Sage gears up to implement enhanced channel benefits in October

New Sage channel chief Jennifer Warawa discusses her talks with partners since taking the job earlier this year, and previews the changes that will be coming with the new fiscal year.

Jennifer Warawa, EVP of Partners, Accountants, and Alliances at Sage

This spring, as part of a senior executive shuffle, Jennifer Warawa moved over from Head of Product Marketing at Sage to EVP of Partners, Accountants, and Alliances. While Warawa has a channels background, and before that was a Sage partner before joining Sage ten years ago, she started off her tenure in the new role with a fact-finding tour. It involved 90 days, in 10 different countries and 19 different cities, to get a clear perspective of what works and what doesn’t from a partner perspective. Now with the end of that road in sight, she is preparing to deliver enhancements, for the beginning of the new fiscal year in October.

Warawa spoke with ChannelBuzz from Atlanta, where she is attending the Sage Intacct partner conference today and tomorrow, before she heads off to Seattle for a meeting with ISVs and Microsoft. Sage acquired cloud financial management solution maker Intacct a month ago.

“The beauty of this road show is that sometimes before we left a city or a country, things were fixed,” Warawa said. “In two months, June and July, we did nine countries, and could see an opportunity of how things are doing well in one country that could be done in another to improve things there. We need to work better globally. This is an issue because we used to have a very decentralized model. While we have been changing that, we could improve that even more, to bring in best practices from other countries, and better connect this global ecosystem of partners.”

Warawa said she has got a lot of extremely valuable feedback from the tour.

“Our partners have so many great ideas on how to grow the business, and spending time with their teams was extremely enlightening,” she said. “They aren’t stumped for ideas. It’s like they have been waiting for years for me to come, and have a list.”

Two types of conversations have been taking place.

“One is how we could better support them,” Warawa said. “The other is how they get from 25 per cent growth to 35 per cent. We’ve been hearing both, hearing what we can do better and how we can better help them accelerate their business.”

Warawa said that the desire to build capacity in their organizations to grow faster was most common among larger partners.

“We have heard this a lot from our Sage X3 partners, who serve larger customers,” she said. “They are looking to us to build capacity to grow their business. The most interesting conversations tend to be about how partners can grow more business. There’s more business out there, but also more competitor products, and they want ways to differentiate so they can beak through the noise.”

Another common request was to alleviate back office complexity to fuel growth on the sales side.

“We heard that loud and clear,” Warawa said.

Partners also asked for more support around marketing.

“Marketing is not core to our partners, and many don’t have marketing functions at all, or have very small capacities,” Warawa said. “They’d love to do more with marketing, to get more leads and drive more demand, but they need help. That was consistent in all markets, and from very small partners to ones who serve the enterprise. We are focused on improving the data we provide there, because if you come with data, they are much more motivated to do something with it.”

Warawa said that the changes will be coming are around things they could be doing better, rather than introducing new things which they are not doing at all.

“The gaps in what we are doing today are more around things that we could do better, where we haven’t gone deep enough,” Warawa said. She cited additional training relating to specific types of roles as an example.

She also emphasized that the making of programs consistent across geos would be implemented in the changes.

“Things will still be different from region to region, but some are closer to best practices than others,” she said, emphasizing in particular the need for this in platforms for delivering training.

“That’s a consistent need around the globe,” she said.

Benefits are also being improved.

“We can offer a more consistent best-in-class benefits program, which will be more effective,” Warawa noted. “We will be investing more in the channel, and I expect partners will be happy with these enhanced benefits in the new fiscal year. We are working hard to have it ready for October 1.”

Warawa also identified two changes that will be coming in the new fiscal year around go-to-market initiatives.

“Partners are looking for more support in verticals, to differentiate themselves from competitors,” she said. “We need to be deeper in our go-to-market to make sure partners have everything they need to go after a vertical.

“The second thing is putting bundles together around the growth strategy – that getting from 25 to 35 per cent,” Warawa added. “We will be creating growth playbooks, looking for more innovative go-to-market strategies, and focusing on that. This is something that we have done in pockets before, but are looking to do it more broadly. We will also be bundling different products together, which partners have been asking for.”

Warawa also stressed that Sage needs to do a better job of enabling different types of partners to work together more effectively.

“When we can do a great job of connecting partner ecosystems, we unlock opportunities,” she said. “Resellers get a lot of leads from accountants, for example. This year, we want to connect the dots to allow all partner types to grow.”