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The rules of engagement between partners and their vendors

Shantheri Mallaya | Nov. 1, 2013
Amid the mish mash of the dollar-rupee yo-yo and a host of other political imbroglios, one wonders whether partner programs are keeping pace and staying relevant with the new realities of economics.

On the other hand, Arun S.G., director, 3in Solutions, feels that IBM as a vendor should look at grooming new partners very seriously. With about 10 percent of the solution provider's business coming in from IBM, 3in also feels that IBM's policy of not allowing partners to take charge of services will have to change. "We gather that IBM now has a team of services that is scheduled to work with the channels. We are yet to get more clarity, though we have been approached with certain bundles."

That's a sentiment partly echoed by V. Ananth Narayanan, MD of Chennai-based SBA Infosolutions. Narayanan falls in the bracket of a handful of IBM partners who have been permitted to do services as they are IBM Application Service Providers (ASP). SBA is trying to build its business astutely around its solutions so that services is a part of the deal. Narayanan admits that while software services have been opened to partners in a phased manner, consultancy is still a grey area when it comes to IBM business.

However, IBM's recent Management Training Program (for partners at IIMB) as well as its streamlined process of backend tracking—target incentives and quarterly rebates— through statements gets a thumbs-up from both Narayanan and Jiten Mehta, director, Magnamious Systems. The company has a long-standing relationship with IBM, and lauds the fact that there are revenue commitments that IBM mandates and this help a partner to stay focused. "Our levels of engagement multiply and we remain vigilant when there are definite targets," says Mehta.

Opportunity Registration and Conflict
While the backend score card is being set, vendors and partners alike know that a good opportunity registration (OR) system seals the deal. While it is believed that on paper most vendors do have some form of an OR component for partners, the real story is that very few have mature systems of actually enforcing the OR.

EMC scores again or so says 3in Solutions' Arun and New Wave's Subramaniam, who believe that EMC's opportunity lock-in system protects their deals in a significant way. So much so that once a partner locks a deal, even if a prospective customer tries to influence who they might want for the project, the system is quite fool-proof to prevent what is due to the partner, who first locked the deal. "This has been amply demonstrated in the important deals New Wave has closed in recent times," says Subramaniam.

On the other hand, Ravi Putta, co-founder and MD of Alliance Prosys, a Microsoft Large Account Reseller (LAR), believes that Mircosoft's cloud story is strong, and that the Partner Network has a strong annuity model for Azure and Office 365 solutions. This enables partners to make about 8-10 percent. The targets and timelines are set and once an LAR locks his deal, he is in it for good. Being an LAR, Putta admits, is an added advantage to get the creamy accounts, and devote more bandwidth to focus on customers. "Being an LAR, we don't have to talk to other partners; we just look at the customers and what we need to deliver," he says.


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