So, you’ve implemented what you think is the best Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform to suit your requirements. And you’re adopting best practices to ensure the content stays up to date. Not to mention you are aligning the functionalities to support both your partner’s and your customer’s lifecycle. Yet, when you track utilization of the new PRM platform, you are seeing usage metrics that are far from ideal. And so, you are probably wondering “why”. Why is adoption of the new system not meeting your expectations?
Firstly, what you need to remember is that PRM enables 2-way interactions between a company and its partners. Therefore, your channel partners usage adoption is only one side of the story. Your internal stakeholders, those that ‘touch’ partners in any way, need to be onboard to leverage the full extent of PRM. By involving all stakeholders in the PRM, you will see great improvements in engagement, along with improved ease of doing business for partners.
All too often, internal user adoption of a new system is a challenge. This is still true when the new system offers a much better way of doing business. Which, of course, is the principal reason for implementation. However, one of the typical user adoption challenges is human nature to resist change. Therefore, “change management” should be considered and addressed as soon as you have decided to embark on the journey to implement a PRM platform and not an afterthought. But what are the critical success factors in achieving the necessary change?
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Putting the indirect organization through a transformation of its business model and digital technology is a process that affects many functions within the company. This starts with top management and finishes with ground-level employees and, of course, channel partners. Therefore, a significant undertaking like this requires strong support from senior executives, providing a clear vision for why the change is needed and what the desired outcomes are to be.
While the top executives in companies’ communicate a clear vision of growing the company’s business through partners, this vision is often perceived as a focus that applies only to the channel organization. In many companies, the channel organization remains siloed with its own sales, marketing, finance, and operation teams. It has little to no collaboration with the rest of the organization. For true success, a company needs to instil a partnership culture beyond the partnering teams. Accomplish this vision through ongoing education. A partnership culture drives everyone across the organization to integrate partnerships into the customer lifecycle and adopt new ways of working that enable collaboration.
As with any large-scale transformation project, change requires a high level of ownership and accountability. Having mere buy-in or passive agreement from everyone to change is not enough. It involves ownership by leaders willing to take responsibility for making the change happen in all areas they influence or manage. An excellent way to drive ownership is to involve them in identifying the problem areas, agreeing to the areas that require change and designing the solutions.
No change project always goes according to plan. Market conditions shift, partner programs get revamped, employees leave, and new recruits join. Effectively managing change requires a continual review of the plan, reassessment of its impact and the company’s willingness to adapt and readiness to adopt the next phase of the transformation. Regularly review progress towards the end goal along with the performance of the channel business. When there is a lack of regular review, efforts may become futile, and everyone may fall back to old habits. The change management owner needs to ensure all aspects of the process are going as per plan and any roadblocks that hinder success are quickly removed.
Very often, change leaders make the mistake of believing that employees understand the challenges they face, the need to change, and the approach to accomplish the vision. However, effective change management involves the continual reinforcement of the vision and key messages around partnership. Therefore, aim to overcommunicate through multiple channels and provide an avenue for employees to raise questions or give feedback. Regular communications that engages employees along the way, allows the company to work in the same direction.
When managing a change through the phases planned, it is important to recognize the success of the teams and individual employees at each milestone achievements. Above all, this recognition will help in building camaraderie within the teams, creating a sense of accomplishment, and motivating everyone to strive for greater success in subsequent phases.
In conclusion, as you plan your PRM implementation and look at how to drive adoption among your channel partners, establish a change management process internally, that will complete the puzzle for effective channel automation.