Partner Advocate

Channeling Disruption

IDC predicts new developments in the channel that will have you rethinking your approach to partnering in the months and years to come.

It's a disruptive time for the channel model right now, even for the most well-established and successful programs. Industry consolidation has made some large vendors more powerful. But technological developments such as Software as a Service (SaaS) threaten big vendor power. Meanwhile, these companies' partners are increasingly viewing themselves-and acting-as trusted advisors or solution providers, rather than mere resellers.

Against that backdrop, analysts at Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC have come up with a list of intriguing predictions for channel developments that they think may actually play out in this calendar year.

Prediction No. 1: "Partners will organize themselves into organic partner networks and potentially begin a shift in the balance of power away from the vendors."

As an example, IDC very much has its eye on the independent International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners. Any close look at the Microsoft Partner Program's membership shows a dense and multi-threaded network of partners buying from each other, selling to each other and working together. In fact, IDC is seeing regional groupings of four or five partners in small, tactical clusters that may include a training partner, a Large Account Reseller, a systems integrator and one or two others.

Prediction No. 2: "Vendors will shift mainstream partner performance barometers to reward influence, leading to a further decline of the VAR model."

Microsoft actually has a pilot program underway right now designed to ensure that the trusted advisor partner who drives the sale-not just the Large Account Reseller or distributor who fulfills the software order-gets noticed inside Microsoft.

Prediction No. 3: "Large vendors will reveal their SaaS roadmaps to channel partners."

I used this column to call for Microsoft to do that in time for the last Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). Of course, it's difficult to lay out a detailed channel version of your SaaS roadmap when you haven't settled on your grand SaaS strategy in the first place. Let's hope that strategy will be a little more solid by this year's WPC, to be held in July in Denver. In Microsoft's defense, according to IDC, none of the big software vendors has clearly explained yet how it will handle SaaS.

Those last two predictions are pretty safe bets within the Microsoft partner community, where the trends are already unfolding. The first one--about organic partner networks--is a good one to look into yourself if you're not already leading the way. We'll check back on and report about these predicted disruptions in the coming months.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.