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A Better Look Into Partnerships 2

The updated version of Oracle's Partner Management is designed to give users more visibility into their partnerships.
Amid all the focus on visibility into customers, many companies have lost sight of a key distribution channel: partners. With the latest release of its partner-relationship management software, Oracle aims to give its customers more visibility than ever into their partnerships.

More than anything, the new version of Oracle Partner Management being unveiled Wednesday tries to convert partner relationships from more of a marketing consideration into an integral part of a company's sales activities. IDC analyst Mary Wardley says that's been sorely missing from partner programs and has prevented companies from having the information they need to make good partner decisions. "No host organization wants to keep around partners who cost them money," Wardley adds.

One of the software's key new features is improved use of business intelligence via an executive dashboard that gives executives managing partner channels the ability to monitor key performance indicators such as year-to-date sales and closing success rates. That information, in turn, should let them make better decisions about where to focus their channel efforts. Host companies now can also use Oracle Partner Management to establish partner profiles that will let them aim leads, special offers, and other content at the partners that are bringing the best returns. The release also adds a dashboard for partners that lets them use a portal interface built on Oracle's iStore E-commerce platform to place orders, submit quotes and configuration requests, and access catalogs of goods customized for each partner.

Wardley's favorite new feature is one that lets partners register promising leads so they can take ownership of the opportunities they're presented with--in theory, preventing channel conflict. Until now, if multiple partners in a geographic area all became aware of the same lead, they'd have to compete with each other for it, and that frequently causes partners to stray from their hosts to companies that offer competing products. "You need to make sure they've got your product on their mind," and avoiding channel conflict is one way to make that happen, says Lawrence Lindsey, senior director of Oracle's partner relationship management products.

Forrester Research analyst John Ragsdale says customer-relationship-management vendors traditionally have generated many of the partner-management products. But because partner management is especially important in industries such as industrial goods, high-tech manufacturing, and automotive, where products are large and complex and thus frequently sold by resellers, he says Oracle's strength as an ERP vendor gives it added credibility among potential partner-management customers.

Oracle Partner Management is slated for general release by the end of the summer. Pricing will start at $1,000 per partner, with a minimum of 100 partners for new customers. It will compete with offerings from vendors such as ChannelWave, Convergys, PeopleSoft, and Siebel Systems.

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