An elegant, intuitive interface. Up-to-date information. And information at your fingertips.
These are but a few of the telltale signs of a good partner automation technology implementation. But an even better may be what you few people ever see — the technological underpinnings that provide for automated workflows and more. So says Olivier Choron, managing director of EMEA at Impartner.
“If I see complexity in the back end, I’m very happy because it means simplicity at the front end,” says Choron.
Over the last two decades, Choron, who first implemented a PRM solution in 1996, has reviewed hundreds of vendor partner automation solutions. These days Choron sees everything, including the good, bad and, yes, the ugly, too, in partner portals. One thing he is keen to point out is that a portal is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a partner automation technology.
While the user interface (UI) is vitally important to partners who see it every day, the underpinnings behind the scenes are where the real action is, he says. (For more on Choron’s impressions, be sure to check out this Impartner Lessons from the Edge video.)
In the past few years, the behind-the-scenes integration in partner automation technology implementations has improved dramatically, he says. While no one offers partners a “single pane of glass” to manage their entire vendor relationship, Impartner comes closer than anyone else. Impartner has paid particularly close attention to how different capabilities work together both in front of a screen and behind it, says Choron. This includes core capabilities such as deal registration, lead management, training, Salesforce CRM integration and more.
When reviewing a partner portal, Choron looks for several things, logins especially. While he is encouraged by frequent logins there, Choron says vendors can do better. Once partners log into your portal, try to get them to explore other parts of the platform that will make them stronger partners. After a partner registers a deal, for example, guide them to additional training and education, or marketing resources and incentives. Help break partners from the habit of logging in to register a deal and then logging off, in other words.
Some portals Choron reviews reveal telltale signs of an overworked partner management organization. When he cannot easily find the materials and information partners need to work effectively, for example, Choron says the culprit is usually not a bad interface but a lack of internal resources, instead.
When advising customers, Choron is keen to have them focus on relevancy and timeliness. Consider your corporate website, for example. If it is out of date, then chances are your partner portal is, too. Two-year old information? That won’t cut it in today’s world of partnering.
What’s true for portals also goes for communications. Take news-on-demand. When companies tell him proudly that they send out quarterly newsletters, Choron growns in disapproval.
“We are in 2021. A quarterly newsletter means news included therein can be 90 days old by the time it gets to the partners,” says Choron. In the era of CRM automation, social media and other forms of communication, news should be fluid and constant, he says.
Organizations also fall down when they take consumer-oriented information and post it to their partner portal. Not only is the content old, it’s also ill-suited to a partner community, in many instances.
As for the future of partner automaton technology, it will likely mean more automated steps, more technology-assisted journeys and more customizable back-end solutions, just to name a few things. But the channel will still turn to portals for help with many of the staples that it relies on today. This includes demo requests, MDF management and more.
Will customers ever get the “single pane of glass” to manage partners that many dream of? Someday, Choron says, but this will always be a work in progress due to the number of new capabilities that organizations will want to add to their partner automation platforms.
Given the possibilities when it comes to automation and partnering, Impartner should be busy for years to come.