Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What Did I Learn After A Month Of Lifestreaming?

We are living in interesting times. The technology to track every step, minute of sleep, calorie consumed, and heartbeat is literally at our fingertips.

This blog pulls together two of my own stories:

1. Lifestreaming starting at a young age - keeping track of every penny I have ever earned and spent, scanning every document as proof, and digitizing every photo going back generations. More on that story here.

2. After 6 months of owning the Apple Watch, I can now give my official thumbs up on the product. I was hesitant at first, citing 10 reasons on why to buy it and 8 reasons why not to. More on that here.

Tools of the Lifestreaming Trade

First of all, I didn't go nuts on equipment - no blood pressure monitors, wearable cameras, audio recording devices, etc.

What I did use:

Apple iPhone
Apple Watch
Withings WIFI Scale
Sleep++ App
MyNetDiary App

This was sufficient to give me insight into every moment of the day, 24/7. I started on November 1st, and my primary goal was to watch and regulate my sugar intake (a day after Halloween of course).

What I Learned

Working in a computer related job makes it difficult to get to the magical 10,000 step count that every magazine and fitness wearable manufacturer seems to be touting. Other than some family walks and Black Friday shopping, the average is 3,851 for me. That results in 1.84 miles per day.

I use my weekly hockey game as high-intensity exercise. Averaging 96 minutes of aerobic exercise a week keeps me in reasonable shape.

I learned long ago that fitness is scientific. If you can get 20-30 minutes of high intensity workout, 3 times per week, you will be in the top 5th percentile in fitness in North America. This doesn't mean walking or warming up at the gym - it means high heart rate, deep sweat type of working out.

Using the Apple Watch 24/7, I can gauge heart rate every minute of the day. On the days I have hockey you can see spikes up to 200 beats per minute. This is beyond my maximum, but those games have me between 135bpm and 180bpm which is optimal.

I do realize that I am not lifting at the gym which isn't optimal - aerobic and weight training should be combined for optimal metabolism and injury avoidance.

Sleep is a critical component of health. Not getting enough (or getting too much) is not good for you and a simple Sleep++ App combined with my Apple Watch monitored every second of sleep.

I was pleased with the 7 hour 30 minute average but there were some 5 hour ones tucked in there. The quality of sleep was about 95% meaning I only tossed and turned about 20 minutes a night.

I also fall asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow which is great. November had me going to bed, on average, after 1am which is not ideal.

Now for the fun part.

By tracking every meal, every snack, and even every vitamin I take, some interesting results were produced.

I learned that tracking every bite ended up putting me on a diet - I only ate one desert in November which was Apple Pie the day after Thanksgiving. My original goal was to curb sugar in my diet and that ended up restricting my calories to 1,579 per day.

This intake is too low for a guy my size.

The app further breaks down food into dozens of nutrients and other components. Here is a sample of the daily averages:

The 1,579 calorie average drove 202 Carbs, higher than Atkins would approve of, but significantly lower than my normal. Fat and saturated fat stayed in an acceptable zone and protein was always in a good range.

The real stat I was after was sugar. Consuming 76 grams per day was probably half my normal intake and very difficult to do. In fact, starting my day with an apple, mandarin orange and banana already put me half way there.

The World Health Organization recommends 50 grams of sugar per day and I am not sure how to get there without cutting out fruit.

I am not sure the Withings scale has this completely accurate, but it did show a gradual decline in body fat percentage during the month of November.

The thing that is accurate is weight - take a look at this decline in November driven by a limited sugar / calorie diet with normal exercise:

I ended up losing over 10 pounds in the month. Not ideal as the target should be 1-2 pounds per week maximum. It was definitely interesting to see what a shift in eating would do while keeping other variables constant.

It is a recommendation that experts give - if you want to change behavior, write it down! In this case, technology did the writing down for me and having this as a constant reminder did in fact change almost everything I ate.

The question is whether this is sustainable in the long term. The technology is still a bit manual - having to record food and tell your watch when you are going to work out or sleep begs for human error.

These technologies will get better with time - more predictive and utilizing machine learning. Recording food by UPC code was slick, and there are now services that you can just take a photo of your food and someone else will determine portion size and calorie content.

All in all, a good experiment and I am excited to see wearable technology drive better nutrition and life choices in the future.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Butterfly Effect – My Life Story

Have you ever thought about the impact of big decisions that you made in your life? How about the small ones or the ones made for you? How would have your life turned out if things went the other way?

A movie that has always fascinated me is the Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher. The movie was good (not great) but the concept is mind-blowing.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect says that a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The concept was formulated by Edward Lorenz, and uses a metaphorical example of a hurricane being influenced by the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly.

Thus, a very small change in initial conditions can create a significantly different outcome.

Another similar and equally fascinating concept in science fiction is parallel universes or multiverses. Star Trek TNG had an episode called Parallels where every decision and possible outcome create multiple parallel dimensions. Thus, your life would have millions of permutations based on every decision you have ever made (or was made for you). You could be President of the United States or a bum on the street, depending on chance.

