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3 Ways to Improve Your Next PRM Implementation


What I learned through a major migration, in mostly non-technical terms.

By Chris Smith, VP of Technology at PartnerPath

migration.jpgA few years out of college, back when I wore a tie every day, I worked on a massive system conversion implementation for a bank. The project was a 12-month slog ending with t-shirts that read, “I survived the Hermes system conversion.” Fast forward a few decades and another major migration project presented itself. PartnerPath is always looking to evolve our solutions and we decided to change our hosting environment. Our choice was prompted by a desire to take advantage of advancements in cloud hosting, including elastic scalability, load balancing, redundancy and other techie buzz terms. With the successful migration now behind us, I see parallels in how we administered our changes with how we encourage customers to approach PRM changes.

Moving from one hosting provider to another is no small feat and neither is implementing a new PRM system. Both can be fraught with challenges. But with the right approach, you can come out the other side with better systems in place – and hopefully without the need for an “I survived” t-shirt.

Here are three valuable lessons from our recent migration to keep in mind when it’s your turn to implement new systems and tools such as PRM:


1) Break it down.

If you’ve ever heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” you know the answer is always, “one bite at a time.” Most projects, particularly the more complex ones, are sequential. Don’t be overwhelmed by the giant task in front of you; whether your task has the complexity of a major system conversion or of launching a robust partner management system. Think of how to break the massive project into smaller tasks then organize those tasks into sequential order and get started.

For example, at PartnerPath we practice agile development and, using that approach, we broke the project into phases. One phase in our project was: “Set up a fully functioning development environment on the new host platform.” We broke each phase down further into its major components, called Epics in agile terminology. Epics represent a collection of related requirements that define the features of the desired system. Drilling down further, Epics are disaggregated into Stories which are further broken down into individual and assignable Tasks. Breaking the project into its smallest parts meant we could make progress toward the bigger goal without feeling completely overwhelmed.


Once you’ve decided to implement a new PRM system, think about the phases for setting up the PRM functionalities, giving access to internal teams and then for launching the tools for partners. Then break those phases down into smaller Epics, Stories and Tasks (to borrow terminology) so you can start from the smallest task and work your way toward completing the phase. Your PRM vendor can show you where to start in order to create a system unique to your products and services and ultimately just right for your partners. If you just say, “turn it on,” without following smaller steps to set it up properly, you’re going to be dissatisfied with the outcome. But conversely if you get overwhelmed by the enormity of the project you’ll never go live for partners.


2) Don’t be married to one idea.

Several months into our project we started seeing potential roadblocks to our architectural approach. To mitigate this risk, we decided to explore an alternative hosting architecture as a possible backup plan. It wasn’t long before we realized our backup option was far superior to our original approach and decided to change course in the middle of the project. This decision ultimately saved us months of additional time and cost, and has afforded ongoing benefits we would not otherwise have realized had we stayed married to our original approach.

When you’re working on PRM implementation, your goal may be to automate your existing partner workflows, only to discover you don’t have good processes. If the PRM you’ve chosen doesn’t support your workflow, take a moment to evaluate whether it’s the system that doesn’t work well, or whether your workflow should be changed. Automating your workflows should make your partner management processes more streamlined and easier, not more complicated. Approach the task with an open mind and always look for ways to support the end goal, a great partner experience. If you’re willing to adapt along the way, your partners will thank you (and sell more) when you roll out your new portal.

Your PRM system should be a living thing and evolve over time.

3) Have a rollback plan and test it!

For operation projects, it is always necessary to have a rollback plan (giant undo button) if things go sideways during your rollout. You should test your rollback prior to the planned release to confirm that your rollback plan can turn back time should things get wonky. For our project this meant doing a dress rehearsal of our Production release and mimicking a problem midway through the maintenance window so we could exercise the rollback strategy. Our rollback plan worked perfectly and gave the whole team peace of mind that we were 100% ready for our migration.

In the lengthy process of implementing new PRM systems, when it’s finally time to launch, your rollback plan is a solid UAT (user accepted testing) environment where internal teams can poke and prod to make sure the systems work as expected. Then you may want to soft launch with select partners to see how the system performs in practical application before you announce the new tools to all partners. Your PRM system should be a living thing and evolve over time with your program and your partners so it may never be perfect, but it will be an essential tool for happy channel teams and successful partners.


Get started.

With proper planning and consideration, it is possible to have very successful and mostly stress-free project launches. In our case, we had notified and planned for a 4-hour maintenance window with our customers but we were back up and running on an entirely new hosting environment and architecture in just over 45 minutes. As a result of all our planning and preparing, our PRM solution is hosted in a new state-of-the-art facility and taking advantage of new advancements in cloud hosting. We’re super proud of the engineers on our team who made the project happen and I must say, it was a much smoother ride than the rollercoaster migration experience I had 20 years ago. 

Chris-Smith-headshot.jpgAre you working on a huge migration or implementation project? Tell me about it! And if you’d like some advice on the rollout, we’ve spent almost 20 years advising clients on partner programs and more than 5 years helping customers implement our PRM tools. We’d be happy to help or give you a demo.

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