Over the last decade, partner relationship management (PRM) activities have become the central focus for organizations trying to expand their reach via a channel. Many organizations have reduced their dependence on their direct sales and moved to a full channel-based model. However, for organizations with a few dozen partners or more, it becomes quite hard to manage these PRM activities without automation software. As a result of that, PRM software had become quite popular over the past decade, and this market segment continues to grow rapidly.
In the early days, most PRM software platforms were quite difficult to use and expensive, and they relied on the software vendor’s ability to add features and make improvements to support a vendor’s evolving channel portal requirements. However, over the past few years—in a development driven primarily by various cloud technologies—ease of use and the ability to make changes on their own has become paramount for vendors. That’s because the partner portal has become the central gateway through which a company does business with its partner base. If you are still using a clunky, out-of-date, expensive partner portal software and are depending on your PRM software vendor to keep up with your changing needs, you really should be looking for alternatives.
If you are
considering making a change, look for PRM software with the following characteristics:
- Mobile – In todays’ world, more than a third of web access happens via mobile devices. At the bare minimum, your partner portal should be mobile, and ideally it should be available via a native mobile application. The key difference between providing mobile-responsive access and providing a fully mobile app is that the latter can function offline without being connected to the Internet. Partner portals that are designed to optimize access through a native mobile app tend to be much easier to use and faster, and they can be used when you are offline. Therefore, if you are looking for a PRM software solution, make sure your new software has a native mobile-app-based delivery model.
- Adaptable – It is very important for your PRM software to be adaptable to your constantly changing channel environment. For example, you may want to reserve specific applications such as business plans or contracts for certain groups or types of partners, while you may want to make market development funds (MDF) applications available to other partners. You may want to turn on certain applications in certain ways in some countries, while deploying other applications in other countries. The point is that your PRM software should be flexible enough to accommodate and adapt to a number of variables like partner groups, partner types, locations, verticals and so on. This is an important requirement in today’s dynamic business world, and you don’t want to have to depend on your software vendor to manage your adaptations.
- Global – If your organization is selling globally, then you must keep in mind the changing requirements from one local or regional market to another. Your PRM software needs to be fully multilingual. That means the software should not only have a multilingual interface, but also be fully configurable to meet different requirements in different countries. For example, you should be able to create multiple partner groups, roles and so on, and then provide them with granular access rights to various parts of your partner portal and various aspects of your partner program. This ability to provide differentiated access to content and applications will truly empower you to establish a state-of-the art partner relationship management program.
- Intelligent – The channel is a complex system, and in today’s world there are too many variables that are constantly changing. If you do not have the ability to run correlational reports and intelligently track the effectiveness of your channel programs and initiatives, you are essentially driving blindly. That is not a good place to be. On the other hand, if your PRM software comes with business intelligence and a powerful reporting engine that has the ability to predict outcomes with deep analytics, then you can use those insights to quickly and substantially improve your channel effectiveness. One of the major areas where business intelligence is reaping big rewards is channel data management, where you can look at point-of-sales data and figure out what products are selling, who is selling them and why. In today’s world, if your software can provide business intelligence capabilities in an easy-to-use format, you will be empowered to make the right choices.
- Configurable – In today’s channel change happens fast—whether it concerns your contracts or training or incentives programs—and when it does you should be able to configure your PRM software with the right settings to rapidly address your evolving requirements. You may suddenly need to launch a new marketing campaign or introduce a whole bunch of new assets. Whatever the case, you should have the ability configure and change everything yourself without depending on your vendor. Rapid configurability is critical for your success and also very important to reducing your change management costs.
In summary, your PRM software needs to be M
ntelligent and C
onfigurable. At ZINFI, we call this MAGIC
. If, after reading this, it seems that your partner portal or channel management tools are still stuck in the past, I have good news for you. There are multiple options available in the marketplace right now for making a rapid transition to the present. For instance, you can consider adapting your existing CRM platform and then configure it to incorporate the MAGIC requirements I listed above. Or you can consider a Unified Channel Management (UCM)
platform from ZINFI, where you get all applications, content management and asset management capabilities under one easy-to-use and easy-to-manage interface. No matter what path you choose, make sure your PRM software is designed with an easy-to-use, intuitive user interface and a workflow that is rigorously focused on the partner experience.