Partner Programs

Which vendor has the ultimate partner program? What works for vendor A does not mean it also works for vendor B.
Each partner program has to be easy to adopt for the partner but still tailor-made for the vendor.

During our research we came across several partner programs. A lot of programs we reviewed were just carbon copies of the channel program the big vendors released.
Seen one, seen ’em all. Nevertheless we found vendors who placed great importance to their channel programs. Clear program and dedicated channel support creates a win-win situation for partners and vendors.

I contacted several channel manager and asked for permission to show case in the book their prominent partner programs. Cross the fingers we will get all feedback in time – The content is almost completed and we expect to get some pre-print examples in July

Call for Feedback

Today I like to ask VARs, Resellers, partner channel organization to help to update our research in regards what works/worked best in channels. Nothing changes faster then “partner programs” in our industry. What was defined last fall does not mean to be still valid in spring.

During our research and interviews in the past we came across of a lot of channel activities partner loved/disagreed with. The one which is loved most by the vendor does not mean
to be the one which is loved most by the partners. To make sure that our book is up to date I like to get also feedback from resellers, VARs and everyone who is in indirect sales to learn
which current “channel program” works best for partners and for vendors.

Also any commentary or statement around channels you would allow us to publish it in the book as a best practices example would be very welcome.

Please share with us your anecdotes, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Just contact me via the blog, by email marita.roebkes@channelexcellence.com or by phone
650 384 0057.

SaaS Channel Committee 2007

As the new chair for the SaaS Channel Committee from the SIIA (Industry association for the software industry) I’m working on some concrete goals for 2007 and also search for committee members who will help grow the indirect business side of the SaaS industry.

Functional areas where I recognized a need in the industry:
– Guidance in regards to contracts for a three party relationship: user, partner and vendor
– Guidance in regards to compensation and margin questions
– Guidance for building and retaining indirect channel relationships
– Guidance for new partners: how to build a successful SaaS implementer
– Providing industry best practices and act as a sounding board for new ideas

Any feedback or support is very much appreciated. Please email to as@channelexcellence.com

Interview with Eric Berridge, BlueWolf Group.

Bluewolf Group represents a new breed of channels, specifically designed for the SaaS industry. With the firms 175 consultants they help companies implement and integrate solutions from salesforce.com, Eloqua, Openair, Responsis, and do some custom work for SAP, Oracle and others. Bluewolf Group drives on-demand revenue through their consulting practice.

In accordance to Eric Berridge, SaaS channels make either money by providing consulting services around certain solutions or by developing products enhancing existing solutions. He states that salesforce.com does an amazing job for the developers making the product partner friendly.

Eric’s advice: Vendors need to ensure that their partners can be self sufficient and that the partner doesn’t require resources from their vendors to buy and implement a product.

Interview with Appsontap founders David Code and Frank Brown

In 1999 David Code was still running a traditional VAR helping customers with the implementation of procurement processes. After doing a J.D. Edwards implementation for his own company he decided there must be a better way to deploy business applications and started to look into ASP offerings. The challenge back then was to build a complete portfolio of applications that would a low to build an entire business on it. The key to his success David stated, was the fact that they did no longer sell a piece of software but helped people to reengineer their business processes. Suggesting an ondemand application was a result of the consulting work. Today AppsOnTap is selling SaaS applications from Salesnet (now RightNow), Vtrenz, Openair, Bridgeworks, Netsuite, QuoteASP, Ketera and Employease (now ADP). As Frank Brown stated, the industry goes like any other industry through those waves of disintermediation to reintermediation. The profitable and self funded AppsOnTap is one of the early leaders in indirect SaaS channels and a great example for a profitable SaaS implementer.

Interview with Salesforce.com VP Matt Holleran

Salesforce.com is a very effective channel from big to small companies. For instance Vertical Response offers their solutions via the AppExchange to 400-500 customers. The AppExchange model is to help developers reduce their burden on integration and also reduce sales and marketing cost. Vertical Response is one of the examples who provide their solutions through AppExchange with an up to 40% lead closure rate in accordance to Salesforce.com’s Matt Holleran (VP Alliances). Also interviews with other partners confirm that Salesforce.com made it very easy to integrate their respective solutions without the need to get engaged with salesforce employees and be dependent on their resource allocation. For instance Salesforce.com provides ways to test drive not only the salesforce.com application but also their partners application. Some of their partners develop exclusively on the salesforce.com platform and can reduce cost of the development environment. The salesforce.com partnerships are highly integrated into the salesforce.com solution architecture which makes the salesforce.com channel a highly efficient group for all kinds of solution developers.

Matt’s advice: Companies need to design the buying process into their product. The easier it is to explore, try and buy a product the higher the chance to win the customer.

Interview with Jamcracker VP Brent Arslaner

Jamcracker is providing a channel ecosystem through their webservices integration business. Partners can access the Jamcracker site and find and select those services. There are new success stories around the channel to be found on their website. JSDN is Jamcrackers On Demand Market Place. On a way similar to the AppExchange from Salesforce.com it was built to help partners buy, consume or market webservices.

Brent’s advice: Large percentage of traditional IT VARs aren’t there yet. Even so Microsoft is now pushing the SaaS business. A new breed of partners with no baggage is probably what it takes to build channels for SaaS. His channel began to grow substantially this year.

Interview with Infopia CEO Bjorn Espenses

Infopia tried to develop a partner channel early on but faced great challenges. Even so the product is zero touch and easy to onramp a customer, channels wasn’t ready. In more complex projects they actually pulled in some VARs who helped to integrate Infopia’s ecommerce products into the customers on-premise IT world.
Now in a very recently new attempt to collaborate with partners they had more success. In a large project Infopia collaborated with a new partner and actually demonstrated great success for all participating parties.

Infopias sales organization is structured so that all business below $50k goes through inside sales and above through field sales. If partners are involved in a business Infopia provides both contract option: Customer signs partners paper or Infopias paper.

Bjorns advice: Since the partner model is so different due to the recurring revenue model, partners and vendors do need to fully understand the value chain in that business.

Channel Interview with Bulldog Solutions CEO Rob Solomon

Today 7-26 I interviewed Bulldog Solutions CEO Rob Solomon

Bulldog Solutions is a Lead Generation Company, working as an enabler for the SaaS industry. Some of the underlying infrastructure to the lead generation business are conferencing solutions from Webex and Placeware. Bulldog seams to be one of the larger Webex and Placeware customers, using their services to provide webconferences to the customers of Bulldog Solutions. Even so for the web conference vendors this might be a channel, Rob Solomon (CEO) how ever views this just as infrastructure he is using. Bulldog Solution makes primarily money off of the services they provide, while the margin they get from the vendors are not substantial to their business.

Channel or not – it is one of the cases where a company such as Bulldog is an important catalyst to vendors like Webex and placeware. It is one of many examples how channels appear to be very different in the SaaS industry relative to the traditional IT industry.

Channel Complexity

Channels are the most complex business model – simply because of its integrated involvement of legally independent parties in one of the most critical business processes: Sales. Therefore channel business has many facets and view points. There is an executive view point, one from investors, customers, service organization, product development and marketing.

Often Times channels get inherited by a new executive who is forced to understand that channel and the implications of any changes in a matter of weeks.

But complexity doesn’t need to mean complicated. Structuring and completely understanding channels is the usual way to manage complexity. The book Channel Excellence shall help all constituencies to better understand, structure and manage those relationships for a better, faster and more profitable business.