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Strategic Partner Management - Does PRM deliver?

Partners determine and influence the fortune and fall of an organization greatly and more so with the current economic scenario , where the typical 4 Ps of Marketing face a tough battle in the crowded marketplace.  The Partners or resellers are the face of the organization to the end customers. The advantage and contribution from channel partners is clear from the statistics that indicate many industry segments drawing more than 40 percent of revenue through the partner channel. The high-technology industry, for example, sells as much as 60 to 70 percent of products through indirect channels; for financial services, the figure is 80 percent; and for automotive, the figure is 90 percent.
Working with channel partners for sales and marketing initiatives in my previous assignments has helped me appreciate the power of partners to close or break a deal . The value,  partners bring to the table are the relationship with end customers , knowledge of the local culture , competitor intelligence , market dynamics at the grass-root level and list of key contacts including influencers of hot leads. A multi-national organization with a global spread cannot afford to gain all of these just with its offices located in regions.
Several organizations in the consumer goods segment opt for partners to deliver service and post-sales support to the customers. The geographical reach, technical know-how and accessibility to the customers not only make channels a cost-effective option but also a prudent one.
I would like to term Partners as “immediate” customers as they are neither internal nor external to the organization. These are the resources and firms your organization would like to hold hands with to successfully achieve the corporate goals- both financial and strategic. Just like any other customer segment, partners too need to be kept satisfied and delighted to elicit best performance and support. The solutions currently available in the market to address Partner relationship management are not comprehensive yet. Understandably so, as most of the PRM implementations are funded by OEMs for their partners and quite often doesn’t figure in the prioritized applications to rollout.
The relationship with the partner starts with the recruitment of the partner, followed by training and certification. On completion of mandatory requirements to be an active partner, the sales, marketing and service activities are performed collaboratively by the organization with its partners. Terms and conditions related to Partnership, Sales or Service territories are mandatory to keep away partner conflict.
Collaborative Events/ Marketing Campaigns, Certification,  Funds tracking, Budget requests, Registering a deal and Incentive Compensation  are some of the key features in the delivered PRM functionality as of today . Partners also have a facility to raise service requests through portal and can create their own quotes with special pricing, if eligible. Although the existing PRM offerings from Oracle e-business and Siebel do address most of the touch points in Partner life cycle, it doesn’t do a satisfactory job in integrating the functionality to deliver a consolidated seamless PRM interface. I found Thomas Lah’s observation on how partner’s needs changes along with the product lifecycle interesting and is very relevant to Partner life cycle  that I am talking about as well.
Funds disbursement to partners, payment to partners for collaborative marketing efforts, approvals for budget requests, Promotional rebates , Variable pricing , Incentive payout for shared sales team and Partner Contracts with entitlements are areas where existing functionality fails to deliver …..
With marketing now graduating to Enterprise Marketing Management to include a holistic approach to the marketing function in an organization, I hope that some vendor would develop a mature Enterprise Partner Relationship Management (EPRM) suite to cater to the unmet needs of this market segment. I am aware that peoplesoft’s PRM offering is termed as Enterprise Partner Relationship Management (EPRM) but would like to hear from the readers of its robustness or lack of it , functionally.
EPRM , in my view , should be an application with a key benefit of tracking the entire partner life cycle coupled with value assessment at every stage  . This should enable rewards or reviews  to partners based not only on the number of deals won or the revenues earned but also crucial KPIs  like SLA Adherence,  Skill Maturity , Reach to Customer base, Profitability , Relationship with End-Customers and OEM,  Strategic focus and Competitive power exhibited during the partner life cycle. That is when PRM would reach its intended maturity to enable decision making on strategic partnerships for an organization.
Anyone with PRM implementations out there ? I am waiting to hear your thoughts.


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