Services Engagement

June 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

If vendors really want competent, self-sufficient channel partners focused on high-value services, their engagement models have to shift

Beth Vanni, Director, Market Intelligence, Amazon Consulting

According to the Amazon Consulting 2010 State of Partnering Study, half of the vendor community’s top enablement priorities for 2010 relate to improving solution providers’ service delivery capabilities.

In the survey, which represented 55 vendors globally, we defined “services” as professional billable services, managed services and/or technical support services. In last year’s study (2009), creating a formal MSP partner program was a top priority for many vendors. Many of those MSP programs are now in place, and infrastructure providers of all types are being courted to join vendor programs aimed at MSPs, hosters and service providers. However, when we asked both last year and this year about the types of engagement models vendors plan to use to deliver services with or through their solution providers, we were surprised at their top priorities. Using partners as sales agents for the vendor’s own branded and delivered services was ranked as the #1 engagement model, with 40% of vendors indicating it was the “most important” services channel model. In last year’s study that engagement model got an overwhelming 68% response.  The lowest ranked engagement model for two years’ running is where vendors use the partner to lead the selling, delivery and legal/financing “prime” for their services delivery.

With all the vendor focus on encouraging solution providers to build their services competency and launch value-based, high margin services, we expected this basic engagement model of partner as sales agent to be a lower priority this year. Second on the list was a co-selling and co-delivery model, with 36% of vendors saying it was “most important.” This was also the #2 ranked model in last year’s study. This is a great model for mentoring and sharing services methodology, but doesn’t scale very well and can be very expensive for vendors.

As vendors offer their own cloud-based services (, Microsoft Business Productivity On-line Suite), it will be interesting to watch whether vendors need sales reach and pre-sales help or post-sale integration and managed services delivery more from their channel partners. We think solution providers with the right business model and customer influence play a critical role in both functional areas, especially as it relates to delivering services to non-enterprise class accounts.

If vendors really want competent, independent channel partners focused on high-value services, these engagement models have to change. Sharing IP and methodologies so partners can build their own practices based on vendor insights is critical – and is indeed happening in a number of channel-centric vendor’s programs (Cisco, HP, NetApp). Surprisingly, this is not indicative of the 2010 plans from our respondents, however, where 64% ranked this activity as either “low importance” or “not applicable.” We consider professional and managed services delivery by channel partners on behalf of their vendor suppliers to be the “last mile” of becoming a channel-centric company and an area that is still plagued by channel conflict, unclear engagement models and under-resourced enablement in many vendors’ programs.

For further research and analysis about vendors’ engagement of services-centric channel partners, download the newly released Executive Brief on our Q2 exclusive channel research entitled, “Engaging the Services Partner.” You’ll find it on the Amazon Consulting Resource Center at

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