ZS Principal Erik Long on Voice of the Partner Programs

Erik Long, Principal

Hello, everyone. My name is Jonas Tichenor with CRN. You know, the channel partner ecosystem is a constantly shifting force that is always undergoing change based on outside forces. Cloud computing, big data analytics, social media are always adding complexity to partners' business model.

Recent research by ZS Associates on partner programs shows these emerging challenges in the Voice of Partners initiative. And to help us address these trends, we are joined today by Erik Long of ZS Associates. Erik, thanks so much for being here.

You bet.

So the research study indicates that channel partner satisfaction is far greater among traditional VARs and managed service providers than cloud VARs. What do you make of that spread?

Good question, Jonas. In the research that we just got done looking at, we did find that there's a significant portion of channel partners that are not satisfied with the way that they're being engaged by the vendors to get their feedback. For example, one of the things that we found is that it is more pronounced with cloud resellers, this dissatisfaction.

There's actually a 20-point gap that we saw between cloud resellers and the traditional VARs. Some of the issues that we've seen in there is that the cloud partners are not being engaged on the right topics.

So for example, one of the things that they are telling us in the research is that they want to be engaged on questions around the evolution of their business model, questions that have to do with the operation issues that they want to have the vendors made known. And the vendors really haven't evolved the way that they're engaging and gathering feedback from these born in the cloud partners.

Yeah. There also seems to be a gap around hardware and software vendors. So significantly more software vendors seemed to be happy with their Voice of Partner programs compared to hardware. First of all, why the gap there? And secondly, does this indicate some opportunity for those hardware vendors out there?

Yeah, you bet. So one of the things that we're seeing is that, as you mentioned, there is this gap between the software vendors and the hardware vendors. And what we're seeing is that the channel partners that have Voice of Partner programs from the software providers, there is a gap.

There's a 12-point gap. Software vendors are showing about a 12-point advantage over their comparable hardware partners. And what we're seeing is that the channel partners are really focusing on software. They're more like the cloud-based resellers.

They've started to move faster to technology as a service. They've adopted those models. And the hardware partners are feeling left behind. So you think about how hardware vendors have typically been engaged.

They've been engaged on things like their market development funds, their incentive, their co-op spending. And they haven't been engaged on how the vendors themselves, the hardware vendors, can help them move to selling technology as a service and be more than just a distributor of technology.

Yeah, absolutely. So according to the study, there's really no one-size-fits-all approach to feedback programs for technology vendors. Preferences seemed to be varied just like the channel partners' business models themselves are varied. So does this mean that vendors simply have to fit their programs to meet partners' needs, or is there some kind of silver bullet that we're missing altogether?

We actually believe that there's not a single one-size-fits-all approach that's going to serve every channel partner type effectively. Eventually, what you're going to see is that having a single approach may result in lower quality feedback, and the type of insights that you're getting really aren't all that insightful.

The real opportunity here is for vendors to really consider a customized approach. What they need to do is they need to segment their partners based on the needs they have, based on the business model, and really tailor the feedback mechanisms as appropriate.

Very great, thank you so much for sitting down with me, Erik. We appreciate all your feedback today.

You bet.

And thank you for watching. We hope that this provides you some insight and perhaps really shines some light on opportunity for your organization.