XaaS is becoming the norm, as digital transforms our consumer and business worlds, there is a complementary expansion in the as-a-service business model.
As digital transforms our consumer and business worlds, there is a complementary expansion in the as-a-service business model. In our consumer lives, we already are accessing or purchasing many items as a service – entertainment, security, home automation, groceries, meal preparation, transportation and many more.
In business, there is a similar expansion as we access and purchase integration as a service, productivity as a service, products as a service, infrastructure as a service, marketing as a service, analytics as a service and much more. Why then is partner relationship management still packaged, purchased and implemented as a traditional solution? Why are vendors forcing their partners to transact, collaborate and access critical sales and technical enablement content through highly customized portals driven primarily by what vendors want, rather than how partners typically do business? What would it be like for vendors if they shared a common PRM infrastructure which partners would access and incorporate into their business environments?
The rising “cost” of PRM
PRM has “come of age” in the enterprise as more enterprises look to drive revenue through their indirect partner channels, whether those partners be solution resellers, solution “enhancers”, solution “referrers”, or even broader solution marketplaces. While Forrester sizes the PRM software market at $679 million by 2023 (a 14.2 percent CAGR from today), its forecast of an additional $971 million for the PRM services market is even more eye-opening. This PRM services component includes channel-specific consultants, sales and marketing firms, digital marketing agencies, systems integrators (SIs), and a complementary ISV ecosystem that is adjacent to these platforms.
With this level of software and services investment, you would think that a broader percentage of channel partners are becoming more engaged with their vendors. In fact, the Pareto principle is likely still in effect – 20% of the partners are driving 80% of the vendors’ revenue. This engagement gap persists for some significant reasons.
Channel partners often encounter disparate systems when interacting with their vendors. Different sales databases, different ERPs, different processes, different rules and procedures combine to reduce the effectiveness of vendors’ valuable partners. In addition, vendors’ PRM investments are often implemented in disconnected silos of automation without a unifying interface or integrated data model.
Unfortunately, many vendors are not focused on a culture of partner engagement which demands thinking like the partner and a fundamental understanding of how to improve the partner’s overall success metrics (including the partner’s success outside of the particular vendor-partner relationship). A focus on partner engagement becomes increasingly challenging as the types of partners proliferate beyond that of the typical reseller partner. This challenge compounds exponentially when you consider the increasing number of ways that customers consume products – subscription, pay as you go, third partner marketplaces to name a few.
Partner data is also contained in system silos. For example pipeline and opportunity management information is located in CRM systems, sales orders are located in ERP systems, training certifications are located in learning management systems. The list goes on. The key to driving a personalized experience requires the presentation of data and derived insights from all of these systems through an automated and unified partner interface. And wouldn’t it be great if partners could unify this presentation layer across all of their primary vendors.
Why Not PRM-as-a-Service?
Could PRMaaS provide similar benefits to the area of channel partner management as XaaS is providing in other areas? Could PRMaaS reduce the impact of the challenges described above?
Instead of individual businesses investing capital and resources to create their own partner portal, what if a business could subscribe to a portal environment supported by a menu of integrated services designed to meet the business’s partner management needs.
For the portal environment subscription, users could access configuration tools to tailor the partner experience. Tools could include portal branding, UX structure, collaboration associations and data integrations to name a few. The subscription portal environment could also provide multiple subscription options and programs to meet individual partner needs.
- Partner subscription: allowing partners to select the vendors they wish to resell or for whom they could provide service. Partners could curate the experience that works best for their specific user roles and geographies. Partners would have the ability to select the individual services they would like to see integrated in their ecosystem.
- Vendor subscription: vendors could configure their branding, curate their partner management experience and select services they would like integrated and aligned with the partner subscriptions in their ecosystem.
- Ecosystem subscription: where a specific type of partner (e.g. global systems integrators, distributors, marketplace owners) would subscribe as an ecosystem manager, managing configuration and service selection for a number of resellers, service providers, consultants, and vendors.
Services categories might include deal registration, partner onboarding, marketing campaign automation, MDF, learning management, certification tracking, and many more. Today these capabilities are typically added as yet another application with their own set of processes and interfaces. Conceived and delivered as PRMaaS, these capabilities could be designed using a common framework, integration interfaces and workflow constructs.
The value for vendors would be a shifting of costs from the innovation treadmill to an investment in real relationships and engagement with partners enabled by automated and intelligent PRM infrastructure. For partners, an avenue to work with their vendors through a unified and standardized environment configured by the partner, for the partner would deliver significant efficiencies without sacrificing the value that comes through working with their individual vendors.
Net net, channel partners could be placed at the center of a vendor’s indirect channel business, not the reverse. The graphic below from Deloitte Insights depicts the impact that an as-a-service design can have on the overall business model when applied to a critical business process. PRMaaS will transform from the traditional linear model into an interconnected ecosystem model with continuous partner engagement at the center.
Diagram Source: Deloitte analysis, Deloitte Insights