Dependent upon a widespread network of channel partners to sell its products and point end users in the right direction for service, software maker Vision Solutions Inc. turned to Siebel Systems Inc. to begin leveraging partner relationship management (PRM) technology.
Irvine, Calif.-based Vision markets applications built for high availability, disaster recovery and continuous operations on IBM Corp.'s iSeries (AS/400) platform. The vendor's offerings are used to continuously maintain data in a variety of industries such as banking, manufacturing and telecommunications. Just over a year ago, the company realized it was having problems tracking customer and partner support fees and wanted to bring resellers closer.
"We do 80% of our business through the channel, so getting a better idea of what our partners' needs and concerns are only helps us to be more effective," said Warren Adair, information technology director at Vision. "We could have end users with serious concerns and if we aren't communicating with partners, we may not ever hear what's going on."
Vision's concerns mirror those of many companies doing a majority of their business through the channel, where the flow of customer information is often hindered by multiple chains of command between users and the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Adair emphasized that the channel partners deploying his company's software need availability into its tech support databases around the clock, as Vision customer end user systems usually operate 24x7.
Having deployed San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel's enterprise CRM package just a year ago, Adair said the decision to go with the vendor's PRM offering wasn't hard to make. The executive does admit considering other technologies, in particular those marketed by RightNow Technologies, Inc., Bozeman, Mont.
"The other technologies that we looked at didn't match up on the PRM side," Adair said. "Someone like RightNow would have given us a good knowledge bank and a customer support system but not real PRM as with Siebel."
Adair said it took around three months to deploy the Siebel PRM system. Vision invested roughly $17,500 in software licenses, spending another $21,500 in labor to configure the system. Upon undertaking the project, Adair said he was glad to have chosen the Siebel package, as it was relatively easy to integrate with the vendor's enterprise CRM implementation.
Siebel PRM (formerly known as Siebel eChannel) includes three components, Siebel Partner Manager, Siebel Partner Portal, and Siebel Partner Analytics. The Partner Manager is an employee-facing application designed to aid managers in addressing issues related to the channel. The Partner Portal is a partner-facing application that enables organizations to manage interactions with channel players and joint customers to provide information sharing. The Partner Analytics delivers performance management capabilities and tools to provide information on individual partners or a wider group of channel customers.
$186,000 in results
According to the firm, the results began showing up immediately. Less than a month after turning on its PRM network, Vision identified $186,000 in outstanding support fees that it had not been paid, and that might have slipped through the cracks were it not for the system. Adair said the PRM offering has already paid for itself many times over tracking similar issues.
In deploying the system, Adair said the biggest challenge was understanding business rules that relate to Vision's core business and applying the PRM system accordingly.
"To use PRM correctly, you must understand the business requirements," he said. "You have to take into consideration the programs already in place, how you support them with this system and how existing customer care dovetails with the technology."
Going forward, the executive plans to turn on yet unused functionality in the Siebel PRM system, allowing Vision partners to enter the company's support network and begin surfing for information to help service themselves. This way Vision support team members will be required to field fewer emergency calls, as simple troubleshooting tools and information will be readily available to the company's channel-based resellers.
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