SAN MATEO (06/05/2000) - So your CRM (customer relationship management) implementation is finally finished, your direct sales team is happy, and your managers have an accurate consumer sales forecast in hand. But unless you've implemented similar tools to manage your indirect sales channels such as resellers, distributors, retailers, and other partners, you've neglected a huge portion of your relationship management needs. After all, a lot of your goods enter the marketplace via these indirect sales paths, making it critical to cultivate partner programs as assiduously as you do customer operations.
With the release of eXtended Enterprise 2000 (XE), a Web-based PRM (partner relationship management) solution, Partnerware automates tasks such as partner acquisition, lead distribution, and market development fund distribution, maximizing your indirect sales revenue and shortening your product's time to market. XE delivers dynamite results at a reasonable price, earning a score of Very Good in my testing process.
Allegis Corp. and Channelwave Software Inc. both provide PRM solutions with highly polished Web-based interfaces. However, both these competitors also require costly coding for customization, which XE does not.
Partnerware XE contains six core modules: pAcquire, pProfile, pLeads, pFunds, pProgram, and pSales, which are all designed to facilitate relationships between your indirect sales channel (partner) managers and your business partners. For the purposes of my testing, I assumed two roles: a channel sales manager for a fictitious company called Vendor Corp., and a sales representative for Reseller Inc., a sales partner of Vendor Corp.
I first used XE's eXtensible Module Designer (XMD) to create a lead qualification questionnaire for Reseller Inc. and was pleased to find that my customization required no additional coding. This feature will eliminate costs when implementing business process changes because you won't have to pay Partnerware to write your custom code.
Using the channel manager login, I created a new sales lead in the pLeads module and designated Reseller Inc. the partner for the lead. When I logged in to the application as Reseller Inc., the new lead appeared in the myLeads module, and I was able to update the lead and create a sales opportunity.
I also updated Reseller Inc.'s address in the myProfile section, and this new information immediately appeared in Vendor Corp.'s pProfile module.
Not only does this instant sharing of information enable accurate partner sales forecasting and ensure correct data, it also eliminates the laborious task of entering identical information into many applications.
With the pSales module, channel managers can sort sales opportunity data into specifically tailored reports. For instance, I filtered my Vendor Corp. data to report only those open sales opportunities with a completion probability of more than 50 percent.
Unfortunately, other areas of the application do not share this exceptional reporting functionality, and display only rough rows of text data with very little formatting.
Partnerware offers XE as a hosted solution through ASPs (application service providers) Exodus and USI Networks, which means you won't need to burden your internal staff or tax your network hardware to maintain XE. Indeed, the thin client requires only a browser to function.
I was disappointed to learn that XE does not support integration with other applications, such as accounting software or CRM packages. Partnerware's Professional Services team will create custom data-migration procedures for you, but this will add significant costs to your PRM implementation.
In spite of this, Partnerware offers a solid product, easily earning a score of Very Good. I recommend it to any company interested in maximizing its indirect sales potential.
Chad Hammond (email@example.com) is a professional services manager at a San Mateo-based CRM and e-commerce consulting firm.
PRM: CRM's close cousin
In today's consumer-centric business environment, most organizations have acknowledged the need for automated CRM tools to manage sales, marketing, and customer support services. However, only recently have companies begun to realize the benefits of implementing PRM technology to maximize relationships with crucial business partners in the selling and service supply chain.
If your company uses indirect partner sales channels such as value-added resellers and retailors to deliver goods to market, then you probably would benefit from PRM programs. With PRM products, manufacturers can maximize information stored in partner databases to increase indirect revenue, decrease product time to market, and boost partner loyalty.
PRM tools collect and analyze partner profile information to make informed business decisions. Although CRM systems are usually accessed by internal sales, marketing, and support teams, PRM's primary users are channel sales managers and the external business partners themselves. Accordingly, PRM systems use a Web-based architecture to extend partner database access to channel partners in the form of extranet applications.
Some CRM vendors are currently attempting to extend the functionality of their packages to provide PRM capabilities. However, organizations that realize more than 30 percent of their revenues from indirect channel sales should implement a ground-up PRM system instead of bolting PRM capabilities onto an existing CRM system.
In addition, when choosing a service, you should identify current and future integration points between the PRM system and other applications, such as accounting and CRM. Implementing a PRM system as a disconnected island will require duplicate data entry and will increase your chances for error and process breakdown.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
eXtended Enterprise 2000
Business Case: Partnerware XE generates comprehensive partner sales forecasts and reliable partner data, maximizing your indirect sales revenue and increasing partner loyalty.
Technology Case: Partnerware XE is a hosted solution with zero-deployment Web-based clients, so you can implement the solution with minimal IT support.
+ Simple customization without coding
+ Thin client
+ Short implementation time frame
- Unpolished interface
- No prebuilt integration with systems such as CRMCost: $58,000 for initial license fee, $15,000/month service charge (includes end-user training, configuration, and implementation for up to 100 users)Platform(s): Windows NT, (Solaris support within next few months); Oracle or Sybase databases requiredPartnerware Inc.; Austin, Texas; (888) 499-3000; www.partnerware.com