Today I talked about those moments in my life in front of MBA students at the Lally School of Management, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. I came up with 11 pivotal times in my life that got me to where I am today:

1982 - My mom lugs home an Apple IIe computer 

As a computer teacher at a small Jewish school in Calgary, my mom regularly carried home a heavy computer, screen and disk drives, introducing her inquisitive 10 year old son to computers. Instead of playing games, I learned BASIC and built a Quicken type financial tracking software that manages every dollar I earned at my paper route and every dollar I spent (normally Slurpees and Hockey Cards at 7-Eleven).

This small flap of butterfly wings created a future I couldn't imagine...

1987 - Five years later, a hit movie called Top Gun changes everything 

Watching Tom Cruise pop a wheelie on that Ninja 900 (chasing a girl) as a jet takes off in the background had a monumental effect on an impressionable 15 year old kid, 6 months away from getting his drivers license.

I did the research (this was before the internet remember!) and figured out that the bike would cost $4,000. That finance program I built years back detailed for me exactly how to make it happen.

That frugal 6 months, combined with achieving a clear goal had a huge impact on my life from that day forward. Cutting out alcohol, smoking, drugs (or anything else frivolous) allowed me to get that motorcycle, build an executive home at 22 years old and get a new cherry red Mercedes a few years later.

That is the reason I don't drink alcohol today - plain and simple.

1994 – IBM Intern and resident Futurist

My dad strongly encouraged me to pursue an internship in my final year of college and I was lucky to have Cargill and IBM come knocking. Working a tech call center seemed to be a better option than a meat processing plant, and my career was officially launched.

Two stories stick out in those early days.

I walked in my first day expecting to work on spreadsheets tracking call center rep performance – it was January and IBM had just sold a boat load of Aptiva home computers. Canadian customers bought NHL Hockey ’94 in large numbers as well. Problem was, after spending over $3,000 and having the family open up the computer on Christmas morning – the game wouldn’t run! After waiting on hold for over 60 minutes the customers were livid! The stress was felt in the office and instead of working on spreadsheets, I picked up the phone. I took over 50 calls that day and everyday after. My boss met me for the first time a week later and was shocked - and pleasantly surprised - that I was the top rep in productivity as measured on the spreadsheet I didn’t work on.

Even in the first few weeks of that internship I could see myself contributing more. IBM at the time was a technology juggernaut employing over 10% of all world PHD grads in math, computers and science. They had just proven that Teleportation (Star Trek style) was possible, were building the computer called Deep Blue that would be the first to beat a grandmaster at Chess (Gary Kasparov never got over it) and evolve into Jeapardy champion Watson, and were demo’ing a new personal area network that used the bodies natural electricity and could transfer data by just shaking someone’s hand.

Problem was, there were no evangelists that could talk to business audiences, students and go on TV. I jumped on the opportunity and became the resident IBM futurist. According to the World Future Society, I was the only one they knew of that had lifestreamed my life from the beginning – using that financial tracking software, combined with the fact that I was scanning all my documents and storing all of my pictures in digital format.

Every day of my life was documented; financially, documents and pictures – and it still is today!

1996 – The Winnipeg Place Mat

When IBM promoted and moved me to Manitoba to be a sales rep it was a big deal. Most IBMers before me had to wait 5 or 6 years to ever get a chance in front of a customer, and even then as a junior assistant. Here I was, 24 years old (looking more like 14) trying to manage an entire IBM Territory for the PC division.

Knowing I wasn’t the most extroverted relationship salesperson, I went the transactional route. I spent hours in the library and on the road documenting EVERY customer in the region. It became a massive color-coded spreadsheet called the Manitoba Unfortunate 500. I even took my family on a trip driving thousands of miles through the Northern townships and peeking inside each window on main street to see what kind of computers they used. The spreadsheet grew to dozens of columns with absolutely every piece of competitive and contact info I could get my hands on.

I would print the spreadsheet on a large sheet of paper and then laminate it – becoming affectionately known as the “place mat”.

This place mat drove my activity every day and a few years later I was recognized for having the largest IBM market share of any Territory in the world – almost 7 out of 10 computers bought in Manitoba in 1998 were IBM!

2000 – The Knowledge Worker Index 

IBM had moved me to Country Headquarters in Toronto and I was now a National Sales Manager. I was able to replicate the place mats for all 10 Territories and because of the mass quantity of prospects, a new scoring and propensity system needed to be developed.

After looking at thousands of our current customers, I built an algorithm that predicted how many knowledge workers (and thus computers) every company in Canada would buy in a given year. This predictive model was picked up by other divisions and the same methodology was being used to predict server, software and services sales.

2007 – The Channel Dashboard 

I was now handling Lenovo Channel sales for North and South America, and the challenges were that much larger in size and scope. Like many times before, I used a data approach to tie together over 30 systems including financial, product, inventory, distributors, programs and historicals.

Instead of being data jockeys for partners, the channel reps could now have all information on one screen and start spending their time driving more strategic discussions with partners.

2009 – Moving to the United States and channeling Paul Revere

Lenovo moved me to World-wide Headquarters in Raleigh, N.C. and I was now faced with the biggest challenge yet. How do I run an SMB business for a company that ignored the market for decades with someone brand new to the country?

In the Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell illustrates the story with Paul Revere and the Midnight Ride. Revere was possibly the best connected person in Boston on April 18, 1775. When he was alerted to the impending British attack on the armory at Concord, he successfully alerted and armed much of the Boston countryside. I used the exact same approach for finding connectors, gaining endorsements, and taking the IT Industry in the US by storm.

