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A Short Manual for Channel Chiefs from a Former Microsoft Exec

Being a channel chief at an IT company is a tough job with a lot of moving parts, but now there's a manual.

Ross Brown, a former senior Microsoft channel executive, wrote a blog entry this week called "The 6 Roles of a Channel Chief," which presents a nice breakdown of the many varied duties of a channel chief.

Brown is a senior principle at the Spur Group. Previously, he was vice president of worldwide partner strategy at Microsoft, and held senior channel roles during both Allison Watson's and Jon Roskill's tenures as channel chief at Microsoft. Brown has also held senior management roles at Citrix, IBM and eEye Digital Security.

"The scope of the channel chief is more akin to being the CEO of Partners than a divisional leader. Your domain crosses into many of your peers' realms and the role requires skills that may be beyond the capability of any one leader," Brown wrote.

Brown's definition of the six roles are a sales leader, a marketing leader, an operational leader, a leader in product strategy, a risk minimizer and an advocate for partners.

He makes especially salient points in the product strategy section: "Good technology is the ante for the channel business to start and being an active voice on product direction and strategy is a core role for a channel chief. The reason behind this is that you represent a critical voice into the product equation -- features that customers may not value may be valued highly by partners, and you represent that partner perspective."

I'm less persuaded by his view that a partner program should be run like a P&L -- with internal use rights and other benefits balanced against program fees. It seems like that approach takes too narrow a view of the channel as part of a program rather than as a sales multiplier. But this is a minor complaint about a great overview.

By collecting all these threads of the channel chief's job, Brown also illustrates, without directly saying so, how critical it is that a channel chief have regular access to and the complete confidence of a vendor's CEO.

It's well worth a read for anyone who likes to know how tech management thinks, or should be thinking, about the channel. I hope Brown keeps up his blog. Read previous coverage of Brown's channel insights here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 10, 2014 at 10:28 AM


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