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Does Vendor/Partner Business Planning Really Lead to Results?

by Beth Vanni, Vice President

If IT vendors and solution providers have learned anything from the turmoil of the past few years, it’s the importance of engaging in meaningful business planning – both individually and together.  As signs of recovery come into focus, it’s imperative that both vendors and solution providers understand their mutual dependencies and be able to anticipate each other’s plans and resources to set the stage for future growth.

Our 2011 State of Partnering Study identifies business planning as a highly strategic activity vendors plan to continue to engage in this year.  87% of our 100 vendor respondents said they would continue business planning with their more valued partners and another 48% said they would expand business planning to their next tier of developing partners.  They plan to accomplish two things:  a). better anticipate their partners’ business model evolution and help them navigate and b). assist with partner profitability.

But, does business planning really drive results? For either group?  If the process is highly collaborative, drives mutual accountability and resources and is not a one-time activity, the answer is “yes.”   The kind of results the average solution provider is looking to derive from this process typically includes the following:

  • More executive attention
  • More marketing support or funding
  • Better sales co-selling dynamics
  • Access to vendors’ field staff (sales and technical)
  • Sharing of sales, technical or services methodologies

In our ongoing work with solution providers, we hear first-hand about vendors that have this process down and with whom it drives tangible results. The more notable examples here are IBM, SAP, Oracle and EMC.   But, we still have new tools and planning “automation” popping up from a wide variety of vendors beyond these big market leaders.

When vendors engage in more basic “profiling” vs. real business planning, it’s often a wasted effort for both sides.   If the local channel sales manager is only interested in deals and pipeline and isn’t empowered and accountable to drive all support and resources locally for his/her partner, then business planning is a futile effort.   Conversely, if the solution provider isn’t ready to apply the same effort and resources to the process, the vendor will tune out and go elsewhere;  hence, the vendors’ historic focus for business planning with only their biggest and already-successful partners.

As the saying goes, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”  For 2011 and 2012, we think both solution providers and vendors should be more demanding and focused in their needs of each other than ever.   Assets cannot be wasted either, and solution providers need to make well informed decisions about investments with the trust and backing of their leading suppliers.  If business planning (as it’s currently being conducted) can facilitate those linkages, then more power to it!

You can access the Executive Brief of our 5th Annual State of Partnering Study here.  This is THE most comprehensive analysis of the IT vendor community’s plans and priorities for their channel partners.  

 

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