This is a longer story and maybe one of the most interesting times of my professional life. I go into more detail here:


2010 – Market like Dandelions 

I ran into a great connector in my travels by the name of Jeremy Epstein. He had an e-book that compared the future of marketing to a dandelion and it made total sense.

After traveling for 6 months straight on the Paul Revere journey, I needed to make an impact on the 30 or so communities that I became a part of. The problem was that communication preferences were changing with social media and almost 30 newer marketing vehicles. The simple math was 30 x 30 = 900 new touch points and the plan was to cover them all!

This is also a story that has it’s own blog here:


2011 – Give up corporate life, become an Entrepreneur! 

One of the top super-connectors I met on the Paul Revere journey was Bob Godgart. He is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of 5 successful businesses.

Bob was just transitioning his fourth company Autotask and I decided to jump on the chance to build ChannelEyes with him and two other great co-founders, Dave Geoghegan and Shari Godgart. The first couple of years were a blast – building the first social, mobile and big data solutions for vendors to better communicate, enable and drive sales with partners.

2015 – Become a CEO – fulfill a life dream

As we entered 2015, ChannelEyes was transitioning into a larger company. Having successfully raised millions in venture capital investment, ChannelEyes is now readying its breakthrough product called OPTYX – the first sales workflow product on the planet made for indirect sellers.

2017 – Becoming an industry curmudgeon – bring it all together

On a trip to Miami with my daughter, Danica, for spring break a couple of interesting things happened. 

One, is a major snowstorm hit our home in Upstate New York, and Michelle was at home stranded with the driveway snowed in. All flights were cancelled for at least a week and we needed to get home! We rented a car and drove 24 straight hours home without sleeping.

Two, on that long car ride (around Virginia), I had a conference call with a company I was advising called Channel Mechanics in Ireland. It was a 4 hour call and I had trouble hearing and communicating effectively - but tried my best. After the call, two representatives from Forrester phoned me - one a sales rep who was on the call, and the other a Vice President and Research Director who was leading the call - both with praise for my contribution and an offer of employment.

A few months later, in June of 2017, I joined Forrester as a Principal Analyst of Channels, Partnerships, Alliances, and Ecosystems globally. A whirlwind of fun ensued over the next number of years.

Now back to the Butterfly Effect. 

If my mom didn’t bring home that Apple IIe computer when I was 10, I may never have got the job at IBM. If I didn’t write that Quicken program, I may never have been inclined to think in new ways during my sales and marketing career. If I didn’t apply the Paul Revere strategy I may never have met Bob and started a new company. The permutations and combinations of what-if scenarios is mind numbing.

Life hasn’t been without its disappointments. At one point I thought I could play in the NHL until I was cut in 1989. I went through a painful divorce in 2001. I thought I would be a lifer at IBM until Lenovo came along and moved my cheese in 2005.

I do know this. Getting cut at hockey refocused my efforts and led me straight into college. Getting divorced taught me life lessons that I apply to my wonderful marriage with the love of my life Michelle and 4 wonderful daughters (Danica – 1997, Mila – 1999, Brooklyn – 2014, and Cali - 2015). Leaving IBM/Lenovo put me in a wonderful position to create something meaningful.

I wish I could flip parallel universes to see what my life would be like – although I would make 100% sure I could get back to this one because it is truly blessed.

I wouldn’t change a thing...the butterflies have led me to paradise.

Read more about my life story here:

My Housing Story - After 13 moves and stops in three Canadian Provinces and three U.S. States, here is my journey in pictures from the Northwest to the Southeast of North America.

My Travel Story - After visiting 93 countries (many with kids in tow), we are preparing for a trip to our 7th continent (Antarctica) in January 2021 assuming restrictions from COVID-19 lift.

My Nautical Story - I am pretty sure the love of water started in 1972 when I was six weeks old and my grandparents Bob and Dona McBain retired to Shuswap, British Columbia, Canada, and built a log cabin.

My Crazy MBA Story - In the summer of 2017, while climbing Machu Picchu, Peru as part of my wife Michelle’s International MBA from Manhattan College, I thought – why not me?

My Hockey Story - As long as I can remember, I have been playing hockey. Over four decades and thousands of games later, I still lace them up a couple times a week, year-round.

My Car Story - I have the dubious honor of getting speeding tickets on all 6 driveable continents - lucky that there are no cars in Antarctica! Did I ever tell you the time I passed the Polizia in Italy with my mom?

My Christmas Story - Whether traveling to see family, or going to Disney or Hawaii, or simply staying home - the season is packed with memories of family and friends.

My Music Story - My favorite music can be best defined as sad / emotional / multi-level slow music. Oddly, it is opposite of my worldview - which is normally overly-positive and optimistic.

My Movie Story - Oddly enough, I think Pretty Woman made me very interested in business. I named my cat Austin Powers - oh, and yes, "Danger" is his middle name. Our current dog is named August Rush (Auggie Doggy). Movies such as Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Forrest Gump, & National Lampoon's Vacation have become soundtracks to my life.

