I have been involved in channel marketing for (dare I say) 30-years now, and in global marketing almost as long. During that time, I have seen the channel program authority volley between a centralized model to a field-controlled model back and forth more often than a Chinese ping pong tournament. I have even witnessed it myself within the same client more than 3 times over a 5 year period. With each swing, of course, comes new process and infrastructure to manage the transition. This shift in the balance of power is not limited to any one particular industry-in fact it can happen in any industry, particularly where the “Brand” is tightly controlled by home office personnel.
I recently read an survey performed by a noted consultancy which stated that global program standardization managed via a common infrastructure was among the top 3 investment priorities in 2010 for global channel marketers within the technology industry. This is of no surprise considering that technology has changed through the years thus enabling infrastructure standardization to exist. That makes perfect sense…after all, what home office in their right mind would want to disseminate funds and program authority to channel partners on a global scale to spend willy nilly without having any controls in place? (BTW: “willy nilly” is a technical term for “hap hazardly” which itself is a technical term for…..well, never mind).
Well, at least one vendor we know well does…after 2 years of going to a completely centralized model to manage their global programs, they have announced intent to move back to a decentralized model permitting only local controls of program design and execution. This shift back makes perfect sense to me too. The “promise” of globalization and standardization sounds great and all, but under the mantra of “think globally, act locally” perhaps there is an admission that business practices require attention to local needs and customs as much (or in this case more) than centralized insight and controls. I’ve often attested to the fact that the best position is somewhere in the middle, but often the forces of office politics are at work. The pain is real strong on one side, so the tendency is to compensate by moving to the extreme opposite side, sighting: “See, I told you that having the pendulum on their side wouldn’t work”.
Hmmmm, the more things change, the more they stay the same.