Xerox’s New Approach to Channels Partner Relationship Management

By Lisa Graham

“We knew that our systems were difficult for partners to easily traverse. To make it easier for our partners to do business with us, we needed to be providing easier access, making it easy for new partners to enroll in our global partner program, making resources easier to find, and providing a single sign-on capability.”

That was only part of the challenge faced by Aqua Porter, vice president, Xerox Global Channels Operations, when the Xerox channels business became a global operation in 2013. As she described in a recent presentation at the SiriusDecisions Summit Europe in London, Porter was charged at the time with standardizing on a world-class partner relationship management (PRM) system.

The newly global business had inherited multiple PRM systems that were developed over the years to serve customers in more than two-dozen countries, each with its own specific regional requirements. In addition to creating a less than ideal experience for channels partners, the disparate systems fell short in service of Xerox. Employees said the PRM sites sometimes got in the way of doing their best work for partners.

Porter and her team eventually standardized on a cloud-based solution from Impartner, and in her presentation, titled, “Not Too Big to Change,” she summed up the experience this way: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”

Big Project, Big Challenges

The team began the project by defining the critical objectives for a new and agile global PRM platform to:

  • Make it easier for partners to enroll in the global partner program, find resources and do business with Xerox.
  • Improve channel manager productivity with better tools and information.
  • Untangle and retire systems that no longer fit the purpose.

The Xerox team worked across five time zones to face a series of difficult challenges, Porter said.

One was persuading people to support the project. Many were reluctant to invest their time and resources in what they thought was an overly ambitious program that wouldn’t be adopted—a not unprecedented fate for a big-idea project.

The working team members weren’t dedicated to the project, so their “real” jobs often took precedence over efforts to meet project deadlines.

Then there was the project’s content: establishing and agreeing on a set of standard partner processes proved to be extremely challenging. Latecomers to the project submitted a regular stream of requests for functionality, expanding the project’s scope.

The hardest challenge, though, was the “soft stuff,” Porter said. “Transforming a business model is about changing how people work and what they do. We needed to prepare the organization for change and convince the management team that the change could be modeled, predicted and managed.” Several senior managers rose up to champion the project, and that proved to be critical, Porter said.

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A ‘Gorgeous’ Result

With their help, the new system became operational in 2014, and adoption and usage rates grew steadily to reach healthy levels. Today, three portals—in Canada, Europe and the United States—serve up 2,200 pages of content in 18 languages to nearly 14,000 partner account holders in 21 countries. Each month, users login more than 50,000 times to view more than 200,000 pages.

Partners have responded positively. “Xerox puts all the tools and resources at our fingertips by providing one-stop-shop access via the partner portal,” said Sebastiaan Crebolder, director, Group Operations and Marketing, Pinnacle Complete Office Solutions in the United Kingdom. “Without ever leaving the portal, I have the ability to grow my business by applying for Xerox programs and specializations.”

Mobile access is another plus. “I can access information quickly, even on the go, on my phone or tablet with the Partner Portal’s mobile-friendly design,” said Excel Offices Services CEO Brett Butler.

“This is a big success,” Porter said. “Our PRM system is having a significant impact on our business and will continue to well into the future.”

After getting through the hard part, and the messy part, that result is gorgeous.

From the editor: This article was originally published on The Channel Partner Connection, a Xerox blog that helps businesses that sell print technology and services win new business, strengthen existing customer relationships, build loyalty and increase sales.

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