Monday, November 2, 2015

ChannelEyes launching OPTYX - Catch a sneak peek here

After a year in secret development, ChannelEyes is soon launching OPTYX... the first workflow tool built for indirect partner sales.
It brings together the most important information about your indirect partner sales channel, and then uses data science to produce actionable partner insights and visibility. OPTYX makes it possible to engage with channel partners in more productive and meaningful ways.

Replacing the spreadsheet, and sitting on top of the CRM system, OPTYX is a SaaS product that changes the game for indirect sellers. By combining different data sources, including transactional, point of sale, behavioral and external Big Data, this platform has the ability to predict, notify and prescribe the next best action with partners.

Find out more here:  http://optyx.channeleyes.com/

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Channel Technology Stack - Future of Channel Management

We have been witnessing an explosion of software vendors in the past 5 years. In fact, it has been the fastest growing segment of the technology industry and a big reason why the number of vendors will outnumber partners by 2025.

The go-to-market of these new software companies is very different than it was in the past. Before cloud and SaaS (software-as-a-service) industries became mainstream, software companies built foundational software which tended to have wide functionality and appeal.

For example, in heathcare, over 300 companies competed with Allscripts and GE for a slice of the EMR (electronic medical records) market. When Salesforce started it's meteoric rise in share of the CRM market, it also had about 300 competitors.

Once the winners started to emerge in each line of business (think Salesforce, NetSuite, Workday, Eloqua, etc.), a new phenomenon started around integrations and open API's.

This was the unofficial start of the stack concept. 

Layering highly targeted, narrow focused software tools together started to become the new normal. There was no way that wide platforms could optimize across different industries, geographies, segments, job roles and lines of business.

Example of Marketing Technology Stack:

Marketing, sales, finance, HR, customer success and operations were all early adopters of the technology stack. Channel and indirect sales groups have been laggards up till this point. The quality of software for channel professionals has been steadily improving.

With 72 key attributes of a strong program, no one piece of software can manage all the moving parts effectively.

A channel technology stack is a grouping of technologies that vendors leverage to conduct and improve their partner programs, compliance, revenue and loyalty. Often, the focus of channel technologies is to make difficult processes easier, and to measure the impact of multiple activities and drive more efficient spending.

The channel technology landscape is rapidly evolving, with dozens of different software technologies growing in an ever-increasing number of categories. With so many choices, it’s essential for channel professionals to have a clear understanding of which technologies are most fundamental to their business and program goals and to understand how technology can help.

The type of channel program you have will also impact which technologies you might find important, and how they should be organized. When assembling a channel technology stack, it’s important to know which technologies are foundational, and should be put in place first.

Here are some essential parts of the channel technology stack:

Partner Relationship Management (PRM) - Foundational software that manages the plumbing of a channel program. Partner management, portals, incentives, training, certifications and the like. Players such as Salesforce, Relayware, IMPARTNER and Channeltivity play here.

Partner Marketing Automation - The ability to score, nurture and have visibility to partner online behavior is critical to good channel management. On top of traditional marketing players such as Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot and Hubspot, there are channel specific options such as Zift Solutions, StructuredWeb and MindMatrix.

Portal and Content Management System (CMS) - technology that powers a partner portal, website, blog, or other relevant web properties where channel marketers want to engage their partners.

Mobile-first Partner Enablement - New mobile technologies that drive real-time communication, share selling and support tools, as well as driving partner motivation and loyalty are growing quickly in prominence. Companies like ChannelEyes are leading the way here.

Incentives and MDF Management - Focused tools that manage incentives, payments, compliance, fraud and ROI measurements. CCI is one of the leaders in this space.

Channel Data Management - Vendors that are generating mountains of transactional data are looking for new ways to analyze buying patterns, inventory controls and distribution effectiveness using modern data tools. Channel focused companies such as Channel Insight, Zyme and Entomo are leading this market.

Channel Social Media and Syndication - technology to monitor social activity, make social engagement easier and facilitate syndication of content is growing quickly as part of the stack. Companies such as Tie Kinetix, purechannelapps, ChannelRocket and Allbound play here.

There is a new part of the stack...

Channel Predictive Analytics, Data Science and Indirect Sales Workflow - ChannelEyes has developed the first ever Channel Sales workflow product that is based on advanced data science, business intelligence and channel analytics. It is called Optyx.

Replacing the spreadsheet, and sitting on top of the CRM system, this software-as-a-service product changes the game significantly. By combining different data sources, including transactional, point of sale, behavioral and external Big Data, this platform has the ability to predict, notify and prescribe the next best action with partners.

The average Channel Account Manager (CAM) is only managing 10-20% of their territory effectively. In fact, over 50% of their Executives fear that they are not calling the right partners with the right messaging at the right time.

Optyx changes that equation. It can watch EVERY partner with built-in algorithms that trigger alerts and notifications. I am sure a CAM would like to know if one of their key partners D&B credit rating dropped or another partner is on a hiring spree with a new successful practice just launched. What if a competitor just gave an award to one of your partners? Good information to know.

There are hundreds of data sources on the public web, however the most powerful information doesn't tend to be free. Even researching one partner could take a full day sitting behind a Google Search bar.

It isn't about data though. It is about action. Specifically, a CAM's next best action.

