Do partners have a role in SaaS?

In conversation with Denise Sangster, CEO at Global Touch

Listen to the podcast here.

Denise Sangster is recognised in the top 10 most influential women in tech. Working as CEO of Global Touch Denise consults with many leading tech companies on their partner strategy. It’s a privilege to have Denise with us today.

The early years

In her early years Denise tells us she was pushed towards computer science and business. Her career journey led her to becoming the international channel chief for a database software company, later purchased by Microsoft because of its SQL Server business unit.

Denise’s experience with the channel enabled her to start a consulting company working with technology partners in Europe. Denise helped partners develop their product strategy, enabling them to be more competitive and to bring more innovation to their customers.

It was an exciting time for Denise and along the way she built up the largest IT multi-country event, Euro Channels, which was sold in 2001.

Data driven strategy

Denise continues to provide management consulting, focused on developing strategy based on data and storytelling around the data. She tells us,

“Global Touch work with companies that want to scale fast and efficiently. We help companies harness data and make forward thinking programmes that drives partners to more profitable paths.”

Vic likes that Denise focuses on data as thinks this is something that has been missing,

“Even now with clients, the partner teams feel like the underdog. They’re not getting the recognition compared to the enterprise sales guys who are bringing in the multi-million dollar deals. The fact you have the data to demonstrate this is so valuable.”

Denise agrees.

“You’ve hit on the dirty secret of the IT industry. Partners bring in the bulk of revenue for most IT companies, yet the biggest accolades go to the direct sales team.”

AMEN from Sam!

The conversation continues that this comes down to predictability.

“The enterprise sales team can better predict large revenue. However, companies miss the opportunity to build a more accurate predictable market for revenue. That’s a lost opportunity. That’s really a reflection of the IT industry – it’s still utilising what worked fifteen years ago and not what’s working today.”

The move towards SaaS

Vic is really interested with the move towards SaaS and wonders what the future looks like for partners when vendors move to a SaaS model?

Denise provides some insightful information around this.

“SaaS isn’t a partner killer. Partners make up the bulk of revenue on services. It does include a new set of complexity to an organisation. Where there’s complexity there’s margin and partners are there to help. When I look at SaaS, I see all the value-add through consultancy, app development & telemetry that partners can bring.”

Partners are helping customers realise the value faster.

Partner differences across the world

It was wonderful to hear Denise talk about the difference in partners around the world and the value of telemetry.

“Telemetry can show how the technology has fed into the CEOs priorities and show bottom line benefits. Partners do that very well. Some of the best partners are in Europe with two in the UK.”

Sam asks if there is a difference in maturity between US and UK partners. Denise summarises the differences:

  • Biggest divide has been about services – America partners are not as aggressive with services, although there are some good partners providing world class services.
  • Vendors are not doing as much to support their partners in EMEA but they are doing more than they use to do.
  • UK partners are more relationship focused.

Global Touch Partner Outlook Survey

Subscribe and download the survey report here

The report identifies global trends by key regions, partners, GTM transformations, and revenue models in this transition to the next computing era.

Denise provided us with a great sneak peek of the survey results.

The good news is that partners are very bullish about the calendar year 2022. There are however, some challenges:

  1. Book to bill ratio. Can’t build and deliver services.

The book to bill ratio is higher than a year ago. Millions of dollars have been booked, but not billed by partners (due to supply chain backlog) resulting in service delivery delays. Those rich services to drive full value of that technology cannot be delivered until products are ready.

  1. Inflation – possibly moving into recession

Product prices are going up. There’s an increasing number of price hikes, which is difficult for partners to adjust to. Some deals are multiyear, and someone has to eat that cost. Many public sector deals in EMEA are fixed for five years.

  1. Credit line challenges

Sure-up the reliability risk. Many financing companies/banks are going to take 100% of that liability for entire contract time. This is causing credit line constraints.

  1. Economic insecurities

Geographic differences in terms of slow down or potential recession, including the Russian and Ukrainian war.

  1. Cyber Security – Talent shortage

There’s never been a time where cyber security has been more important than now. There is not enough talent to address all the security issues. This is a huge opportunity for partners but also a risk.

Denise tells us about the value of segmenting and analysing data between the regions, namely US Canada, EMEA and APAC.

“There are some differences between all those markets. What I like about global work is that you really get to see the cultural affect, the economic and really what’s happening geo-politically in those regions manifest more by splicing the data that way.”

Global partner programmes

It’s interesting that there are three distinct markets, yet vendors tend to offer a global partner programme.

Denise comments,

“They don’t understand the nuance. A bigger challenge to that is there has been no real innovation in partner programmes. The construct is the same as fifteen years ago and needs to be redesigned.”

IT Wondrous Women

Sam wants to give a shout out to the IT Wondrous Women “as we have two of them on this call!”

IT Wondrous Women is a blog series spotlighting women around the world who are serving in leading roles or are a thought-leader.

Check out Vicky’s IT Wondrous Women blog

What would you tell your younger self?

Denise tells us that five things have stuck with her. In Denise’s words:

My swimming coach, Anne Curtis a 1948 Olympian, used to tell us to “Train like you’ve never won and compete like you’ve never lost.”

I could see how that phrase played into my business world. I would tell myself:

  1. Dress for the job you want
  2. Networking – learn to be an impactful networker.
  3. Failure – This is a natural part of growth and expansion. We have to try things, take risk but learn from them and move on.
  4. Mentoring – latch on to mentors and remember that one day you’ll be the mentor.
  1. Always be prepared – I would over prepare for meetings. I would rather work with a junior person that’s well prepared than someone with 5-10 years experience who is underprepared.

Key Takeaways

  1. Be curious
  2. Focus on what you can give back
  3. Form lifelong partnerships and partners for life.
  4. Bonus one! The most important thing is tell people what they need to hear and not what they want to hear.

Book recommendation

How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith

Thank you Denise for such an informative conversation.

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