Making Data a Channel Benefit

Business intelligence provides clearer pathways to success by reducing decision-making risks. What’s required is data, and vendors need to develop programs that make information an exchangeable currency with partners and customers.

By Larry Walsh

Every time I hear someone talk about Big Data, I hear the line from Frank Herbert’s classic book “Dune” ring in my head – paraphrased, of course: “He who controls the data controls the universe.”

Big data and business intelligence are a big topic in the C-suite of nearly every large enterprise, mostly because of the associated security, privacy, and regulatory compliance issues. A few months ago, I participated in a CEO roundtable. The other participants represented companies from various industries and sizes. Most of the companies were based in North America, but nearly all had some international presence. And privacy protection was a hot topic.

After an hour of detailing the threats to personal privacy and the need for data protection, I injected a couple of questions about business intelligence.

“Everyone here wants data for decision-making, yes?”

Everyone agreed.

“Everyone here wants data to decrease risk in decision-making, yes?”

Again, everyone concurred.

“Then we need to shift the conversation to how we make data the equivalent of currency and set up systems in which companies and individuals can trade data for access to goods and services,” I said.

The tenor of the conversation shifted dramatically, and we spent much of the remaining time talking about how to balance data privacy and transparency with the value of and use cases for collecting it.

Business intelligence, based on data, is a recurring topic here at The 2112 Group. We provide our clients with insights into market trends, business and sales model efficacy, channel performance, and technology preferences. We gather this data from multiple sources and distill it into consumable bits of actionable intelligence. And the appetite for data in the technology industry is insatiable.

Everyone wants data because everyone believes more data decreases risk in decision-making. This is partly true. While data and analytics rarely result in absolutes, business intelligence does provide greater insights into courses of action and their probable outcomes.

In other words, data-driven business intelligence, while useful, doesn’t guarantee results.

The lack of absolutes aside, data is essential to business development, operations, and success. As management guru W. Edwards Deming said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

The technology industry needs data to fuel development and reduce risk up and down the value chain of suppliers, distributors, partners, and customers. Through data, the industry can prove – and disprove – hypotheses related to strategic planning and development direction, technology and process use cases, workload efficacy, and investment ROI.

Just as I suggested to the CEOs at that roundtable, the technology industry needs to start thinking of ways to make data a currency through which customers, partners, and vendors trade information for greater benefit. In several channel programs that 2112 works on, we call this making data a “non-monetary benefit.”

What does data as a non-monetary benefit mean? Simply making the exchange of data between vendors and partners and between vendors and customers the foundation for an exchange of value that’s based on information and not money.

Technology vendors often have more resources than partners and customers for collecting, processing, and analyzing data to create actionable intelligence. If they don’t have those resources, they contract with third-parties – such as 2112 – that do. Through the distillation and refinement of raw data, vendors can create intelligence that has a value greater than the sum of its parts. And that intelligence can be a shared and earned benefit to partners and customers.

Just what type of data are we talking about?

In theory, partners can do their own analytics of sales data to see what their customers are buying, total expenditures by account, purchasing patterns over time, and who’s making the decisions. Analyses of these data points are good, but not complete. Partners can see inside only their own universe of customers and activities. They lack the big picture that vendors and distributors see.

Vendors should make the investment in developing programs that gather data from partners and customers to create business intelligence that can be distributed throughout their value chain. By providing data as a benefit and reward, vendors will better shape the direction of their partners and the consumption decisions of their customers. Also, they’ll develop a greater affinity with partners and customers by helping to decrease risk exposure through data-driven intelligence.

But vendors shouldn’t just give business intelligence away. While vendors will need the cooperation and participation of partners and customers to make business intelligence programs work, access to the data should be tiered and commensurate with the level of participation and reciprocal performance. To put it another way, program benefits go to those partners and customers that use the data best to drive revenue back to the vendor.

Building a business intelligence program that delivers a channel or customer benefit isn’t easy, as partners and customers often think data should come free – even if they’re not participants of the original data collection or research. It does take a fair amount of education, awareness building, and training. Moreover, providing refined intelligence isn’t enough either, as partners and customers often need consulting support to act on the information. For that reason, 2112 has strategy templates and models to help vendors develop business intelligence programs.

Vendors that make data and business intelligence a program benefit will see deeper engagements, better returns on strategic partner investments, more engaged customers, and better future-looking analytics to stay relevant and competitive with the market. A large part of future go-to-market strategies is based on non-monetary benefits related to business intelligence.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.