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The ChanTech Challenge: Build vs. Buy

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First, I thought it was a rumor. But this topic is popping up in conversations more often. It seems that, in their search for new and low-cost solutions to common and often complex channel challenges, some channel-focused organizations are attempting to build their own Channel Technology or ChanTech in-house. What I haven’t seen or heard about yet is anyone doing so successfully.

My first reaction to hearing about this trend was: “Are they insane? There are literally thousands if not millions of lines of code in today’s ChanTech solutions!” But I suppose I can understand the initial draw.

 

How Hard Can it Be?

Many organizations have already invested heavily in a CRM or SFA System. It’s tempting to think you’ll be able to leverage the functionality of these systems for channel-focused activities with just a few add-ons.

“We’ll just grab a few hours here or there from our development team and build a bit of new functionality on top of Salesforce,” you think. Or, maybe a super go-getter has told you they can just take your Learning Management System or Incentive Program and pop a partner portal up in front of it. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted approach — and rarely does it take the full-spectrum of partners, channel programs, available resources or real scope of in-house development into account.

 

Band-Aids vs. Business Solutions

When organizations try to build rather than buy truly purpose-built ChanTech, they often model their development path to align with just one aspect of their channel program. For example, “We’re going to build our own partner portal in-house” or “Our development team wants to try their hand at building a Lead-Distribution tool we can tack onto Salesforce.”

Too often, this amounts to placing band-aids on ineffective channel or partner management solutions that could not meet your needs and essentially creating a more complex and costly mess than you had in the first place.

Instead of just building a specific technology, it’s vital to examine the broad business problems you are trying to solve. You and your team may think you can just spin up a partner portal to sit atop a CRM or SFA system. Or that you’ll be able to develop a straight-forward PRM system yourselves. However, if the business problem or priority is enabling partners, managing lead-distribution or driving partner engagement, you’ll need a lot more than pure-play PRM.

 

Ask the Tough Questions First

Before going full-steam down the path of developing modern, multi-faceted ChanTech solutions in-house, ask yourself (and your Development Team) the tough questions first:

  • Do you really have dedicated and available resources who understand the intricacies of Enterprise Channel Management or developing scalable ChanTech?
  • Is this project going to be and remain Development’s top priority? What happens if/when it’s not?
  • Do you (and your partners) have time to wait through Development, Documentation, Testing, Q&A, Debugging, Roll-out and more?
  • What will you do if it doesn’t work? Can your budget and program withstand another rip-and-replace scenario?
  • Do you have resources to service and scale your solution/s in-house as your program evolves?
  • Will the data from your established systems and new add-ons be integrated? Where will it live? (Are you inadvertently creating yet another data silo?)
  • Will you have visibility and access to the comprehensive data you need to gain insights and make it really actionable?
  • Will your in-house solution have the full scope of automation, flexibility and adaptability modern channel programs require now and moving forward?
  • When will you see measurable ROI? (Will it be within 3 months or less?)

 

Even if you can answer all of these questions semi-confidently, I’m reticent to recommend building in-house.  Today’s channel programs span 90+ operational focus areas and the ChanTech stack is incredibly complex. The capabilities and scalability professional ChanTech developers (like our team at Zift) are embedding for functionality and intuitiveness (like Business Intelligence, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics) will leapfrog over the capabilities you’re just attempting to create and implement. Why would you attempt to rebuild the wheel — especially when you can speed past competitors with a finely-tuned business growth engine built by experts specifically to drive channel success?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Would you consider building ChanTech solutions in-house? And, if you’re already going down this path: How’s it going? (Really)

2019-03-01_lionel.png Lionel Farr is the Chief Technology Officer for Zift Solutions.
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