Optyx is a workflow tool that takes these alerts and notifications and translates them into actionable and measurable activities. Calling, emailing, social selling and even on-site visits can be prioritized based on predicted outcome and then noted and tracked in the CRM system, whether it be Salesforce.com or other.

Another powerful feature is the Partner Dashboard. Having transactional, behavioral and external Big Data all in one spot will make for informed conversations with partners and significantly cut down on the time and energy in tracking what a partner is doing and how they are performing.

CAM's report that 20% of their time is building reports for management and collecting information for partner Quarterly Business Reviews. This is now automated and that one day a week can go back to selling.

Long live the Channel Technology Stack!

Running a successful channel program is a complicated endeavor. Trying to do it with antiquated tools and gut isn't enough anymore. The channel is in need of advanced purpose-built tools based on the latest technologies such as cloud, mobility, social, predictive analytics and big data.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Channel Vendor 10 Commandments

Channel Vendor 10 Commandments

When you dig further into the relationship between partners and vendors, there seems to be an infinite number of ways the relationship can sour. In fact, CompTIA reported in their annual State of the Channel study that 60% of partners report that channel conflict is on the rise in the last few years, with 21% saying it rose significantly. 

Looking further into the research, the most common reason partners leave a vendor include high cost, low margins, constantly changing requirements/benefits, insufficient support and lack of marketing support. An astonishing 80% of partner firms said conflict affected their business negatively in the past few years.

There are many reasons for this increased conflict. The shifting customer landscape has vendors shifting go-to-market strategies from indirect to direct sales as well as increasing their services arm. Other reasons fall into trust and transparency issues - including not honoring rules of engagement, deal registration policies, sales engagement and territory violations.

It is time for a set of common sense rules for Channel leaders to keep in mind around their programs. Thus, the The Channel Vendor 10 Commandments:


Being completely honest with channel partners is the most important part of building a lasting, trusting partnership. One lapse can cause irreparable damage and can halt a promising alliance in its tracks. Partners are a resilient bunch, and while it may be painful in the short-term, bad news delivered straight and in a timely fashion will usually be forgiven.


Trust is built over time through consistency and honesty. With so many moving parts inside a vendor organization and the ever-changing business dynamics, it is hard for partners to know what is happening. The best policy is to have open dialogue and share more than before. Partners run businesses too and will appreciate hearing the opportunities as well as the challenges. This can have a positive effect where partners may actually help with the challenges or suggest how other vendors solved them.


One of the most common complaints a channel has is change. Not change for the better, but change for the sake of change. Larger vendors are guilty of changing up their rep coverage on a yearly basis and the partners are forced to re-educate new people constantly. This goes for programs too - when the average partner has over 10 vendors, keeping up with the changes can be a dizzying experience.


Most vendors think that they over-communicate. However, when they bring together their partner advisory council, a different story is heard. There are roughly 30 communication vehicles that vendors use today including email, newsletters, phone calls, field visits, webinars, tradeshows, social platforms, etc. In many cases, these vehicles aren't owned exclusively by the channel organization and partners are bombarded by every division and perhaps every well-intentioned product manager at the vendor.


Pre-sales, post-sales and 24/7 technical support are now table stakes for vendors. Visibility also extends to the marketplace - partners shouldn't have to bear the brunt of marketing, educating and selling the vendor's products. Communities are everywhere, and vendors must participate in the associations, peer groups, tradeshows and industry media that drive awareness.


As noted above, conflict continues to be a challenge in the channel. A published rules of engagement that is supported by upper management at the vendor (as well as escalation and mediation policies) are critical. Not every situation is unique, and vendors need to  have consistent and predictable responses to conflict situations as they arise. The results could be positive or negative for the partner - but as long as they are fair and consistent, then cooler heads will prevail.


Vendors tend to work on a pendulum when it comes to recruitment. Every other year, a new VP will come in and put recruitment efforts in overdrive without a proper go-to-market strategy and capacity planning exercise. Current partners will feel the encroachment and suffer further competition in their geographies. At least till the following year, a temporary reprieve when focus will go back to nurturing and development.


Partners need their systems and business processes to integrate better with their vendors. Giving partners a dozen passwords for every different part of the program doesn't make sense and will cause abandonment of the behaviors originally sought. Careful thought should be put into the channel software stack and to make sure the labor doesn't get passed to partners.


This may seem like common sense, but partners would tell a different story. Building a channel program isn't easy - especially with the permutations and combinations of industries, geographies, business models, lines of business and partner types are included. Persona based incentives, education and motivation techniques are needed by very rarely delivered - and it causes unnecessary friction.


It always amazes me to see vendors sweep in a new management team and want to fire the bottom 10% of their partners without studying why they are the bottom 10%. People have long memories and the industry is smaller than you would think. Yes, there are 160,000 partners in North America (which seems like a lot) but when you look at merger & acquisition statistics as well as people changing jobs, those faces can come back to hurt you later.

The average channel chief wears about 10 hats and drives 72 functional areas of channel management, sales and marketing. Lost in this complexity are the core reasons partners don't perform and sometimes leave. 

