In my stump speeches at partner conferences this year, I identify the No. 1 challenge that faces channel partners (and the tech vendors whose products they represent): partners’ inefficacy in reaching and resonating with line-of-business (LOB) decision-makers. It’s a disconcerting challenge indeed, due to the fact, of course (as Forrester’s Business Technographics® data repeatedly demonstrates), that LOB executives have strong influence over technology solution purchase decisions.
But that tide could be beginning to change. At Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference last week, Salesforce’s COO Keith Block lauded its channel partners, attributing much of Salesforce’s success in the past year to partners’ success in engaging C-level executives. Block specifically called out channel partners for their ability to empathize with CEOs’ goals of growth and shareholder gain. Block also claims that 40% of customers are insisting on channel partners’ strategic involvement in effecting solutions and business outcomes. And Salesforce tends to direct that business to its channel partners with proven business chops/acumen.
While Block’s partner callout may be considered more the exception than the rule today, it is still encouraging. Some channel partners are making the requisite investments and changes to regain relevance in the largely LOB-driven cloud era. And it shows in the data: Customers’ penchant for cloud channel sourcing has more than doubled, from fewer than 25% of cloud service/solution purchases via the channel in 2012 to more than 50% in 2016.
Tightly coupled with channel partners’ adolescent growth spurt in serving the LOB is the plethora of new value-added service opportunities arising from tech vendors’ cloud consumption models and business decision-makers’ increasing involvement in such. In my stump speeches (again), I identify more than 40 new business-catalyzed, value-added service offerings. They range from technology management reorganization to change management to vendor management office (VMO) services involving cloud brokerage, utilization benchmarking, service-level-agreement governance, and billing aggregation. (Forrester clients: See the “Channel Partners’ Shifting Value-Add — And Their Digital Potential” Forrester report.) Dreamforce reinforced this, too. Tyler Prince, Salesforce’s channel chief, said that he anticipates a surge in channel partners’ value-added services: “We think that over the next five years, there will be $260 billion in professional services available for our consulting partners.”
It seems like channel partners are finally coming to the cloud party — via the business — and everyone at the cloud party is welcoming them.