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In my years of experience managing product lines, I’ve learned being a market leader is not enough, particularly when achieving maximum value is dependent on other systems or integrations you have little or no influence over.  

So, when I joined Zift last year as vice president of product, I looked forward to building on more than just a great product foundation.  We are bringing a vision the Zift team had for the marketplace to life — Channel as a Service.   

The Workings – and Obsessions – of a Product Team

The number one responsibility of the Zift product team is listening to our user base.  We are obsessed with learning their business challenges and finding technological solutions to solve them. We live to automate business processes and allow our customers to “do more with less.”

Any enhancement request or idea is inspected through the lens of a business outcome. What  business value will this provide? How common is the business problem we are solving? How can we improve the user’s job and daily workflows? What are the risks associated with implementation? We analyze all these questions and prioritize our roadmap to work on the capabilities that would provide the most value for our customer community. 

It’s in this space where we heard the need for the Channel as a Service platform. Loud and clear.

Why Now is the Time for Channel as a Service

Nurturing a channel ecosystem is tough work. You need to virtually manage hundreds or thousands of external companies and employees that don’t report to you, have competing priorities, and/or lack a solid understanding of the solutions you sell and how best to market them. Often, you try to solve these business challenges with multiple technology solutions that don’t connect well. Your best integration intentions leave you with more complexity in your already complex role of managing a channel.

By providing an end-to-end service that allows you to manage every aspect of a channel program (from recruiting a partner and training them, to enabling them to market, and having clear visibility into their pipeline), Channel as a Service removes any technological barrier and empowers the channel team to focus on what matters most — channel revenue.

Best Intentions of Integration

Integration projects are always challenging. As a channel operations manager, for example, you often struggle getting the multiple software vendors you use to talk and work with each other. These vendors may have different technology stacks, live in different time zones and follow different development methodologies. All of these differences create conflicts that delay projects, incur unplanned expenses, and keep you from realizing ROI from the solution. In worst cases, the entire implementation fails, forcing the channel team to go back to square one and look for different options.

Evolution of Integration

Technology integration has definitely evolved over the last 10 to 20 years. Overall, the evolution has made things simpler, but, in many cases, many complexities have appeared that didn’t exist in the past.

As software evolved from client-only solutions, to client-server and Web solutions, it became common to have an API layer that allows other software solutions to integrate with yours. Moving from SOA architectures to Web Services and Micro-Services, developers are building solutions that can be consumed in a modular way, both internally and externally. As more and more solutions are deployed to public clouds and API management solutions are created, there are more standard ways to talk between software. Unfortunately,  using these additional layers  creates potential conflicts between different cloud solutions and API management solutions.

The technology itself isn’t the only hurdle. Each country and industry has its own laws and regulations, and depending on the type of integration, you may have to come up with creative and complex ways to achieve something. Whether it’s privacy regulations, moving data out of specific countries or complying with strict financial regulations, these laws continue to evolve,adding challenges to many integration projects.

Integration Well Done

Most software providers say that their applications integrate (or can integrate) with other solutions, but  technical integration is very different than having an integrated solution.

The question is not whether two different applications can talk to each other, but if you can provide a single integrated solution to the user. Users have no interest in learning multiple applications that require separate logins or additional training efforts since they look and behave differently. Integration done well means the user doesn’t need to adjust to the technology solution. The implemented solution should adjust to their daily workflow and provide a seamless experience as if it is a single solution. This is the mission of Channel as a Service (CHaaS).

It’s Still About People

CHaaS provides a unified solution and experience for channel marketing, sales and operations that addresses everything required to run a successful channel program. That includes all of the processes and people involved in channel programs.The technology just allows it to happen.

This unified solution allows channel sales, marketing and operations to focus more on the outcome of their channel program and less on implementing and integrating different solutions. It will allow them to enjoy an end-to-end solution quickly and focus on recruiting, enabling and managing their partners and pipeline to grow their business.