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Published On: Mon, Jul 20th, 2020

Tech Stack 2020

Forrester Research recently produced interesting research around the technology stack for channel management software. The article produced by Forrester’s Jay Mc Bain provides an overview of the suite of technologies that companies use to “plan with, find, recruit, onboard, develop, enable, incentivize, cosell with, comarket with, manage, measure, and report” on their channel partner ecosystem.

The article highlights the fact that manual logging of all these activities in no longer possible in a world where the partner landscape is constantly changing at an ever-increasing pace. Forrester no longer even refers to them as simply “partners” but now segments partner types into “influencer, transactional, and retention categories”. 

McBain refers to the current complexity of channel partner programs and how they consist of a vast number of pieces and moving parts. These parts must all be managed in a cohesive way through channel management technologies and training. Without effective training on these channel partner platforms, the wider benefits of the platforms such as improving performance cannot be obtained. McBain suggests that when used properly, the channel management technologies can be highly effective tools for managing, monitoring and measuring the channel partner journey and overall partner experience.

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The article suggests that the mountains of data generated by the channel management platforms may be harvested and converted into real and useable intelligence through the application of new technologies such as artificial intelligence. The functionality for this is already built into many of the channel management platforms and is ready to be used by those trained in its application.

McBain notes that only 50% of companies report using channel management software to manage their indirect sales which indicates significant growth potential in this area. The sector itself is served by a variety of players, from small startups to technology behemoths like IBM. 

Forrester break the sector down into seven distinct categories: Partner Relationship Management (PRM), Through-Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA), Channel Learning and Readiness (CLR), Channel Incentives Management (CIM), Channel Data Management (CDM), Channel Financials and Channel Ecosystem Management (CEM).

They define Partner Relationship Management software as the platforms that manage the full life cycle of interactions with partners. These systems also integrate into enterprise-wide systems such as CRM and ERP.

Through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) are the platforms that partners use to create awareness and generate demand while maintain a consistent vendor brand. These are the systems that support co-marketing campaigns between a vendor and their channel partners, accelerating channel pipeline and velocity.

Channel learning and readiness (CLR) are the systems that enable partner development through educational training courses and enablement resources, including learning management systems, accreditation and certification management. 

Channel incentives management (CIM) platforms are the software programs that manage financial incentives to the partner ecosystem such as market development funds, sales performance incentive funds, rebates, compensation, and loyalty programs.

Channel data management (CDM) are the platforms that collect, clean and aggregate point-of-sale and inventory data from partners and distributors in a single source that enables actionable intelligence. It includes advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning and predictive analytics. Channel financials manage the indirect sales revenue and costs, determining the correct value of transactions, automating financial reporting and preventing errors in payment, commission, and rebates. 

Finally, Channel ecosystem management (CEM) platforms relate to the influence, transaction, and retention channels across the entire customer buying journey. It allows for attribution throughout multiple partner business models, including  alliances, affinity, affiliates, advocates, ambassadors, integrators, consultants, shadow channels, super-connectors, and digital influencers. It can also enable tracking for multiparty, multipartner orchestration of complex partner ecosystems to ensure that each stakeholder is fairly compensated and their unique contributions to the overall effort are recognized accordingly.

According to Forrester, these channel management software tools will become increasingly necessary to manage the exponential growth in partnerships over the next five years. 

Author: Nataliya Stefanus

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