Does your company consider partners to be "strategic," or is your management just paying lip service to the idea? Before you answer, consider these factors.
First, it is helpful to understand the level within the organization that drives these programs. Are partners included in the strategic plan for the corporation and understood by the CEO?
The second indicator of a "strategic" partner program is the selection of the partners. Are they recruited after research has identified the best partners in each area or market segment, or is everyone that asks signed up?
Third, an effective partner program clearly spells out the goals and responsibilities of both parties. Do these programs create a win-win scenario?
The success of these programs is directly proportional to the attention and understanding given by senior management. Companies that "get it" (whether large or small) consider their partnerships an integral part of their operations. Employee objectives and compensation plans are developed with partners in mind. Whether it is sales, finance, customer support, education or consulting, each department must understand its role in supporting partners.
Weak partner programs also have identifying characteristics. Conflict between departments is either not understood or—even worse—encouraged in order to "get more business." These programs also tend to change direction frequently and are not uniformly implemented. In good times, these companies try to increase profits by extending their coverage (at the expense of partners). Allies remember the inconsistent and changing behavior, and they avoid future commitments with the company.
One of the most effective methods of evaluating the effectiveness of your partner programs is to ask your partners what they think. Their opinion is the most accurate barometer to determine whether your company gets it.