Driving Partner Business Model Evolution for Cloud Solutions Through Industry Benchmarks

In our last post on ways to enable the channel for cloud solutions and drive partner business model evolution we highlighted two mechanisms of primary importance:

  1. Helping channel partners understand emerging business models and develop associated Practices, offerings and marketing tools

  2. Creating programs that drive partners to build delivery relationships to fill gaps in their business capabilities and do joint planning with them

Right now in the marketplace a number of large vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco are starting to address number one above, with varying degrees of success. These companies have created well laid out roadmaps for their partners that describe in a prescriptive way what they need to do to build new elements of their business. Microsoft probably represents the best case of a firm creating a vision for partners of the path they need to take to move forward. Microsoft also provides an extensive set of tools to help partners understand the business implications of change (modeling tools, planning sessions, hand-holding and etc).

Cisco is not far behind. Their new services program includes deep content for partners on how to build new practices. Cisco however has yet to build out a road mapping component to those tools and give partners context for the change required.

It is certain that other firms in the marketplace such as VMware and IBM are not far behind in pulling these sorts of programs and associated materials together for partners.

However, there is one caution we would give both the players with established practice building tools, and those in the process of developing them. It is important not to go into the process with a one size fits all model.

If there is one thing we’ve found in our experience working with the channel, and particular with companies “crossing the chasm” to offer new cloud based services, it’s that business models aren’t consistently divided into the traditional buckets of VAR, SI, ISV, Developer, and Consultant. Instead, in research we’ve done with clients we see significant overlap in those business models, and widely varying degrees of capability when it comes to the services required to effectively sell and delivery cloud solutions.

We definitely believe in the need for some sort of road mapping and direction setting. But we feel partners should be able to “choose their path” based on their own unique situation. To this end, we want to bring up the one major gap we see in vendor plans to drive change – Benchmarking Tools. In our conversations with the channel, the one resounding request we hear from partners on what vendors can do to help them cross the chasm to the Cloud is that Vendors deliver to them robust operational and other benchmarks to help them understand in detail the changes they need to make.

Such benchmarks would cover things like:

  1. Operations:  Number of employees in categories (sales, services, development, etc), revenue model, infrastructure, etc

  2. Marketing:  Dollars spent, activities, return, etc

  3. Technology:  Focus for skills, type of skills, breadth of skills, etc

  4. Partners:  Partner types, number and approach, etc

For this reason we’re working to put together a multi-vendor study to help build out a database of benchmarking metrics for the channel. We’re in the process of looking for vendors to participate. It’s in the interest of all of us in the industry at this point in it’s evolution, to work together to help build the market. Such a jointly developed database, with consistent industry wide segmentation on the vision for success, will play a huge role in driving the channel changes required.

In our next blog we’ll discuss the second of the two major elements that such a database will facilitate (beyond the development of enablement roadmaps and tools), and that’s the matching of partners to other partners to help fill business model gaps.

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