More often than not, following these commandments will have a bigger impact than forever tweaking 72 parts of the channel program. Try putting this on the agenda of your next offsite planning session.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Channel: Building a Modern Go To Market (GTM) Strategy

A lot has changed in the 20+ years I have spent in the Channel. New technologies, business models, communities, demographics, communication vehicles and customer behavior have created a whirlwind of change for vendors and distributors.

The one constant is the complexity of managing hundreds of thousands of partners globally, each with their own unique set of business practices, target markets, customs and values. Channel Partners know that to be successful, they need to carve out a niche – whether that be geographically, technologically, vertically and/or business model.

We come from the dreaded triangle methodology of segmentation. Largest partners by revenue on top, followed by some type of regional midmarket, then SMB transactional partners and finally the unwashed masses at the bottom of the triangle.

Because of the uniqueness of each partner, this completely missed the point of segmentation. Trying to build programs, training, incentives and coverage for partners lumped together based on historic sales of your product was faulty logic.

Enter the Persona.

The ability to dig a little deeper with each partner and ask the right questions has produced some breakthrough wins for some vendors. That small managed services partner in the U.S. Northeast who sells to healthcare and specializes in security solutions looks very different than the box-pusher across the street.

Building the right persona based segmentation plan will group like-minded partners around the country (and perhaps the globe) allowing the proper program mechanics to be developed. Above the obvious benefits of higher partner sales, satisfaction and loyalty with this type of focused approach, it is also a major cost savings for the vendor. Billions of dollars are wasted every year in programs that are not targeted and don’t drive behaviors.

So the dreaded triangle has been replaced with a hodgepodge of personas – now what?

It is somewhat of a herculean task to go back through your entire channel and start classifying partners in a new way. Not to mention the workload in revamping the PRM or CRM system to handle the new segmentation.

The good news is that like-minded people tend to gravitate towards each other. Whether that is face to face in peer groups, digitally in forums or using social media, these communities are some of the best ways to define personas and actively build recruitment plans.

I wrote a blog about the size of the IT Channel.

We know that executives at ultra-large partners such as CDW do not tend to hang out with Larry who runs a small storefront in the strip mall down the street. Larry hangs out with other people just like him. Behaviorally, what Larry reads, what events he attends, and who he follows says more about him than the average questionnaire could gather.

Why are communities important?

Gartner Group conducted an interesting research piece where peer networking, associations and communities are the highest ranked ways that small and medium businesses learn, form opinions, and in the end, make decisions.

IDC reported the same finding when they were digging into healthcare. In fact, 4 of the top 5 reported resources for Electronic Medical Record (EMR) selection criteria involve associations, affiliates, colleagues, and buying groups.

With Google at our fingertips, why do partners choose communities?

During this time of growing “electronic ubiquity”, the need for trusted and expert sources of information has increased significantly. The amount of competitive choices for products and services, combined with vast information on the internet and endless buzz through social media, has created a scenario where cutting through the “white noise” has become one of the most important skills.

Communities offer a smaller group of like-minded people (perhaps even competitors), sharing similar experiences and challenges, the ability to collaborate and improve decision making. The feeling of belonging is strong, as well as the affinity of membership. There is a feeling that communities are more democratic as they are built by the membership, and participation is encouraged and celebrated.

Who starts these communities?

Tracing back some of the more popular IT Channel communities to the beginning, the sources are:

1. Connectors

Malcolm Gladwell does a great job of explaining the concept of connectors in the Tipping Point. These are people that you would recognize, even dating back to grade school, that seem to be the center of the universe. Another way you can recognize connectors is in a place like Facebook. You seek out this person, and they are 1 degree of separation from everyone in your school, company, neighborhood, etc. 

In the business world, many connectors have translated this skill into organizing and building a strong following. They have also recognized that vendors will pay top dollar to participate in these already established communities. There is also a feeling by these connectors of altruism, or “giving back” to the industry or geography where they do business. 

You may think that connectors are the most extroverted and charismatic people, but in reality, not always.

I recently wrote a blog about Paul Revere and the super-connector phenomenon.

2. Industry verticals

Several communities start as a result of a new technology or sub-industry. An example in the IT industry is Virtualization, Cloud Computing, Electronic Health Records or Managed Services. When the needs of a group are not being met by larger or non-related peer groups, new communities form organically from members as they branch out.

3. Traditional Media 

Trade magazines and event promoters have been quick to recognize the communities trend, and have formed powerful groups under their trusted brand. Having a strong subscription or attendee following, makes the transition to community a logical step for these organizations.

There are about 16 major magazines in the IT Channel. This doesn’t include technology derivatives (Print, Point of Sale, Pro Audio/Video, etc.), industry derivatives (healthcare, government, hospitality, retail, etc.), geographic derivatives (UK, Canada, Australia, etc.), and business model derivatives (managed services, cloud, mobility, iOT, etc.).

4. New Media – Social Media

The fastest growth of communities has occurred with the explosion of social media. Whether Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or the dozens of other purpose built community tools, the cost and complexity to start a community is approaching zero. Many connectors started as bloggers who have built a loyal and passionate following.

Many bloggers have evolved into connectors and community leaders.

5. Distributors and vendors

The fact is that some companies get it and some don’t. Several organizations now recognize the power of communities and have built organizations around persona/community marketing. It is becoming more common to hear the title Chief Community Officer in vendor organizations. In fact, I could drop a number of names of the super-connectors in the industry and they come from this fold.

