Providing training to your partners is a major component of partner enablement. However one size does not fit all. Training must be relevant to your partners’ needs, delivered when they need it and in a format they find consumable. The challenge becomes exponential when you consider the number of engagement models, multiple products or services, and the different professional roles within a partner organization that support your offer.
The diagram below depicts how sophisticated a comprehensive training program can become.
Most vendors do have multiple engagement models in their partner community, strategic alliances (sell with), channels (self-through), OEM (embedded), etc. A partner’s training requirement will vary according to the Engagement Model of the partnership. The more a partner is responsible for the sales and support of the offer, the more training they will require. A sell-through model or channel model requires considerable amount of support if you expect the partner to become self-sufficient in closing sales, implementing and supporting your product. While a sell-with or referral model may take expertise in identifying the need, fit, and positioning of your offer, but it would be expected that the technical expertise would come from your staff.
Most vendors also have multiple product or service lines, each requiring a training suite for each professional role that must engage with you. We have depicted a cloud service offering suite here since there is a critical industry need for more cloud expertise and a critical short fall of talent. If vendors want to avoid their cloud offerings from stalling out, there will need to be massive infusion of workforce development to meet the demand in the coming years.
One of the key tasks in developing your training suite is identifying which roles you need to train for again depending upon the engagement model and offer. We’ve shown some common professional roles and for each there needs to be a curriculum of training courses from the basics to advanced. You will also find that many courses can be used multiple times, thankfully, but the mapping is important to be sure you’ve covered the important skills for each role and offer.
Delivery mode is also a key consideration with more partner training shifting to on-demand delivery through electronic means. Travel budget is scarce; time out of the job can be costly. I recall in one partnership, my partner generously offered us approximately $2M in ‘free’ instructor led training. My service manager snorted “you do realize that is $200M of billable time for us?” In the end, the training delivery had to be restructured so that our people could take it without impacting billable hours.
Lastly, you will need to consider that some skills can’t be taught, they have to be learned. The only way to truly master some tasks is by doing. This requires more than a powerpoint deck or a talking head webinar. Consider how you learned to ride a bike. You can watch your friends ride; you could watch a video, but the only way to learn…is to get on a bike! Some technical skills have to be learned the same way and this means that hands on training needs to be included. Some can be done remotely or computer simulated, but it is a different type of training than learning information.
So how do you manage this training and delivery? Most organizations that have sophisticated requirements use a Learning Management System (LMS) which in turn needs to be integrated with your Partner Management System. The learning management system guides your partner through the training maze, helping them understand the curriculum of training that is appropriate to them based on their partner engagement model, the products and services that are offered and their professional role. It also tracks which courses an individual has completed and which are required to achieve certification.
Training is an important investment in your partners’ success – and therefore yours – but you won’t see the ROI unless you can make it relevant, convenient, and consumable.