One of the IT industry’s best-known research firms is collaborating with an international public relations agency to offer reseller-related consulting services to product companies.

IDC and Ketchum Monday announced a joint program, called ChannelEdge, which will help vendors assess, plan and measure their relationships with reseller partners more effectively. This comes on the heels of a recently released IDC study on IT partnering called Meeting the Needs of the SMB Channel Business. The study examines some of the challenges ChannelEdge is trying to address.

More than half of the channel partners surveyed for the study said that fulfilling reseller program requirements was “”very difficult.”” It also says the attempt by more vendors — like Microsoft, PeopleSoft and others — to enter the mid-market is making it more difficult for larger VARs with more than US$5 million in annual revenues.

Stephen Graham, IDC Canada’s group vice-president, global software partnering and alliances in Toronto, said better channel communications can help vendors manage or avert conflict as well as understand the vendor’s offerings and its management philosophies. “”One of the things the channel tends to value more than anything is predictability,”” he said.

Since the success of companies like Dell, however, most channel-friendly vendors have been anything but predictable. Compaq, IBM and HP all evolved their strategies into a hybrid model that includes both direct and indirect sales. Often, Graham said, corporate direction wasn’t clear.

“”A lot of those questions were driven by the vendors’ motivations, rather than thinking of it from the way customers want to buy,”” he said. “”One of the mistakes that companies made was to assume that they were in full control here. They would assert this hard left to their overall go-to-market strategy and say, ‘We have to go direct now,’ and the customers really still wanted to deal a certain way. There was a great disconnect.””

As the economy went sour, several companies, including 3Com Canada, laid off channel marketing staff or other personnel who kept up communication with resellers. Rand said management of a partner base has to be more of a priority.

“”If 50 per cent of your company’s sales come through the channel — than why this isn’t a senior-level, if not an executive committee level position, is beyond anybody’s comprehension,”” he said. “”Why you are not putting the attention on this that it absolutely deserves is just mind-boggling.””

Graham said the two partners would be marketing ChannelEdge together but would also work individually with customers as the need arose.

“”We’re not talking about spin,”” he said. “”We’re not talking about taking strong-arm tactics to get your message out to the channel, but a combination of things like outreach programs at various levels.””

The global launch of the service will include a series of seminars in San Francisco, Boston, Singapore and London, England. No Canadian dates have been set.


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