors

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It's all well and good to keep your existing customers happy with red-carpet service, maybe even boosting sales with cross-sell and upsell opportunities. But that's all some channel partners do, and that drives IT vendors crazy.

"You'd think they'd want to find new customers to grow," said the executive at the New York-based software company.

Some vendors offer financial assistance and marketing resources to help identify new customers. That makes sense, since it takes time and money to hunt for customer prospects. But some solution providers are content to just serve their existing customers and don't take advantage of those offers.


For one channel executive, the biggest thing a solution provider can do to strain a relationship is stagnate. With much of the industry pushing toward new business models built on the recurring revenue model of cloud services, some partners are still hesitant to move toward the cloud.

"Don't fight the trends. My business is usually on the bleeding edge of things … I see partners from my point of view losing significant business opportunity," said a channel executive from a large Silicon Valley technology vendor, who asked not to be identified. "[Our philosophy] is to get there early so no one can catch you. I would like to see more of that DNA in our partners."

Some partners are slow to move because they don't believe the market is really in transition, the executive said.

"I attribute it to [the attitude some partners have]: 'My model has been working great for 10 years, I'm not convinced it's broken, I'm not convinced the market is transitioning. I think it's the economy … I'm going to wait and see.' [My] fear is if they wait too long, they won't catch up."

As technology vendors move to transition from a box-based sales model to a SaaS- or cloud-based model, it's crucial that partners move with them, the executive said.

"If we together don't make that transition, it's going to be painful for everybody," the executive said.

He isn't alone in his disappointment. Only about 25 percent of Microsoft's partners have expanded into cloud computing, Microsoft channel chief Jon Roskill told CRN at the vendor's Worldwide Partner Conference earlier this month. Microsoft executives have been prodding partners for five years to expand into cloud computing and they were clearly disappointed with the 25 percent adoption rate.


This could be a subset of the "avoiding cloud computing" issue, but several vendors say some solution providers focus too much on technical implementation services at the expense of other services, such as business process consulting, they could provide to customers.

The problem is most acute with SaaS applications that don't need nearly as much implementation work as on-premise applications, said Doug Dennerline, CEO of Alfresco, a developer of open-source content management software. Alfresco offers both cloud and on-premise versions of its product and Dennerline thinks the problem is that some solution providers just haven't figured out SaaS -- so they fall back on the implementation skills they know.


Most of the major IT vendors, including Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, offer partners the opportunity to become trained and certified around specific technologies. And vendor executives routinely implore solution providers at partner conferences to take advantage of those offers, touting the certifications as vendor "Good Housekeeping Seals of Approval" that help partners promote their expertise.

"There's a lot of money to be made by [partners] by leveraging all the capabilities we're putting in place," said Rod Adkins, then head of IBM's Systems and Technology Group, talking up the vendor's partner certification offerings in an interview at the PartnerWorld Leadership Conference earlier this year.

Several channel executives interviewed for this story expressed bewilderment that more channel partners don't take advantage of the certification opportunities.

Certifications, as a pet peeve, seem to work both ways. Solution providers interviewed for the prequel to this story cited them as one of the annoyances they face when working with vendors. There are too many certification programs to keep track of, they say, certifications cost them time and money, and they require commitments to vendors that border on de facto vendor lock-in.

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