How not to do a partner channel? Dropbox and the pressures of change

Dropbox has been criticized for not understanding anything beyond the simplest of direct-to-consumer channels. Here's an example of how poor communications can easily look like that.

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As Dropbox moves to a new licensing systems, which sees them centralize licensing through larger regional and national distributors, Dropbox partners have been receiving very unwelcome emails over the last few weeks. In the past, Dropbox has partnered with small IT shops that then become resellers, a logical move since those same small resellers can provide added services and help onboard Dropbox small and mid-sized business customers.

It seems Dropbox has decided to change that, and in the past few days those partner inboxes have been bombarded with emails which essentially suggest that Dropbox will delete all partner admin accounts as of the 1st of April. Dropbox advises partners that they have to give admin controls directly to a customer account to ensure continuity.

Some partners have naturally panicked a little, not helped by the fact that Dropbox seems to regard responding to their own partner service email address as an unnecessary burden.

According to one partner, who managed to contact his Dropbox manager directly, Dropbox is basically changing the whole way that partners manage their customers accounts. Which would be fine for new accounts, but they're trying to apply this framework to existing accounts too, which is where everything is starting to fall apart.

Partners have, until now, had no official contact from Dropbox about this change and there is no readily available information in any of the partner portals. Showing a distinct lack of internal communications, partners can livechat with Dropbox support, but they don't know anything.

Part of the email that partners received (shown below) reads:

Starting on April 1, 2016, current Dropbox partners must enroll in the new Dropbox Reseller Program to avoid forfeiture of existing customer accounts. In advance of that date, all existing customer accounts must have a customer admin (ad admin in addition to the partner admin, assigned.

I reached out to Dropbox for comment, and their answers were interesting and contrasted significantly from the impression I get from partners. Hank Humphreys, Dropbox's head of global channel sales had this to say in response to my question as to whether smaller resellers are being removed from the equation in Dropbox's channel strategy:  

Smaller partners continue to be important in our channel strategy. They help us serve 500M registered users --  from solopreneurs to small and mid-sized enterprises to large businesses that collaborate with people inside and outside their organizations.

Dodgy moves by a vendor under pressure to justify its huge (but, admittedly, falling) valuation or simply a case of poor communications of a relatively simple change? You be the judge.


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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