With a view to expanding its mindshare in the financials marketplace, Platinum Software is restructuring its channel programs to both streamline its dealings with existing partners and create extra incentives for independent software vendors and third parties, according to Stephen Sims, formerly a Platinum dealer and now regional sales manager for the US-based software company.
Sims believes his dealer experience gives him a good understanding of the life of channel partners. "I've got empathy with what they are expecting and the problems they face. I know that you don't listen to channel partners and get them involved, they don't feel they can trust you and you don't have a channel."
The changes at Platinum involve it separately managing the channels for its three software offerings, rather than dealing with them as one group. Hence Platinum's client/server SQL product is now managed separately to its Platinum for Windows offering and CBA character-based system. Sims hopes this will lead to greater opportunities in vertical markets. "We're now getting those channel managers to look at the market development necessary in each of those product layers. People these days are looking at more than just the financials, they're looking for something that gives them strategic advantage, and to do that they need industry specific add-ons."
Sims says the driving force is a directive from Platinum's head office to grow the business from a $US50+ million company internationally to a $US200 million company within three years. "And there's a lot of work going on to get that in place. We've got enough resellers to meet our quotas now, but what do we have to build from a channel perspective and a marketing perspective to achieve that growth? Part of that is to establish relationships with our own channel partners."
Sims says this will also involve Platinum working closely with business partners at sites where it has a direct presence. "Where we can we involve a partner, because by doing that we effectively double our sales force. And it also adds credibility to our channel program, because the biggest problem that people who sell direct have is that channel partners go away when they see no loyalty in the channel. We've got to make sure in working the hybrid model we can get partners involved wherever we can - maybe to do the implementation, or maybe to do some consulting or training services."
Platinum is also seeking to be closer aligned to its independent software. This involves packaging the technology and support requirements for companies to integrate their own solutions with Platinum's software. While this program will not be fully rolled out for a couple of months, it is being trialled with several developers now.
Sims says Platinum is also rolling out an "influencer" program. "This is designed to not increase the channel width, but to increase the number of people out there looking for opportunities for us." Sims says a likely scenario would be that of a hardware reseller coming across a site that is also looking for an accounting solution, and passing that lead on to Platinum." He says the incentive may be some form of official acknowledgment of financial incentive, and it will be a formalised arrangement. "It's all to do with mindshare, and making sure people can feel comfortable with what they recommend."
Sims also believes communications with the channel will be crucial if Platinum's restructuring is to be successful. "That's always the weak link in any channel. And that's keeping them informed of what we're doing, where the products are going and what opportunities they've got."