Stephan Berner, CEO at Help AG, offers his advice on how vendors can enhance their partner programmes in order to improve their channel strategy.
It’s important to understand just how big an investment a partner programme or a certification level is from the perspective of a partner company. If you quantify the effort, resources and expenditure, it all adds up to considerable dollar cost per year. Vendors should therefore try and make their programmes as streamlined as possible while ensuring that the partner receives the best possible support, benefits and training.
Today, to advance through almost any vendor’s partner programme, a channel partner must achieve a certain level of certification. A typical channel player partners with a number of vendors. When the course material for the many certifications have large areas of overlap, then the training fails to justify the large amounts of time and money invested into it. Vendors should therefore work to fine-tune their training and certification programmes to make them truly beneficial for partners rather than just another revenue stream.
An analogy I like to draw about certifications provided by vendors is that of languages and dialects. Certifications in the same technology are like the dialects of the same language. For example, if an engineer is certified by Cisco, then it means that this individual has undergone a significant amount of training and therefore has a fairly deep understanding of the underlying networking principles. Now if this engineer were to sit for a certification from a different network vendor, he would have to again undergo the same training thereby wasting precious time.
What vendors must do is assist their partners by making sure that their programmes are to the point; are relevant; and add actual value to partners’ skill sets. What would be attractive to channel partners is the ability to cross-utilise our vendor certifications so that the resources are only expected to bridge the specific technology gaps between vendor products rather than undergoing the entire training from scratch.
Customer satisfaction should also be made a focus of any partner programme as ultimately, this is the main measure of success. After a partner has carried out a large-scale deployment, it would greatly help if the vendor gains an understanding of whether the products have been deployed according to the best practices of the vendor; if the customer was happy with the implementation; and if they found it easy to work with the partner. So, apart from just trainings and certifications, actually looking into project implementation and getting feedback regarding the way the partner implemented the project should be made a vital part in establishing what status/tier within the programme the channel partner is awarded.