Service providers up their game to attract and retain partners.
If service providers have a history of mixed relationships with the channel, that hasn’t been true for a number of years, and changes in partner programs continue to be underway.
Technology has changed dramatically in recent years as advances in service virtualization, cloud and mobility have given rise to new services and new business models. With those advances comes the need to respond to today’s market with agility, flexibility and speed, requiring a robust partner community.
In her March 10 presentation titled “Partnering to Win: Developments in Channel Programs,” part of the keynote programming at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Cindy Whelan, principal analyst at Ovum, will discuss what communication service providers are doing to work more closely with partners to meet their customers’ needs.
Whelan shared some of her thoughts with Channel Futures in this preview.
Channel Futures: Sounds like change is in the air for channel partners when it comes to working with service providers. What’s happening?
Cindy Whelan: Service providers have realized that the channel will play a key role in their ability to expand and get into new markets. So it’s becoming a lot more competitive, and rather than an agent or partner having one, two or three suppliers, they’ve got dozens.’
CF: That sounds like a problem.
CW: It’s gotten much more competitive for the service providers and they need to differentiate to attract the partners, to retain the partners, to make it easier to do business and to make it more cost-effective.
CF: What kinds of changes are we seeing?
CW: We’re seeing some changes in terms of portals and APIs, self-service, and automation is where this is going, as well as through ongoing things like training – which has always been the case but it’s even more important now with SD-WAN – virtualized services is the biggest – but also, the transition to cloud solutions. So cloud collaboration and UC as a service, for example.
CF: Without giving too much away, what are some areas you’ll be focusing on in your upcoming session?
CW: The main areas are automation, working with APIs, self-service, analytics and how service providers will use analytics to get a better handle on what’s happening and what customers are doing, where partners are succeeding and where they may need some help. [Also] cloud migration — that’s some of the areas.
CF: We hear a lot about automation. What are service providers doing around automation?
CS: It’s fairly basic now, but talking to service providers it’s something they’re doing internally to automate their own internal processes to work more efficiently with customers, such as SMBs, and to bring in more self-service tools to make things available to those customers, and also to partners. There’s a lot of work going on with quoting, order submission and order tracking — all the things that sometimes had to get done by making a phone call to a provider. Well, we don’t want to do that anymore; we need to automate and make all of that information available quickly to the partner in the way that they want to consume it, to fit with the way they work and operate.
CF: What do partners need from their service providers? I’m sure you’re going to talk about this.
CW: In addition to some of things we talked about, they need tools in order to get the information they need quickly at their fingertips; and, they need training to understand how to sell a product, to understand what it does, where it goes, how to position it, educate their customers and sell it.
Service providers also need to educate partners about security so that their customers understand how security fits.
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