Partner Relationship Management (PRM) has become an integral part of CRM, as it is used to improve the communication between companies and their channel partners. Web-based PRM software allows companies to share shipping schedules and other real-time information with their partners over the Internet.
"PRM is an e-business strategy to create and sustain long-term profitable partner relationships," said Bob Thompson, president and founder of Front Line Solutions, a research and consulting firm specializing in PRM. "It's not just channel management."
Recently, Thompson announced the top ten partner relationship management vendors. Vendors were selected based on their focus on the PRM industry, their industry and channel expertise, financial backing, marketing and sales execution, competitive product functionality and the quality of the management team, according to Thompson.
Thompson named the top vendors and divided them into four categories. In the PRM Pure Play category, Partnerware's eXtended Enterprise, ChannelWave's Partner Loyalty System, Allegis' Sales Partner and Market Partner and OnDemand's Partner Accelerator nabbed the honors. VARStreet.com's portal made the list in the Industry Hub category. In the CRM space, Pivotal's PartnerHub and Siebel Systems' eChannel made the top 10, while in the Enterprise Channel Management (ECM)/Commerce category, ClickCommerce's Relationship Manager Suite, InfoNow's iChannel Suite and Comergent's Distributed E-Business garnered top honors.
"I call (Partnerware) a 'first-mover playing catch-up' because they were a first mover as a pure-play PRM vendor. I am impressed now with the leadership they've shown in the industry," Thompson said. "The only real issue is... in their automation paradigm. It's very channel manager-oriented," he said. Partnerware targets the IT and telecom industries.
Allegis, which targets the IT industry, doesn't have the commerce part of their suite down yet, according to Thompson. Yet "they have done a spectacular job, considering they entered the market after Partnerware and ChannelWave," he said.
ChannelWave is "one of the few companies that has taken partner loyalty and partner value to heart," Thompson said. They target the IT and telecom industries, and their software has a lot of process automation, according to Thompson.
OnDemand, which primarily focuses on the IT industry, took a unique approach to PRM, according to Thompson. The company started by thinking about what partners needed, rather than approaching their software from the channel manager standpoint, which has been typical for the industry, he said. Thompson also applauded OnDemand's recent alliance with Siebel, "a brilliant move, if executed well," he said.
ClickCommerce targets large manufacturing and high-tech businesses. If only the money spent on ClickCommerce's product, the Relationship Manager Suite, was counted, Thompson suspects that they would be the PRM industry leader. Yet they do need to expand their customer base to be successful, he said.
InfoNow is an "impressive but understated company," Thompson said. They target the IT industry, financial services, manufacturing and large enterprises, and their marketing approach is very low-key. "They are very open with their customer reference list, which is missing with a lot of companies," he said.
Thompson advised companies looking to solve channel conflict to talk with Comergent, which targets large IT and manufacturing businesses. Comergent's Distributed E-Business allows consumers to visit the manufacturer's Web site, do their preliminary shopping, and have their order transferred to another partner, which takes over where the shopper left off, he said.
VARStreet.com, targeting the IT industry, is "building a marketplace that actually works," Thompson said. "They're an independent marketplace that offers hosted service. ...From a partner point of view, (there is) one log-in," he said.
Siebel, "almost by definition, by stomping into a space can create havoc and catch people's attention," Thompson said. At first, their PRM offering was just a warmed-over version of their sales tool, but they reengineered the software and "turned it into a credible, robust PRM solution," he said. "Given their focus on PRM... there is no doubt that Siebel is going to be one of the key players in this space," he added. Siebel targets the global IT, telecom and financial services industries.
According to Thompson, Pivotal was the first CRM company that realized the importance of PRM. Targeting the mid-market, international and multi-industry sectors, Pivotal's overall positioning is that PRM is part of demand chain networks, he said.
While some vendors did not make the top ten list this year, they should still remain on the radar screen, Thompson said. Webridge was one of the first into the PRM game, but lost their focus on PRM and therefore didn't make the list, he said. Other vendors to watch include MarketSoft, for lead management applications; Promptu, for e-marketing; Bowstreet, for XML framework; Radnet, for complex business-to-business portals; and Interwoven, for enterprise content management.
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