Oh, the People You Meet! (When you actually leave the office)

October 31, 2007 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

By Eileen Renner

Recently Amazon Consulting was privileged to host our sixth Alliance Executive Roundtable and provide a forum for a group of seasoned alliance and channel executives to get together and really “talk shop.” Old friends were re-connected and new acquaintances were developed. For a few hours, they “took their heads out of the sand” (as one attendee put it) and left behind email traffic, internal meetings and budgeting spreadsheets to engage in active dialogue with colleagues. There was lots of meaningful and valuable conversation, on a wide variety of topics associated with our overall theme of partner enablement.

The discussion began with a definition of partner enablement, since through the introduction we realized we were all talking about a slightly different set of actions and outcomes. As expected, there was much talk of training (a core enablement concept) and how it should be structured, rewarded, standardized and funded. Technical training and certification seemed to be the common denominator of “partner enablement.” The two people with “partner enablement” in their titles focused primarily on the training and education of technical people so they could install and service the vendor’s products. Interestingly enough, one of the people with a partner enablement title reported up through the services organization. Her primary role was to ensure the partners were technically capable of implementing the enterprise software solution. She did indicate that often she is at odds with her own services team as they’re also looking to grow revenues directly for the organization through service delivery.

Within the definition of partner enablement we actively discussed “channel readiness.” The group defined this as the internal positioning and preparedness to engage a partner. Channel readiness was seen as the first step: the internal processes and policies on how the organization goes to market. Channel readiness was defined as distinct from “partner readiness:” the former being the internal discussions and processes to engage partners and the latter being the initial training and education of partners so they can sell. All in all through the definition discussion the attendees realized their lives would be easier if the industry would create some standard terminology. We agreed to try to help proliferate a common set of distinctions.

The conversation then turned to who’s doing what to enable partners and where they are seeing success. This is certainly where the attendees received the most benefit from the 2 hour breakfast commitment. Companies of different sizes and maturity shared their best practices and innovative ideas on how to engage, enable and empower partners for success, with an interesting side bar of “putting yourself in the partners shoes:” which we rarely see vendors able to do. Some notable ideas included providing free technical training (yes, they did say FREE); the use of “just in time” learning: using short electronic vignettes to communicate and educate on a specific solution or feature; and the inclusion of “just in case” materials within the “just in time” learning offering: extending the knowledge of some ancillary topics “just in case” the customer asks you about them.

One of our attendees had a notable example of an industry that does enablement right when he mentioned that automakers would never roll out a new model without all of the documentation ready, the sales and support teams prepared and the service processes in place. As we all know this is rarely the case for new software or hardware products released to the market. We can speculate many reasons for why- could be that technology just moves too fast, could be that the auto industry has just been at this longer, could be that auto companies (so often criticized for being out of date) are just managed more effectively. Whatever the reason, it does get you thinking – which is what events like this are meant to do. Get you thinking (pardon the old overused adage but…) “out of the box” a bit. It’s important, as we are all consumed by our task lists, not to discount the value that can be derived by taking our head out of the sand for some gopd old fashioned brainstorming, idea sharing and relationship building.

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Entry filed under: Live from Events, Partnering Tips.

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