Project Management Institute

Extended Influence

Embracing the Channel Partner's POV Can Forge a Stronger Project Bond

By Priya Patra, PMP

Digital project teams often face a vast and complex experience ecosystem. There's no doubt that customers and employees garner most of the attention, but, as project professionals, we also must prioritize the experiences of a vast array of channel partners. That circle includes distributors, vendors, retailers, consultants, systems integrators, technology deployment consultancies and value-added resellers.

Having a firm grasp of partners’ needs helps us connect missing links in projects or programs. This was never more true than on my last digital transformation project, implementing a system for tracking heavy health care equipment. There were partners on logistics teams that delivered and installed the heavy equipment at the site as well as those working in field servicing and the service representative center.

Here are three ways I was able to keep my finger on the pulse of their needs and experiences:


We started by conducting a day-in-the-life exercise for our end customers using surveys, interviews and finally face-to-face discussions to map experiences. The maps gave us the customer experience touch points, which we shared with the channel partners to help map the partner experience. By keeping the customer as the focal point, this exercise helped us to understand experience touch points for the partner.




The partners were from multiple domains and had different cultures and goals. To get them on the same page, we started with a visioning exercise, which enabled every channel partner to understand the project purpose. It helped to clarify how the project would benefit them and how their responsibilities aligned to the big picture in the ecosystem. That alignment helped partners achieve individual and ecosystem-wide goals.


To forge support from all partners, we started with a training program on how the application landscape would be digitally transformed. This helped ensure the partners could advocate the to-be digitally transformed product better with the customer. We set up a partner management office to keep all partners up to speed and used regular app-based chats to measure the pulse of partner engagement. We also offered rewards and recognition and had the CIO address partners in quarterly all-hands IT meetings.

With the rise of software-as-a-service distribution and the recurring revenue model, it is essential that everyone in the experience ecosystem—particularly each channel partner—is treated as our extended team, rather than vendors or service providers. Developing a stronger connection will help transform our partners into project advocates. PM

img Priya Patra, PMP, is a regular contributor to and a program manager in the IT sector who lives in Mumbai, India.
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