Last week, Forrester hosted a channel roundtable in Singapore on the evaluation of channel models in Asia Pacific. The goal was to create a common platform for tech vendor senior channel executives and Forrester analysts to discuss key changes faced by the channel leaders and how best to adapt to them. The briefing was attended by 26 senior channel executives representing 21 tech vendors.

All of the channel leaders agreed with a Forrester report which indicated that channel models are under great pressure due to the growth of mobility and the devices that power it, as-a-service computing models, and the decreasing influence of IT departments on overall tech spending. As they cope with these changes, the key challenges they identified during the interactive roundtable were:

  • Identifying and engaging with those channel partners that can adjust to market shifts. This emerged as a major challenge, not only for some of the new cloud-based service providers but also for traditional tech vendors venturing into new solution areas. A shortage of skilled channel professionals within Asia Pacific exacerbates this challenge. Several also identified the challenge of high turnover within their channel base and the frustration of investing in the skills of a partner executive and having him shift to a competitor’s channel.
  • Increasing the value of their marketing dollar. The roundtable spoke about the diminishing value of their current marketing dollars in a limited budget environment and how it is affecting their ability to invest in newer marketing tools and solutions. As customers change, coming up with an innovative and effective way to market new products is becoming increasingly difficult. As a result, most of the companies that were in the room have been reducing the number of partners they engage to spread their funds further.
  • Enabling channel partners to change with evolving customer and market needs. Another issue discussed was how to effectively motivate, change, and enable the traditional channel partners to evolve with the changing technology dynamics and customers. On the other hand, the channel leaders also called out the need to change themselves to better understand and serve these new-age partners.
  • Generating channel partner loyalty for their solutions versus the competition. The massive availability of products and solutions, along with hypercompetition, is driving channels to partner with multiple tech vendors in the same solution or product space. As a result, vendors are finding it very challenging to encourage channels to focus enough attention on their solutions and drive channel partner loyalty.

Of all the challenges raised, the roundtable spent the most time discussing channel partner loyalty. Channel leaders were especially concerned with how they can get their channel partner’s commitment and loyalty in a crowded market. Forrester then shared its channel partner loyalty playbook as a framework to help tech vendors address this fundamental challenge. The playbook provides a blueprint for focusing limited resources in the areas that drive the most payback: relationship with partners, quality of support/enablement, financial rewards, breadth of portfolio, product design, strength of the brand, and finally ease of doing business.

How does this match to your top channel challenges?  Did our group leave anything out that is keeping you up at night?