Who’s Running This Program, Anyway? The Quest for a Chief Channel Executive
- A chief channel executive (CCE), who oversees strategy and can form organizational interlocks with supporting functions, is critical to a B2B company’s success in the channel
- Many organizations don’t have a CCE or a clear definition of what the CCE’s roles and responsibilities should be
- SiriusDecisions Partner Experience Maturity Assessment Tool offers suppliers a process for determining how well they align to partners, a key responsibility for this role
What do Gomez Addams, Arianna Huffington and Captain James T. Kirk have in common? Each is master of his or her own domain. No important decision is made without one of these “heads of everything” knowing about it. More importantly, they lead by example – you wouldn’t expect Captain Kirk to negotiate with a Klingon. In B2B channels, you wouldn’t expect your chief channel executive (CCE) to poach partners from a competitor’s program – or would you?
The truth is that there are few guidelines when it comes to the role of CCE, who is typically in charge of setting the channel strategy and managing the channel program. Through my interactions with many mid-size and large channel programs, I’m learning that not having a dedicated CCE is sometimes worse than having one who’s still figuring out what his or her role should be. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen many misguided CCEs derail a channel program into oblivion. But not having one creates a lot of finger-pointing and inertia that can do just as much damage by not accomplishing anything at all.
So, exactly what should be the role of the CCE? The answer varies by type and size of channel program, but here are five areas to consider:
- Partner sales and relationships leader. If there’s one key attribute of this role that stands out more than others, it’s the requirement for the CCE to be a master at building relationships internally with company functional leaders, and externally with partners and alliances. Whether connecting with internal teams that contribute to the channel’s success or channel executives and owners, the CCE must forge alliances with key stakeholders around the company’s channel vision and the strategy the company has agreed to use to execute on that vision.
- Partner marketing leader. I once heard a vice president of channels describe his role as a “partner marketing leader” who needed to ensure his partner marketing team acted as “the headlights of the business.” I guess you could say that partners operate on the fringes – because they’re more likely to extend a product to new buyers or markets – so this stuck with me because it implies it’s up to partner marketing to guide this process. As marketing leader, the CCE should be integral in the planning process, ensuring the program is investing in the right balance of program and personnel and striking the right balance in marketing to, through and for partners.
- Partner management operational leader. For planning, recruiting or enabling partners, many of the operational processes within a channel program need to run smoothly for the channel strategy to yield results. Whether it’s putting the final stamp on the right deal registration platform or determining reporting practices, it’s up to the CCE to make key decisions that affect channel operations and conduct regular benchmarks and assessments to determine where gaps can be addressed to drive best-in-class performance.
- Partner advocate. The CCE should be the senior executive liaison for channel partners, sharing with leadership pertinent input from the channel that can shape policy and providing potentially sobering feedback to channel program teams that can indicate where and how they can improve their functions. The CCE also should be responsible for any voice of the partner initiatives and chief bearer of good or bad news about any significant changes in channel relationships.
- Partner experience leader. As companies strive to improve partner experience, it’s the CCE’s job to lead this effort. The CCE should assemble a cross-functional team and assess the current state of partner experience to address any gaps across all the program touchpoints, then act as chairman for the steering committee that monitors progress to mitigate any issues.
The CCE ultimately is responsible for supplier-partner alignment in terms of business strategy and commitments. As the senior executive for partner experience, this role ensures that the second of five essential pillars of the SiriusDecisions Partner Experience Maturity Model – people and alignment – is assessed and monitored regularly (the other four pillars are product and profitability, programs and tools, processes and technology, and promotion and communications).
Many SiriusDecisions clients share their wish to improve partner experience, but many don’t know where to start. Our analysts recently developed the SiriusDecisions Partner Experience Maturity Assessment Tool, which helps companies assess their maturity in each of the five pillars. Please contact us if you’d like to learn how your company can work with our channel sales or channel marketing analyst teams to measure your partner experience maturity.