Information Builders is looking to expand beyond the enterprise by engaging more closely with their partners, rather than with the transactional model they used before, and have designed their first partner program to achieve this.
Business intelligence [BI] and data management vendor Information Builders has been around since 1975. Now, they have just introduced the first Global Partner Program in the company’s history.
Most of their business – but not all – has been direct, historically, but that’s not the principal reason for the absence of a program.
“We never had a structured, formal partner program during those 43 years, and it’s more about why,” said Pat Bernard, senior vice president of Global Partners at Information Builders. “For most of those years, we were privately held. The big change came when we took on Goldman Sachs as an investor [in May 2017]. The mission then became to grow. That could be done multiple ways. Since the primary Go-to-Market was enterprise, and was direct, we could grow downmarket, or by using the partner model, as well as through acquisition.” Bernard came on board last March as part of this process. Frank Vella being brought into the company, first as COO, and then as CEO earlier this month, was another key cog in this growth strategy.
Information Builders has worked with partners before, but not in a way that translated well to large-scale results.
“The way we had been using partners was very transactional,” Bernard said. “The field model was also broken up into six independently operating areas, with no common model. We want to turn partners into assets that can help us grow our business, so we needed to build a partner program, and build a partner organization and recruit a lot of top talent. It’s not a trivial exercise to do this. Engaging third parties is a high risk, high-reward proposition. So we want to make sure the steps we take are smart steps and the right steps.”
The present partner ecosystem consists of about 275 partners globally, of wildly divergent degrees of activity.
“We have certainly stretched the Pareto rule beyond 80-20, because our partner business has been so opportunistic,” Bernard stated. “Some of these partners today will take that journey going forward with us, and some partners we will recruit. I’m not shooting for a set number. This is not a volume play. We are looking to create a repeatable annuity business.”
The new program is for three groups: Solutions Partners include both VARs and OEMs; Services Partners encompass system integrators and consultants, and Technology Partners consist of ISVs and cloud vendors.
“In designing the program, we wanted to create a compelling partner business proposition, and not bells and whistles that don’t make a difference,” Bernard explained. “We focused on three things that really matter.”
“The first of these is profitability – discounts and margins that let partners make money,” Bernard said. “The second is enablement. Partners want someone who will invest in them. Many partners primarily wanted access to our software for evaluation. That was important to them. The third thing is no channel conflict and being easy to work with. That’s where the rubber hits the road. A Canadian partner told me that they had to be able to trust the vendor, and that starts with the sales-neutral compensation of the direct team, so that they get paid the same if a deal goes through a partner.”
That not competing with partners is the most important part, Bernard stressed.
“We have good margins and deal registration, and a sexy portal and the great people I’ve hired are wonderful,” she said. “But ultimately, partners want to know if our company will compete with them. The answer is that we will not. We will help them to be successful.”
Bernard said that Information Builders took the approach that the best way to train partners was the same way they train internally.
“Accordingly, we made investments in marketing, enablement and technical support,” she said. “We created a Partner Success Framework with a role-based approach for sales, pre-sales and post-sales That’s one of the biggest things we have invested in. We are working on developing accreditation programs and training. Those are being built right now.”
The program has three tiers, beginning with an Affiliate Tier.
“There is no fee to join the program, and at Affiliate, you get three things: eligibility for referral fees, access to the portal and the useful marketing and Partner Success Framework content inside, and access to software for evaluation,” Bernard said. “It’s a nice easy way for a partner to get access to the ecosystem at no cost to them – and we can elevate them to the second tier and the top tier – where we ask more of them and we give more in return.”