Jim Barnet’s Channel Perspective

Fivel is a micro-learning application platform focused on driving user adoption of technology solutions. Need some training on Webex or Office 365? Fivel’s cloud-based video content, delivery and reporting platform is designed to do just that. Fivel also addresses learning content curation, as the content is continually updated as new versions of Webex and Office 365 are released. But Fivel users don’t have to trudge through hours of boring training material in one sitting, the training is delivered in bite-sized sessions in order to ensure complete retention. Fivel’s Dashboards track each employee’s progress through the training and learning lifecycle (engagement, video content consumption, retention exercises, etc). Fivel’s partner program supports both new deployments and re-training for existing deployments with low user adoption.  Fivel also supports partners by providing them with structured lead gen programs to kick-start end-user interest and engagement. CDN spoke with Jim Barnet, Fivel’s director of sales and marketing.

CDN: What led you into a career within the channel?

Barnet: When I joined Fivel six years ago, they had a 100 per cent direct model. They were doing very well with that model and had some very large customers, including one of the country’s biggest retailers, one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Canada, a department of defence contract…we had tremendous success in signing big spotlight customers. But after that, we had to talk about how the organization was going to scale. We said we can keep hiring direct sales people and do what we’re doing, or we can look at building a channel. And the reason we thought the channel was so attractive was because of our sister company, Promys PSA.

Promys PSA sells operational business software to channel partners. Promys started using Fivel to help drive user adoption with Promys deployments. And we got really good feedback from those channel partners. The online video learning combined with the preliminary webinar training worked very well. And then those partners kept coming back to us and asking, ‘can you help us do the same thing for our end-user customer Webex or Office 365 deployments? Of course, our answer was “that sounds like a really good idea.” It was a nice combination of circumstances that led us to build a channel, and it was really the customer that pushed us to go down this channel path.

CDN: What is your definition of channel at Fivel?

Barnet: When we think of a channel partner, we think of a Cisco channel partner, a Microsoft channel partner, a Dell channel partner – those are pretty straightforward definitions, but things are changing. The channel used to be very segmented. You would have people who would self identify as an MSP, a systems integrator or an ISV. What we’re finding now is that those lines are really blurring, and we’re seeing a systems integrator with a managed services line of business. Even Cisco is encouraging its traditional channel partners to develop their own proprietary value-added software on top of their platforms. People used to be very motivated to stay in their lane because a certain specialization was what helped them differentiate themselves. But now, while channel partners still want that, it’s more of a vertical market expertise rather than a technical market expertise, so they’re expanding how broad their technical offerings are.

CDN: What are the three largest areas of responsibility in current role as Channel Chief?

Barnet: It’s basically identifying new channel partners to expose our value proposition and to see if they’ll become a Fivel reseller, help existing channel partners deploy successfully and grow their user adoption business, and I’m responsible for supporting partners’ marketing activities and other programs for implementation and training, and help them become successful with the Fivel line of business.

CDN: What can the Canadian partner community do better to ensure the partner ecosystem is one where companies can thrive?

Barnet: There has been a gap in the channel market for creating specific success criteria to define channel management roles. The C4 mandate is exciting to me because it’s creating a level of credibility for a channel management role that targets very specific skill sets and has a support infrastructure to back it up.

CDN: What piece of advice would you give someone who aspires to be a channel chief?

Barnet: Find a mentor. I am so grateful for the opportunity that C4 provided me with and the mentorship from Donna Wittmann.  Donna really helped clarify some things about our channel experience that I was puzzled or confused about and subsequently dramatically accelerated adjustments to our approach. As part of my 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience, I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I got into the channel with a lot of preconceptions, thinking building a channel would be easy. I thought we were crushing it with our big spotlight accounts and that the channel would welcome us with open arms. We think, as a vendor, we’re coming to save partners from a pending user adoption crisis, especially in a subscription and renewals focused world. But that’s not necessarily their current priority or perception. What we learned is, the fastest way to develop interest in the channel is to bring them leads. – Alex Coop