5 questions to help you choose a Channel Program Management Solution
When it comes to choosing a channel marketing program management solution, a common question routinely pops up: Should we custom build or buy off-the-shelf?
To help you make such a decision there are five simple questions that can help you build a framework on which to base your outcome.
1. What are the core requirements to the strategic and operational goals of the program?
In many organizations documenting core program requirements is overlooked, but it is a critical step, and should be completed before deciding on a solution. By definition a core program requirement is one that must be supported by the solution. It takes effort to identify these program requirements but the investment is well worth the effort, and the payoff is a solution that fulfills all your program needs. Some of your core requirements may include integrating corporate strategies, measuring levels of customer satisfaction, gathering intelligence to assist in decision-making, and developing ROI analysis of program spending.
2. How would technology benefit the programs strategic goals?
Many organizations choose a software solution before identifying business and program needs. Sometimes this "cart before the horse" approach is due to executive pressures, lack of technical knowledge, or pure product hype. Instead, managers should focus on validating that a business need exists prior to deciding upon the software solution and that the need can be readily associated with one of the organization's strategic goals. Create your measurable goals so you will be able to track your return on investment (ROI).
3. What then would be the key technological requirements?
Most organizations are already using technology to enable their business processes. To reduce the cost of operation and maintenance of this technology organizations have established standards to which all solutions must adhere. It is important to identify these requirements or standards before determining if a custom or commercial solution is the best choice. Factors you should consider are security strategy, planned technology infrastructure, and operating systems in use by the organization and your partners.
4. Are there in-house skills to support the solution?
The major factor that significantly reduces the ROI of a custom developed solution is the lack of available resources with the proper skill sets. It takes many skills to design and deploy a business solution that is both scaleable and flexible. Unless one of your business areas is product development, the probability is high that your technology group does not have the resources necessary for a successful solution. It is rarely profitable to allow “on the job training” when developing business-essential systems. Managers often see the significant cost savings between a custom vs. a commercial solution, and decide to build their own. This can be a very costly mistake, and we have seen many examples of scrapped internal efforts that never provided a solution.
5. Have I got the first question right?
Remember that the first step to determining the right solution -- clearly understanding the strategic and operational objectives for the program -- is the most critical step and cannot be skipped. The long-term potential impact on your program warrants that you make the decision based on which solution will ultimately have the most positive effect on the entire business.
The late Dick Benson, a top direct marketing consultant and author, summarized it best: “you should do only what you do best in-house, and outsource the rest.”