OPPORTUNITY WATCH: Army Looks to Industry for Mobile Application Development Advice

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According to an article in NextGov, the U.S. Army wants to formalize  its process for developing mobile apps and is turning to industry and researchers as key resources.

The Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) has issued an RFI to “help the Army better understand current and future market solutions, availability of services, industry best practices, …tools, and products capable of enhancing … the Army’s efforts to develop a software development contract for mobile device applications.”

The PEO EIS goes on to say it envisions itself as a one-stop-shop within the Army for secure and scalable mobile apps.  However, this doesn’t mean the work will all be handled by government employees.  In fact, the RFI language states they will be acquiring the services below from a number of large and small business partners capable of developing applications:

  • Application Product Design Market Strategy/Analysis
  • Requirements Development/Validation
  • Architecture and Standards Development
  • Testing
  • Integration with DoD Systems and Commercial Capabilities
  • Integration with Carriers
  • Security and Information Assurance

The office has not picked any preferred mobile operating systems at this point as it indicates an openness to developing across all mobile platforms including  iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry.

The use of mobile applications within the DoD is an interesting, perhaps overdue, development.  As these devices become smarter and more secure, expect to see further opportunities emerge in rapid, narrow function application development.  Clearly, interesting possibilities exist for vendors willing to create early relationships and build strong value propositions.

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Creating Effective Reseller Channels (Part 2 of 2)

In our previous post, we examined three key lessons for initiating or improving reseller channel partner relationships.  Let’s examine a few more pieces of advice for improving results from channels.

Understand & Leverage Channel Incentives

Reseller salespeople are like any other salespeople–they follow the money.  They want to cover ground as quickly as possible, selling products and services that are easy and personally profitable.  If your product or service does not align well with the salesperson’s compensation plan, don’t expect great results in the end.  Understand how these front line representatives are paid, and strive to fit within the overall compensation model.  Some resellers will even allow “spiffs” or other special programs for salespeople if properly coordinated.  Look for creative ways to incentivize reseller salespeople’s focus on your product.

Look for and Participate in Consistent Training

Salespeople sell most effectively when they are comfortable with the product and its market advantages.  Comfort in a complex reselling environment doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes solid training and consistent review to make sure 3rd-party reps are sufficiently educated to adequately represent the product.  Look for or create opportunities for training reseller sales teams.  Arm them with updated information on how your product stands out in the marketplace.  Focus on benefits, not technical details or functions.  This type of training will yield a greater likelihood for success.

Establish Regular Account Management Procedures

The final recommendation is to work with the reseller’s sales management to establish regular and consistent opportunity reviews and evaluation procedures.  These discussions should be farily specific in nature, digging into account-level details where possible.  This kind of depth will give you insights into what salespeople are facing as they talk with prospects, and it provides a level of accountability not found in arms-length reseller relationships.  Not every reseller is willing to do this, but find one that is, and you’ve got the basis for a strong and lucrative strategic partner.

Channel management is a discipline not for the faint of heart.  Rarely is a channel approach a “money factory” requiring little hands-on work.  However, when implemented and managed well, it can certainly be a lucrative way of taking product to market.

Creating Effective Reseller Channels (Part 1 of 2)

Many business owners and salespeople in the B2G space deal with external sales channels to help move their products or services.  At times, we are asked how to initiate or improve a sales channel program.  Here are some things to look for when selecting a channel partner (or considering your next move with an existing one):

Clear Positioning

First, channel partners should have a clearly defined space into which they sell that is well-aligned with your business.  One company with which we worked tied themselves to a reseller simply because it was a large, recognizable name.  Unfortunately, the reseller had no real presence or clear positioning within the market space of the business.  This was not a formula for success as buyers were not accustomed to thinking about (or purchasing from) the reseller.

Sufficient Skill and Coverage

Along these lines, make sure the channel partner has sufficient geographic and market segment coverage to warrant a relationship.  Another international client of ours wondered why their success within the U.S. had been so limited.  Upon deeper investigation, it was clear the channel partner (with whom there was an exclusive arrangement) simply did not have the sales acumen or resources to adequately represent the client.  Don’t be afraid to ask probing questions regarding territory coverage and/or request to see  resumes of key reseller salespeople to help determine their true competence level.

Consider Breadth & Fit of Reseller Catalog

There are resellers in the government space who make their business essentially representing a large catalog of a wide variety of products.  Sometimes, this can be quite helpful, particularly if the reseller has a standing contract in place with a particular agency.  However, we have also seen situations where company’s products didn’t move because they were lost in a vast sea of other products and services. 

Consider how your product fits into the overall catalog.  Is it well aligned?  Is the average price high or low relative to other products in the catalog?  Even if the catalog is broad, does it fill a needed niche within the overall portfolio? 

In a follow-up post, we’ll look at additional considerations for channel relationships, so stay tuned.  Until then–happy hunting.