With technology landscape undergoing seismic shifts in the wake of the pandemic, it has become all the more imperative for the organizations, which are primarily channel driven, to ensure that their partners are brought up to date on the latest development thereby remaining relevant through the future.
The on-going digital transformation era, that the pandemic has ushered in, is further keeping the partner ecosystem on tenterhooks. This ‘always’ evolving scenario makes it the responsibility of both the organizations and their partner ecosystem to come up with strategies and programs that would compliment both and serve customer requirements at large.
Communication: A sine qua non
Communication comes as one of the most important tools that will help maintain a healthy relationship between the organization and the partner ecosystem. In fact, during its early stage of outbreak the pandemic fundamentally disrupted this essential mode. The sudden COVID-19 related lockdowns and travel bans made regular meetings between the organizations and partners impossible, until both the parties scurried online.
Osama Al Zoubi, Chief Technology Officer at Cisco Middle East and Africa, observed “Cisco is fully partner driven. We are always in constant touch with our partners. One of the main reasons for success is our unrelenting focus on partnership. Where ever we go, we try to localize rather than try to simple take over. Cisco’s mantra for success has always been simple, believe in partnership, nurture and utilize the local talent. That’s the reason, why Cisco, though being relatively a smaller organization is able to successfully complete gigantic projects.”
Regular communication ensures that the partners understand what’s expected of them, how an emerging trend might play out and be relevant to both the organizations and themselves and how to equip them to ensure business continuity.
This position has well been summed up by Sanjeewa Malalgoda, Director Engineering at WSO2, when he says, “We touch base regularly with our partners. Since our partners are spread around the world, we pick specific time slots that are mutually convenient and then provide them with regular updates. The updates are basically what we do, about our new products, our new roadmap, new mission. WSO2 ensures that we keep our partners updated both in terms of technology and skill by conducting workshops or update programs. Majority of our sales is coming through the partners and resellers, they are invaluable to us.”
Today’s digital technologies have opened up new opportunities. However, constant investment and upskilling is the need of the hour for both the organizations and their partner ecosystems so that the benefits brought up by the digital technologies can be passed on to the customers.
“Equipping your channel is always an ongoing journey. And it is important that your customers also look at it that way. Constant investment is crucial in channel development. It’s the only way in which you can keep up with the constant evolution of cyber threats. This is true not just to our partners but also to our own employees. Continuously updating your skill sets is now the order of the day, so we put in a lot of investments around it and ensure that our partners are equipped to the level our customers expect,” explains Prashant Menon, Channel Manager UAE at Check Point Software Technologies, Middle East.
Educating the partners by way of regular training programs through both online mode and hands on is also of utmost importance. Underscoring the need to have an ‘adaptive and evolving’ partner program, Yvonne Chebib Brao, Executive Senior Director – Commercial Partner Organization leader at Microsoft, said “With technology evolving at a rapid pace skilling and enabling the partner often becomes necessary. So, Microsoft offers a lot of skilling initiatives. Recently, we have rolled out Microsoft’s Cloud Partner Program and the general availability of six partner designations, replacing Microsoft’s Silver and Gold competencies. We are now starting to help build their expertise and provide designation based on the solution area they want to focus on. Through such initiatives we try to not just focus on the skills but also on the growth and acquisition of customers. In short, along with the evolving technology our partner programs are also evolving to keep up.”
Talking about partner enablement, Cisco’s Osama further added “We provide regular training and development programs that would enable our partners to evolve at an equal pace in both skills and technology globally.”
Echoing the same sentiment Alaa Bawab, General Manager, Lenovo Infrastructure Group MEA, said, “Lenovo has always been a channel first company. At Lenovo we always try bringing our value proposition through the channel. Every single dollar that Lenovo makes ($72 billion as per the latest announced results) has been through the channel. We invest in educating and developing our channel partners.”
Bawab adds “Through this program, Lenovo brings them up to date with all the offerings, applications and how it’s executed. This knowledge transfer is beneficial in both ways and that’s how we take the challenge of enabling our partners through all these technology shifts and ensure we go to market only through the channel.”
Motivation and measurement
Apart from training, factors like motivation and measurement also play an instrumental role in the process of channel enablement. Check Point’s Prashant Menon states, “From the Check Point partner program perspective, we have always adopted a three-point agenda. One is enablement. Second is training. And the third is certification. These are the three main ingredients of our programs. We have a star program wherein the partners will be able to climb up the ladder based on the achievements in terms of revenues, but it is absolutely paramount for them to be updated in terms of certifications as well, which can take them to the next level. When it comes to the actual effectiveness of a particular partner, it’s measured not just on the revenue achievements, but also on the emphasis around the skill gaps. We give them enough points around that. So, this makes them to get to the next level within our partner program.”
The rapid evolution of the technology landscape is heralding a number of sea- changes. With the growing complexity of the technology ecosystem, Customer requirements are becoming more dynamic than ever. Thus it is in the essential fitness of things that companies should extend a helping hand to their partner ecosystem and enable them to deliver their objectives to the end-user. This will stand both the businesses and their partners in good stead ensuring business continuity and relevance for them.