Organizing a community goes far beyond marketing and advertising however, with product development, pricing and programs all tightly connected.

How do these communities interact with their followers?

A dizzying array of new marketing vehicles have popped up in recent years. Traditional media such as magazines and events are very important in communicating to a community, but new media allows innovative ways to extend and enhance the message. From webinars, podcasts, vodcasts, blogs, tweets, Linkedin groups, to virtual trade shows, community groups are using as many as 30 different marketing vehicles to be pervasive within the group.

I wrote a blog about this new channel marketing phenomenon called Dandelions and Blowfish.

The challenge with these marketing vehicles is different than in the past. The main inhibitor to effectively marketing was money, today it is effective content and delivery. Many of the vehicles I mentioned above are free or cost very little compared with traditional media. Keeping content fresh, abundant and delivered daily takes resourcing beyond the marketing department.

Media savvy Executives who can keynote an event, tweet about it offstage, promote the message to the media gathered, and then write a blog about it later on is the new model for the future. Messaging that would have required triple-checking through legal a few years ago, needs to be just-in-time and delivered on a daily cadence.

I have always followed the mantra “be visible everyday”.

Finally, community members have very effective personal spam filters. Anything that doesn’t add value to the community will be rejected and have a negative result for the organization delivering. The old days of PowerPoints and product spec slides doesn’t cut it. Active selling into a community is an invitation to be ignored or kicked out.

Why are communities important to your GTM strategy?

Beyond the human requirements of personal interaction and belonging, communities provide tangible benefits to all involved. Unfiltered information based on common experience will always trump random white papers and case studies posted on the internet. The give/get relationships within a community inspire openness and, in most of the communities I have seen, a level of bluntness that is refreshing.

Some key advantages of communities:

1. Cost of entry low as compared to traditional media and other marketing opportunities. Very much a “grass roots” feeling.

2. Ability to communicate and receive value is high. Tons of touch points, combined with a high degree of passion.

3. Trusted source – community members have likely experienced your challenges, or will shortly. The feeling you can “steal with pride” best practices and contribute your own successes.

4. Ability to enter new markets or industries. Opportunities to network, build like-minded connections and potentially drive business development opportunities.

5. Credibility that comes with “member of” status. Make the affiliations and partnerships that make your organization seem larger and more connected. Getting published or quoted as an expert or thought leader is invaluable for your organization and personal brands.

What is the future of communities – and why now?

Based on the data from analysts, combined with the relentless growth of information available across the internet and the behavioral habits of people, communities will keep growing. Exponentially growing, in fact.

Specialization will continue to expand as well, driving more need for these groups and subgroups. There is an upper limit to the size of a community where the point of diminishing returns kicks in. The point at where coordination of the group and the generality of messaging outweigh the benefits listed above.

Smart communities will organize sub-groups before the fringe members go off and launch a competing community. The permutations and combinations of geographic, technology, industry, line of business, solution and business model specializations is endless.

Are you saying I should join thousands of communities?

No. Without some level of focus, you would stretch your organization too thin and not add value anywhere. There are, however, about 30 different master communities around the world that will give you access to roughly 80% of the total partner population.

Go to Market strategies by vendors need to be highly-nuanced. New technologies, business models, communities, demographics, communication vehicles and customer behavior have driven the need for new thinking around partner relationships. Engaging on a personal one-to-one level with partners is more important than ever, understanding that their business practices, target markets, customs and values are different. 

The majority of channel partners know how to be successful or they would not have survived the 2008 economic meltdown. Vendors need to enable them to carve out their niche with the right mix of education, support, incentive and community support.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

11 Ways The Channel Will Succeed with IoT (Internet of Things) - #11 may surprise you

Since my first presentation representing IBM on Pervasive Computing in 1995, I have had a keen interest on how the market would evolve. Using my trusty WiFi enabled toothbrush as a prop, I would try to paint a picture of a world with billions of devices and sensors changing our everyday lives, disrupting industries, and ushering in the end of client/server computing.

The drivers of this ubiquitous computing model included technologies such as GPS, which President Clinton created a dual-use system in 1996, and the first WiFi protocol standard (IEEE 802.11) was released in 1997. Around the same time, Chinese manufacturing was exploding, redefining business models the world over. The term IoT was coined by British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton in 1999.

On the consumer side, the momentum was slow. The lack of standards, customer demand and innovation in smart home technology delayed the market for almost 20 years. Even though circuit boards could be wrapped in plastic for a few dollars - the customer experience was poor and the need wasn't well defined.

A couple of remarkable things happened in 2007. First, the launch of the iPhone which drove the smartphone to be a mass-market "second device".  Later in the year, a new category of inexpensive laptops called Netbooks sold millions of units and became a "third device" to many. Netbooks ended up being replaced by a superior form factor, the iPad, or slate tablet, selling 250 million units in the first 5 years.

In the last couple of years, the battle over health wearables, including early entrants such as FitBit and Jawbone, and of course, the Apple Watch in 2015 competed to be our "fourth device". With most car manufacturers making Apple/Google decisions for the dash and almost every other category of product (electronic or not) designing themselves to be the next big thing, things are just getting revved up!

