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M-Files to pilot enhanced partner programme in UK and Ireland

PrintIT Reseller caught up with M-Files’ Director of UK Business Tim Waterton, to find out more about the company’s plans to launch a brand new unified go-to-market partner programme for the UK and Ireland

Tim Waterton
Tim Waterton

M-Files’ focus is on reinforcing its position as an innovative, fast growing information management solutions provider. To this end, the company has made a number of changes to its senior management team and recruited a new partner manager, moves it says will help to manage the growing sales team, support local strategic initiatives, as well as underpin the launch of the new partner programme.

Moves and changes
Julian Cook, former Director of UK Business has been promoted to Vice President of Global Direct Sales, taking on global responsibility for the direct sales teams and working closely with the existing Vice President of Channel Sales, Scott Erickson. Waterton, previously UK and Ireland Channel Manager, has stepped into the role of Director of UK Business, with overall responsibility for the UK sales and marketing operation. Jason Arundel has been promoted to Director of UK Sales, responsible for managing the UK direct sales team.

Additionally, Mark Eost has been appointed Partner Manager UK & Ireland. He will be responsible for ensuring the ongoing success of the M-Files channel, in addition to forging relationships with a range of new partners. He brings over 15 years’ experience in the capture and document management sector and most recently worked for Canon UK, heading up the professional services team for its information management solutions.

A joined-up approach
Historically, M-Files’ go to market strategy in the UK was split between direct and indirect sales. Cook headed up the direct side of the business and Waterton looked after the channel operations. “The channel and direct sales operations operated as two separate business and we reported down separate lines,” Waterton explained.

Channel and Direct sales team working closely together
Channel and Direct sales team working closely together

The company is now piloting a joined up approach which will see the channel and direct sales team working closely together with aligned goals and targets.

In common with most technology vendors, M-Files’ channel traditionally has been comprised of resellers and VARs. “However last year, we worked on a number of substantial deals that were effectively sourced from the channel but where the end customer needed to have line of sight with the product author. So essentially, we delivered the solutions into the end client and the partners received a margin,” Waterton explained, adding: “That was extremely successful and highlighted the opportunity that in many cases partner organisations don’t necessarily have all of the components in place to invest in becoming an M-Files’ reseller or VAR straight out of the box.”

Waterton says that there are four skills or components associated with delivering content management solution like M-Files into an end customer. “First of all you’ve got to identify the potential customer – that’s the marketing challenge; you then have to sell the solution both commercially and technically, and then there is the implementation – effectively going through the configuration and deployment stages and finally, there’s the provision of ongoing support.”

He continued: “The reality is that most organisations simply are not set up to provide all of those capabilities out of the box – particularly for a third-party product. Probably the only companies that have all or the majority of those components in place are people who are set up deliberately to be resellers. If you’re in any other area, dealing with customers, in all probability you will miss some of that stuff. We know that there are many potential partners who are talking to companies that we could be incredibly relevant to. Some of these could be really well placed to handle the marketing side but are far less developed on the implementation and support side. Equally, there are partners who specialise in implementation and support, but their core skill-set is not in marketing and sales.”

Addressing the middle ground
Waterton said that with many of these partners or potential partners already engaged with customers, the company recognised that a single reseller-based model simply wasn’t rich enough for M-Files to reach customers that are relevant.

“That’s why we now have a programme in place targeted specifically at organisations who are already engaged with customers but who simply can’t invest in M-Files at this stage to become a reseller. The new referral and co-sell options address that middle ground by enabling organisations whose customers are struggling with information and document management challenges to service that market opportunity in partnership with M-Files,” he explained.

He continued: “Referral partners could be a whole host of companies such as technology companies who deliver a software solution in an adjacent market but who don’t have content capabilities, and they would like to bring that to market.

“There are also partners who specialise in implementation and support. We already have an authorised services partner programme where members have certified implementation and support capabilities. We can bring these partners into opportunities where we are delivering a large volume of services and they can work closely with our direct sales team to complement our in-house delivery teams.”

With the new unified partner programme, M-Files is taking a much more holistic approach. “This will allow us to work with partners who may not yet be in a position to invest the time and resources required to be successful as an M-Files reseller, yet who see huge potential in offering M-Files to their customers,” Waterton stated.

By assembling a broader range of partners M-Files will be able to leverage their collective skills to service more customers with greater flexibility. This approach will also support a drive for strategic technology partnerships so that organisations who currently deliver their own technology solutions can easily partner with M-Files to deliver content management alongside their existing propositions. “We are simply making sure that we line up the best M-Files team for every customer; irrespective of whether that is made up purely of M-Files staff, partner staff or a combination of the two,” Waterton said.

