Zift’s debut of Channel as a Service was met with excitement and a fair share of questions last week. I’m not surprised. After working in the channel for 20+ years, I know that new, disruptive ideas and innovative solutions can ruffle feathers. Plus, prior to our announcement, we spoke to multiple industry analysts who all told us that Channel as a Service (CHaaS) was going to make some serious waves.

By delivering everything that B2B organizations need to build and grow more profitable partner programs in one platform, we’re doing something that’s never been done before. But we certainly didn’t go into this without clear knowledge that channel organizations needed and were asking for help beyond our best-of-breed Channel Marketing and Management.

The fact is, Zift is expanding its focus with CHaaS, and stepping up to do more, because our customers have taught us through experience it’s the right thing to do.  We’ve listened to them, understand their challenges, examined over a decade’s worth of channel partner marketing data (more than one billion marketing transactions) – and are absolutely committed to making it easier to market, sell and drive productivity through the channel.  

Lack of Integration Undermines Adoption & Success

One thing I remember well from our analyst briefings prior to launching CHaaS was being asked, “Why the focus on the buyer’s business and not harping on features and functions as channel software companies often do?”  At Zift, rather than becoming overly enamored with the technologies underlying Channel as a Service, we’re focused on the business issues. While technology has swiftly appeared to help channel organizations navigate today’s marketing and sales landscape, complexity has also crept in. The lack of integration between all of the siloed applications channel organizations are using to manage marketing, sales and operations has contributed directly to poor partner adoption. Moreover, integration challenges extend beyond technology components and applications.

Three Levels of Integration

Anyone can say they “integrate,” but integration goes beyond getting software applications to speak to each other.  It’s about helping suppliers align sales and marketing, supporting complex processes in a seamless fashion and, yes, there are important components that do require application-level API’s – but this shouldn’t be the only focus.  Here are three specific levels of integration vital to channel program success:

Functional Integration: This entails streamlining and automating  key functions of Marketing, Sales and Operations departments, so that teams can work together more efficiently and effectively to plan, recruit and support channel partners. Without functional integration, channel programs will falter, regardless of the technology you put in place.

Process Integration: With Process Integration, channel leaders examine and integrate all of the disparate processes they deliver during the course of a channel program or even across the partner and customer lifecycle. Zift Channel as a Service supports the integration of both internal and external processes, such as distributing leads and even helping organizations work with third-party agencies to enable better visibility, control and optimal results from multiple processes.

Tools and Application Integration: The nuts and bolts of integration, Tools and Application Integration ensures that systems work well together. This certainly applies to integration  between multiple applications, such as Channel Marketing and Management (CMM), Partner Relationship Management (PRM) and Marketplace incentives. Of course these need to work together seamlessly. Which is why Zift has built a dedicated development team to ensure individual Channel as a Service components work together flawlessly – and integrate with the systems and infrastructure organizations and their partners already have in place.

Evolving DNA to Support Both Suppliers & Channel Partners

Process Precedes TechnologyAll of this underscores the point that Zift isn’t just focused on integration at the technology layer.  Our DNA has also evolved to match the broader needs of our customers through Channel as a Service.  We’ve onboarded experts, expanded our development team, strengthened our customer success and channel engagement teams, all of whom are all focused on helping not just our supplier-side customers, but their partners as well.

To support multiple levels of integration, all Zift CHaaS implementations are accompanied by self-service or managed services options, which can include Strategic Account Directors, Customer Success Teams, premium hotline support for partners, Concierge Services, partner outreach and more, to deliver continual support and ensure success. We’ve also established a Channel Center of Excellence (CCOE) to provide best-in-class direction, strategic insight and support and I’ll be sharing more details about Zift’s CCOE in upcoming blogs.

The Big Picture

With Channel as a Service, Zift is looking at the bigger picture and leading channel organizations should be, too. That means taking a hard look at your channel program, portal, marketing automation solutions, tools used to plan and manage partner relationships, and more. Everything should be on the table!  It means carefully examining your processes to see what’s lacking and what can be improved. It also means remembering that process precedes technology but people come before anything else.