Collect the right data to identify the best PRM for your partnering goals
Does working for a high-tech company make you uniquely positioned to pick the perfect technology to support your channel strategy? Not really. The partner relationship management space is so busy, choosing between the overwhelming number of options can be daunting.
Here are five questions to help you navigate the many options. When answering, keep in mind your channel and partnering goals to choose the right solution for you.
1: Who are the humans behind it?
- It’s important to know the people behind the technology. Do they understand the intricacies of partnering? The developers don’t need to have personal experience in partner management, but the product strategists and product managers should.
- Review how their organization partners. Have they experienced the pressure of an executive breathing down their neck demanding immediate partner revenue growth? Has the development team ever worked with short-tempered partners?
- If the people behind the technology understand (and empathize) with your challenges they’re more likely to create useful solutions.
2: Is it flexible enough?
- What are the standard packaged solutions? These can be a blessing as the processes and workflows are typically based on best practices. This is especially useful if your organization is new to partnering. Consider a standardised solution to avoid customization costs but be sure it’s flexible enough to integrate with your unique environment, processes and policies.
- And if you pursue a standard package, make sure all the functionality you want is included. It can be costly to upgrade to the next package for one piece of functionality.
- What do they offer beyond standard packages? If you have been running your channel for a while you might need a more flexible solution. You’ve likely developed your own way of doing things and your processes may be more unique than you realise. How many add-ons or upgrades would it take to get what you need?
3: What is the product roadmap?
- Ask to see a product roadmap to confirm the vendor’s passion in building valuable new features into their technology. Dig deeper by asking: What features in the past year came to fruition? Which ones were pushed out? How long is the beta testing window? The more you understand the roadmap and development processes the more you will understand whether their “exciting future features” are likely to become reality or stay a pipedream.
- And beware the red flag! If the vendor has no vision for the future, or they aren’t willing to share it with you, look elsewhere.
4: Will it scale?
- Evaluate the solution not just in terms of the needs of your current program, but also in terms of your partnering goals and vision. Will the solution support a strategic goal of ten times the number of partners? Or an ambitious partner-to-partner ecosystem model? Is the solution built on a modern technology architecture that can adapt and scale?
- Leverage your IT team to prod the vendors you’re evaluating to ensure the technologies used to develop and deploy the partnering solutions integrate with your other business critical systems. As your business and programs evolve, your partnering solutions should evolve as well.
5: What does it cost?
These days in particular, total cost of ownership is very important. You don’t want to spend valuable time on an evaluation before you realise you can’t afford to operate the solution. Consider these three costs:
- Licenses: Is the licencing based on users? If so, which users? Your internal team or the partner users? The term ‘active user’ is often used and that might mean different things to different vendors. To some an active user is someone who has accessed the system in the last 30 days. To others it’s someone who has system credentials and has logged in at least once, at any time. Clarify any definitions so you know how you’ll be charged.
- Configuration: Who installs and configures the solution? Are you responsible for configuration? Is the vendor setting it up for you? Have they outsourced implementation to one of their partners? No matter who configures the solution to your needs, there will be costs involved. Assess the low, mid and high range of those costs.
- Resources: What level of human effort is needed to get fully operational? How and who will drive the change management internally and externally? Will someone on your team need to manage the platform once launched? Or do you need to hire someone? In the beginning stages, will you need a third party like PartnerPath to support you?
Answering the above questions should get you well on your way, but here are a few extra tips to help you make a good decision (and sell your suggestion to your boss):
- Who are their other customers? Don’t be impressed by big names. Verify they have clients your size and with the same level of partner maturity. You don’t want to be their smallest client or their biggest one. Check out your channel maturity level with this fab little quiz on our website.
- Ask for references. If the vendor is focused on customer satisfaction, they should have a list of referenceable clients. If they can’t produce an applicable reference, that’s an answer in itself.
- What are their customer satisfaction scores? As a technology company yourself, you know the importance of customer satisfaction scores. Why not ask the channel tech software company for theirs?
- How secure is the solution? They should have some credible security ratings your friends in the IT department can validate.
- [Double bonus] What’s their company roadmap? Are they financially secure? You don’t want them to go out of business after you’ve invested time and money implementing their solution.
Amy Roberts is the EMEA principal at PartnerPath based in York, UK. She has two decades of experience in channel curation, leadership and transformation. Schedule a remote cup of tea (or glass of wine) with Amy if you'd like to chat about evaluating channel tech or the challenges that keep you up at night.