Accreditation – A burden or a blessing

Vendor accreditation programmes – who are they really for?

1. Customers?
2. Channel partners?
3. Vendors?
4. All three?

Why does a customer care if their supplier is accredited by the vendor of the product, solution or service?
Why does a channel partner care whether they are Bronze, Silver, or Gold certified?
Why does the vendor need to create training and certification material, courses, tests etc?

It all sounds a lot of work, so why does anyone bother?

There must be some significant value in order to motivate everyone to care enough to get engaged – so what is it?

Customers are what this is all about! Customers require good advice from well informed representatives from the channel community and the channel community cannot rely on the resources of the vendor at every engagement they have, so the channel partners need to become equally well informed – This requires training and testing, which is great for the vendor, because they end up with well informed channel partners representing them and provides the scale required to develop more market coverage. In addition, an accreditation programme usually has a volume\revenue related metric, which rewards the successful sales partner – more of a value component than a quality component and an often thorny topic for engineering heavy partners with lots of skills but not too many new sales. Customers are usually able to see for themselves what partner accreditations are for channels and select based on a value\quality blend. In reality most customers want to know they will be well looked after rather than well sold to.
For the vendor, an accreditation programme provides a sense for channel partner commitment levels and focus on their portfolio, and training enables current knowledge to be maintained and product knowledge to be broadly well ingrained. The more a channel partner commits to one vendor programme, the less time and resources they will have for competing offers – stands to reason. So vendors see this as an important dynamic for developing partner commitments. Ultimately this enables scale and quality delivery for the customers and commitment for the vendor, with the reseller having the ability to wrap services and complementary products to their solution.

Business or consumer?

It’s an interesting distinction often discussed related to the customers you serve with your products and services. The lines became blurred some time ago as the world changed. I’m referring here specifically to the market for communications and mobility. I’m clearly just a regular member of society and as such am clearly a consumer, however, for most of the week I’m a business man. During the week I constantly flip between personas dependent upon the thoughts and actions at hand.

Today is Sunday and I’m heading to a business meeting starting tomorrow morning and therefore my persona is probably more confused than usual, but I look around a very busy train into London, and it’s full of people using their mobile devices to access what’s important to them now. It may be that there are others like me who are travelling to a business oriented activity, or more likely (based on overheard conversation), they are heading to something more recreational. Whatever we are all doing, it’s clear that mobility in our lives is very much mainstream, whether for business or consumer oriented use. What else is clear is that on order to get the maximum advantage from technology on the go, the device needs connectivity. For me, about to embark upon international travel, I’m considering cost avoidance and inconvenience, so I’ll be ensuing that I’m connecting to WiFi wherever I can, and I’ll be relying upon my ipass app and service to do the heavy lifting. I suspect that the people within the Enterprise customer base that also use ipass are similarly taking advantage of this benefit when they are not “at work” or in “business mode” – well why not?

How agile is your business?

What factors affect the agility of a business? Is it the simple case that if you are running a small business, then you are agile?
I don’t believe so, as there are other really critical factors that mean that a larger business can also be agile whereas a smaller business can also be slow and unresponsive.

For example, in order to be agile, a business needs to be able to make decisions rapidly and have an environment where staff are empowered. The culture needs to be one that focusses on the customer as their purpose, rather than the customer as an inconvenience and an interruption and a source of frustration. Believe me when I say that I have experienced senior business leaders speaking about their customers in very negative terms, and bemoaning their approach to suppliers.
Ownership of issues is also a factor that is critical in ensuring your business can be agile or not. Large or small, having simple processes that ensure that the business does not simply rely on people passing emails to each other and responding in a timely fashion, is critical. A customer with a requirement is only interested in a partnership with another organisation able to understand them and an ability to execute.
So in summary the following are necessary to enable your business to operate with agility:

> Customer focus
> Empowerment
> Decision making
> Process – simple and effective.
> Ownership

And an agile business, like a successful sports team, needs a high degree of collaboration and teamwork focus.