No matter how well-integrated a partner is in the channel ecosystem, it's impossible for even the most responsible channel manager to keep tabs on their every action. There's always risk involved with bringing partner businesses into a venture, since more often than not they are independent entities that will prefer to operate at an arms-length. A key component to solidifying a partnership is setting goals and milestones that are measurable and align the business objectives of each party.
This is where KPIs, Key Performance Indicators, come in. KPIs are a series of metrics which are used to get a quick overview of how partners are performing. When they're properly chosen, a good set of KPIs can provide a lot of insight into partnership relations, as well as showing both strengths and weaknesses within each partner.
The "best" KPIs will vary from company to company, but they generally cover areas such as sales, amount of time spent training, customer satisfaction, and brand engagement.
Even then, as the channel system grows, significant challenges will need to be overcome by a savvy channel manager to adapt to changing KPI requirements over time.
The Difficulties Tracking Partner KPIs
It's one thing to define important KPIs, but it's another thing to get the raw data necessary to measure them accurately and turn that data into actionable insight. Among the common problems a channel manager might face are:
- Scope. If a business has a large number of partners, merely keeping tabs on all of them at once becomes a significant hurdle.
- Transparency. Some partners are going to be more forthcoming with data than others, and some may even be looking for ways to fudge the numbers in their favor.
- Locked-in Silos. Many partners are going to be using their own database systems, which are often proprietary, which makes sharing data difficult.
- Data overload. Going the other way, if a partner is too free with their data, it could easily create a situation where it's difficult to separate the important data from irrelevancies.
- Communications. If one vendor is having great success on a key metric while others aren't, how does a manager communicate that success and push others towards it?
- Big-picture impact. It's easy to miss the forest for the trees, as they say, focusing on single data points without seeing how they add up to the overall success or failure of a venture.
- Manual processes. Sharing of information between channel partners and the vendor often comes in the forms of spreadsheets, and occur on a monthly basis (at best). By the time that data is consolidated and reviewed it is entirely outdated.
These are challenges that are only going to only grow over time, as channel partnerships continue to become larger and more intricate. A channel manager needs a single go-to source for collecting, collating, and acting upon their KPIs in real-time.
Partner Relationship Management Software Makes KPIs Manageable
The good news is that such a solution does exist: Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software. PRM is similar to a Customer Relationship Management suite, but it's built specifically to support an indirect sales channel. A strong PRM system is designed to support the needs of a vendor's partner network, to create a smooth flow of data and communication across every level of the ecosystem.
Within a PRM system, KPIs can be easily specified and tracked independently, while using a shared database system that all partners have access to. All the collected data can be delivered in real-time via customizable dashboards, with reports that can be automatically generated and shared with internal and external stakeholders. There are a number of additional ways you can capitalize on business intelligence in the indirect channel.
Additionally, PRM opens up entirely new channels of communication. It creates a centralized resource for sharing information, data, and insights. Channel managers can decide how much access to grant, such as whether partners will have the ability to see each others' performance directly. If not, the PRM can still function as a top-down system for a company to communicate vital information whenever necessary.
In short, no matter how large your channel program becomes, a quality PRM makes the data manageable.
KPIs are tracked real-time and are accessible from your desktop, tablet, or mobile phone. It can make the job of a channel manager immeasurably easier, while boosting their own performance significantly.
LogicBay provides the top PRM system on the market, with a robust feature set designed to help partnerships succeed today and years into the future. Contact LogicBay today for a full consultation on our products and what they can do for your own partner relations.