To Build or To Buy a Partner Relationship Management System

With the state of the economy, people are tending to be more conservative with their expenditures (as they should be) and this may mean tackling more projects yourself and becoming a real DIY’er.  Your Partner Relationship Management System is an excellent example. When it comes to updating your home, doing it yourself can easily be the way to go to save money.  However, when it comes to building out technology solutions, such as your Partner Relationship Management System, the total cost may end up being more than if you outsource to an experienced professional.

Here are some things to consider in your decision to build a Partner Relationship Management System in-house or outsource one:

For companies that really only need a portal where four or five partners can register opportunities and download marketing content, your own IT department could probably handle it. A simple web-to-lead form that feeds partners into a CRM system, or takes them directly to your CRM, is a small enough tool to be manageable. Just remember that registering is only step one in managing deals. You’ll also need a process and/or tools for following up and having them updated as well.

The homegrown Partner Relationship Management System approach may be appropriate for vendors that have relatively low channel sales volume and don’t expect significant scaling over the next few years.

If you’re taking the DIY Partner Relationship Management System approach…

First always keep in mind the nature of software development: no matter how carefully it’s planed and engineered, it’s always going to take three times the work and three times longer than expected.  (This typically equates to three times the cost plus other projects may slip.)

Does your IT department really have the necessary bandwidth to develop a Partner Relationship Management System?

Charging IT with development of the software means you’re taking time away from their usual job requirements. And once the Partner Relationship Management System is built, after it’s launched, there are going to be changes. Once partners start using it, they and your internal staff will realize there are glitches and gaps that need to be resolved.

Normal maintenance of the technology will require the time and attention of IT as well. Make sure IT is forecasting sufficient manpower for the project beyond the completion date.

Outsourcing development to another company

The same issues your own IT department would have, an outsourced developer will have as well – only they’ll be charging you to resolve them. They’ll also be juggling your project with their other clients’ needs.

Before entering into an agreement, make sure it includes allowances for version 2.0, because after the launch and requests start pouring in, it’s going to be necessary. You also want to know those version 2.0 needs will be taken care of in a timely fashion, so be sure to include a service level agreement in your contract.

With DIY, be sure IT or the software developer are fully invested in channel success

Another caveat of the DIY approach is that IT and/or the software developer become critical players in the success of your channel program. Sketch out the relationship carefully before beginning the project, and make sure they are as invested in its success as you are.

Making the Final Decision to Build or Buy

A critical factor that should go into your decision-making process to build or buy a Partner Relationship Management System is the future plan and goal of your indirect sales channel program.  If you are looking to scale your program over the long haul, recruit more partners, conduct robust pipeline and financial reporting, provide marketing support, and have an easy-to-use system for your partners to learn about updates, then you will need to consider whether your internal IT department can and should handle this task.  A complete Partner Relationship Management System with a large number of partners and channel sales managers can result in the need for one or more full-time IT employees to support the system.  Often times you will find the wheel has already been invented and can be accessed for a reasonable and scalable cost.