Lighter touch
Unlike other channel programmes, which typically require a substantial investment from the partner, this new approach will be significantly lighter touch, enabling a new breed of go-to-market partners to start working with M-Files far more quickly and at a much lower level of investment. By collaborating with the M-Files direct sales teams, partners can capitalise on the growing demand for effective information management solutions.

This will enable M-Files to deliver a richer and more targeted service to its own customers by leveraging the vertical market expertise of its partners. Equally importantly, partners will also benefit from access to extensive M-Files assistance from the point of initial customer engagement through to delivery.

“We have the referral programme – that’s the lightest touch of the partnership, we have our traditional reseller programme and then we have the authorised services partner programme. So really there are three variants. What’s key to the referral programme is that people who start as a referral partner will naturally build good skills by working with our pre-sales team and I see that as an on-ramp for some of them to become full-blown resellers,” Waterton explained.

At present M-Files’ reseller benefits include an online training academy, full support from a partner manager, a rich set of marketing and technical support information accessible via the partner portal and, the company also runs dealer events in the UK and internationally. The company is piloting this extended channel program in the UK and, according to Waterton expects to make some significant announcements about this within the next few months. “There are a number of elements to the partner programme being launched over the coming months. We’re very excited about the potential of this model, not just for the UK but for the wider company too,” he said.

“We invest heavily in our partners in terms of training, enablement, deal support etc. It’s a full function and rich programme, which has been successful for us over the years. With regards the referral co-sell programme, I actually see many resellers in the UK also wanting to capitalise on that. So it’s not that you can only be a referral partner or a reseller, our resellers can have those referrals and co-sell opportunities as well. It’s entirely possible that a reseller in the south east may generate some enquiries that are in the north east and don’t have the expertise or resource in delivering a quality solution in that area. Those that do have the enquiry or lead can choose to make a commercial decision to monetise that opportunity and pass to M-Files for delivery,” he added.

Waterton said that some existing partners have already closed co-sell related business with M-Files over the last couple of quarters. “These have been substantial deals,” he said, adding: “We have also seen a healthy growth in our pipeline from newly acquired co-sell partners. Over the past few months, since we appointed Mark, we have started to push hard on that recruitment programme and we are already into the high single digits in the number of new co-sell partners that we’ve added. In terms of additional reach that’s really quite substantial.”

Key to growth
The extended channel approach with its broader range of partnership options is all about reach and relevance – making M-Files accessible to as many customers as possible while leveraging the relationships and speciality that comes from a broad and rich partner network.

“The M-Files UK business continues to go from strength to strength but the information management sector is competitive and we have no intention of sitting back right now. It’s all about making sure the customer benefits from the right blend of partner expertise and M-Files expertise and we are convinced that this is the formula for customer success at scale,” Waterton said.

The enhanced partner program is key to M-Files’ 2018 growth plan. “Our plan is to continue the strong growth within the UK and we’re looking for 100 per cent growth in the UK this year. The new leadership team is lined up to deliver the next level of growth; which we see coming from an extended M-Files channel. We are targeting 50 per cent growth overall from our pure resell business and importantly we see the channel influence or co-sell category comprising 20 per cent of that overall number. As we start to run through Q3 and Q4 we have a lot of our pipeline coming through this category.”

The increased focus on digital transformation is one factor that is driving growth in the information management sector. “There are a couple of trends driving wider adoption of content management solutions. If we take digital transformation as an example, as much as I like the concept, there is a tendency that organisations can get a little stuck in it – focusing on the journey as opposed to the destination,” Waterton explained.

“When having conversations with customers, it’s a lot more interesting to talk to them about the digital workplace. Whilst this can be different depending on what industry you’re looking at – everyone knows what it looks like. Our approach is to encourage them to consider the digital transformation process as a means of getting to where they want to get to, rather than getting too wrapped up in the technology options along the way – that’s what I mean when I say the focus should be on the destination rather than the journey.”

Taking cost out of a business also remains high on the agenda and the cost associated with an inability to find information can be high. In research conducted by M-Files, nearly half of organisations (48 per cent) believe that their company struggles with managing information silos. Plus 67 per cent of firms are seeing negative impacts on staff productivity caused by them continually needing to navigate through different systems to find and verify the most current versions of their documents.

There is also mobile working, a survey conducted across 250 IT decision-makers revealed that 90 per cent found it at least somewhat challenging to search for and access documents when working remotely.

“Increasingly at a senior level the one topic that is playing out is the impact of the generation change and the advent of digital natives in the workplace. Statistics show that already 33 per cent of the workforce is comprised of digital natives and by 2025, it’s expected this will rise to 75 per cent,” Waterton said.

“Senior executives are concerned about the fact that unless they deliver a vision of the digital workplace they will not attract this next generation and be able to hire the right talent in order to be competitive, as an information management specialist, M-Files is well positioned to help,” he said in conclusion.

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