The parallel consumer and business evolution of this trend is helping it drive awareness and attracting billions of dollars of investment thus creating a new tech bubble around big data and endless devices and sensors.

The channel has some notable IoT-deniers, but the analysts that are throwing out wild projections of 25 billion devices by the year 2020 are going to be right on this one. In fact, 83% of internet users see themselves with dozens of potential devices in the next 10 years (Pew Research).

The inevitable question for the channel is how to take advantage of this trend early and build the right organization and business model that can drive growth and profit in this upcoming chaos.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Complexity

Client/Server will look simple compared to linking endless devices securely and making sense of mountains of disparate data being generated. Business consulting represents a huge opportunity - both with lines of business such as marketing, operations, HR, supply chain, as well as IT who will own the security, redundancy, and performance of this new paradigm.

2. Policies, Compliance and Risk Assessment

While some devices and sensors will be innocent, others will be transmitting health, payment and private citizen data that is highly protected by multiple levels of government regulation and evolving legislation. Hacking will take on a new dimension on the edge of the network and security expertise will be one of the most valuable skills in the foreseeable future.

3. Procuring, Provisioning and Deploying

There will be little opportunity for hardware margin (not unlike today). The opportunity will be in finding and procuring devices and software from over 100,000 competing vendors, provisioning them with the right network and security protocols and staging them for deployment.

4. Software Integration

The permutations and combinations of 100,000 vendors producing hardware and software will invariably lead to a highly customized, industry specific set of skills that piece together software stacks, in many cases for the first time ever.

5. Software Development

An obvious extension to #4 is that vendors will not be interested in extending their API's or dedicating precious engineering talent for one-off solutions. The channel will write code and participate in the integration of technology like never before.

6. Premise Monitoring 

Banks, retailers, airlines, hotels and numerous other industries are placing sensors, cameras and other devices in areas where they do business with customers. The channel will offer location services as well as vertical expertise that solves line of business requirements.

7. Product Monitoring 

Companies embed sensors, software and other technologies into their products—coffee machines, refrigerators, big-haul trucks and aircraft engines—to monitor usage and performance. The channel will offer big data expertise including data cleansing, normalization and actionable intelligence. Only 5% of data today is being analyzed and that provides one of the biggest game changers in the next few years.

8. Customer Monitoring

Using mobile apps, beacons or wearables to track consumer behavior. The channel will come in with the marketing and sales skills to connect to funnel activities and customer nurturing, scoring and development strategies.

9. Supply Chain Monitoring 

Adding sensors, cameras and other digital devices to production and distribution operations. Channel partners with skills in manufacturing, factory operations, shipping and supply chain operations will provide the guidance and strategic best practices for driving cost out of organizations of all sizes.

10. Infrastructure and Support

There are significant opportunities, many based on today's skills and practices, that will be amplified in this new world:

  • WLAN coverage, security and performance becomes critical to the success of IoT
  • Employee support and helpdesk supporting endless devices with new use cases and unique environments
  • Hot spare programs for mission critical devices, with provisioning and implementation
  • Audio/Video/Environment upgrades with digital signage, new payment systems, surface computing, etc.
  • Mobile printing/document management supporting new omnichannel environments
  • Building/electrical upgrades - these devices will need power and current environments are not built to handle (think hospitals, shipping and manufacturing sites)

I am convinced that this will present the largest opportunity for the channel (ever). 

Many of the above services are high-margin. In fact, the permutations and combinations of industry, geography, customer size and line of business will almost eliminate the commoditization that has taken over the mainstream VAR business and managed services market today.

Now for the most important part...

How does the channel REALLY take advantage of IoT?

11. Become a vendor

Yes, I said it.

I have predicted a number of times that the number of vendors will surpass the number of channel partners in the next 5-10 years (in North America it is 100,000 vendors vs. 160,000 channel partners today).

Read over the 10 items again. This is not the horizontal commodity technology market with limited industry, geographic and size considerations that client/server represented. It is a highly specialized, industry optimized, line of business specific, use case orientated solution that will be hyper-local to a small set of customers.

The channel partner who understands the intersection of these micro-markets will be uniquely positioned to expand those opportunities on a national scale, and perhaps globally. Too small for an established vendor to take notice or get distracted, but large enough in revenue and profit to drive entirely new businesses.

This isn't new. Thousands of channel partners have already exploited their own intellectual property and started a side vendor business. Many have even exited the traditional VAR and MSP business completely and focused on the new venture.

Are you next?

P.S. There is an important nuance to this article. When I say "the channel" I don't necessarily mean the traditional SMB IT channel (think CRN, ASCII, SMB Nation, CompTIA, IT Nation, etc.) The channel that I see participating today are millennials at Dreamforce, Marketo, Hubspot, SXSW type conferences without much in terms of hardware, security, networking and backup type of experience.

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 11 - Never Forget

As a boy growing up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I never thought that I would one day live in NY (State) and that this scenery would one day change dramatically. #neverforget #september11

Monday, August 24, 2015

ANNOUNCING the gender of Schmoo 2!

Will it be girl #4 or boy #1? Find out here...

A picture from August 24, 2015 of Schmoo 2 before we knew the gender:

Here is when we made the announcement a few months ago: