In most situations, the problem of lack of execution began long before the plan was into its execution stage. Partner planning often breaks down early in the planning stages. Below are four common areas where that break down happens.
1. Misalignment of corporate goals
Although it is called a partner plan, the goals included in a partner plan generally only speak of the sales and goals of the vendor. Revenue is expressed merely as the number that represents how much business the vendor will see from the partner. There is often no representation of how much the customer will pay to the partner for that same product or how much additional value the partner will sell to the end customer.
And how the growth comes rarely takes into account how the business of the partner may be evolving. For instance, in their boardroom, partners may talk about growing sales through market share, through new market development or upselling and cross selling. Often the partner plan doesn't consider that overall growth strategy of the partner, it merely asks, "Where can we sell more of the vendor products?" If the partner's overall growth strategy is clear to both parties before the annual plan is created, the partner plan should be carefully crafted to align with that as well as the vendor's growth strategy. That is very hard work and takes time to do properly. But when it is done, a healthy conversation about execution shortfalls can begin with, "Has your growth strategy changed? Do you still agree that this joint plan will help you achieve your growth strategy?"
2. Creating quotas, not plans
Planning involves multiple parties and details about more than just the numbers. Yet, it is common for a partner plan to be delivered to a partner with a message such as, "Here is the number we need you to reach in the coming year. What do you think you will need to get there?" Mutual investment in the planning process provides an opportunity for all parties to take ownership of the plan. A partner that doesn't execute a partner plan often does so because, to be honest, it wasn't their plan in the first place. In such situations, the partner feels as though the requirement is to do as much of the plan as possible to "make nice" with the vendor, but in reality it is merely the partner doing a favor for the vendor.
Why does a Channel Manager get so upset when a plan that he or she worked so hard to develop doesn't get fully executed? Because he or she invested alot of time and energy into the plan. The Channel Manager in that case "owns" the plan. To help elicit execution, it is important to get others to feel as though they too are authors of the plan. That instills ownership for them and drives commitment to execution. In short, a Channel Manager might create a draft plan in pencil, but should leave plenty of blank space to be completed jointly. Although it may seem to the Channel Manager that he or she is doing a good thing by taking on the hard work of documenting the plan, by taking that approach the Channel Manager is actually robbing other people of the opportunity to feel that same level of ownership.
3. Lack of documented short term actions
Lofty annual goals are easy to set. Both parties may even agree to them. But generally, there is not a rigorous process around documenting all of the steps associated with achieving those goals. When such a process does exist, the usual response for all parties is, "Wow! That is just too much to do!" That's right! People tend to underestimate the amount of small tasks that need to be completed to achieve any goal. If the tasks were documented, both parties can review and then decide whether they want to keep the goal or adjust to fit what is practical given the amount of time and resource available.
In addition, documenting the numerous short term actions is important to clarify who is expected to do what by when. Lack of documentation often leads to the assumption, "I thought you were doing that!"
Partner plans don't need to include every task that needs to be completed through the year, just those that need to be done in the short term. Ninety days is a good interval for most planning of tasks. It is long enough to give everyone a chance to do what has been commited and short enough to review regularly to ensure commitment to execution. Plus, things change. If a new direction needed, the next ninety day action list can capture that change.
4. Limited stakeholders
For partner plans to be executed properly, many people often need to be involved and engaged in a variety of capacities. Instead of simply involving one party from both sides (the partner manager and the vendor liaison), partner plans should carefully consider who all of the people are from both sides that have a role in executing the partner plan and how those stakeholders should be engaged. One way to do this is to consider for each part of the plan and/or each task who executes the process, who approves decisions and resources, who needs to support execution, who needs to be consulted and who needs to be informed. It's likely that a host of people from the vendor and the partner need to be engaged in executing a partner plan. But if only one or two people from both sides have been exposed to the plan, it is unlikely that others will even know they have a responsibility and even less likely they will have a sense of ownership for it.
It is time consuming and difficult to accomplish all of the work mentioned herein. And some people and organizations will be tempted to cut corners as a result. Just don't be surprised if execution isn't seen when that happens!