Channel Pulse Research: The State of Channel Data Science

The State of Channel Data Science

Over the last half decade channel data management has exploded and we’re seeing a lot more interest in gaining insights from channel data. From our interactions with customers, we’ve found it’s a journey that requires data be consolidated and cleansed, models built, and data science applied.  You simply can’t get there without data science support.

With this in mind, in this quarter’s Channel Pulse we asked about the level of data science support in the sales channel.  Technical support has traditionally been an issue for Sales and Marketing organizations and the channel is often last to see it. However, over the last decade IT decision making has shifted to the line of business, so we thought it would be interesting to see how data science use in the channel has progressed – straight from channel professionals themselves.

Our goal was to understand if the channel was getting data science support and where that support was coming from within the organization.

Why are we interested in data science support?

We added a Data Scientist to our team several years ago and got the person directly involved in several of our accounts.  We started consolidating incentive data, building models and it didn’t take us long to start producing meaningful analytics.  At that point, our own efforts turned inward toward extending our products so every customer could benefit.

We know customers who add Data Scientists will achieve similar results, the real question was how many would try on their own.  We also knew that there was a limited supply of data science professionals out there.  Stitchdata did a crawl of LinkedIn in 2015 and found only 11,400 people self-identified as Data Scientists.  Over the last four years this number has more than doubled.

The question is, are any of these Data Scientists being deployed to look at channel data?

What did we find?

Our survey found that half of our respondents have a Data Scientist supporting channel operations. That’s a pretty healthy increase considering we rarely saw any supporting channel a few years ago.

Dedicated data science support for the channel is still uncommon.  Of the respondents with a Data Scientist supporting channel operations, only 43 percent, or less than a quarter of all companies surveyed, have a Data Scientist who is exclusively dedicated to the channel itself.  The remaining 57 percent employ one person to oversee data in Sales and Marketing.

The fact that Sales and Marketing are sharing a Data Scientist and channel is just part of their responsibility is no surprise given the lack of available people, but is it detrimental to an organization’s data-driven channel approach?

What is the channel trying to achieve with data science?

We find customers are either on one end of the spectrum or the other when it comes to channel data.  One group doesn’t believe there is much new to learn, and the other wants to boil the ocean.

The reality is companies go through a progression.  Consolidating and cleansing data isn’t easy, and many companies get consumed by it. The ones that doubted there was much to find often give up here.  Those that progress over this hurdle start to get a better understanding of performance across programs.  This is followed by the beginning of understanding cause and effect.

Reaching the holy grail of predictive channel outcomes doesn’t happen day one.  It’s a journey that requires knowledge, hard work and time. A few organizations are starting to near this goal but most have a long journey ahead.

What happens next?

We strongly believe the number of Data Scientists supporting the channel will grow as the overall supply of Data Scientists grows.  Until then companies will rely on vendors who can bring the unique combination of channel knowledge and data science to the table.  We also believe the channel will become a focus in companies who primarily go to market through distribution.

There is also a supply and demand issue at play here and it may be a while before companies have dedicated Data Scientist for their channels.  The economy may also play a role in how fast this occurs, but it’s only a matter of time at this point.  There is simply too much to be gained in mining channel data.

About the Channel Pulse®

The Channel Pulse® report provides insights from senior executives across North America on emerging channel trends.  Produced by 360insights, this quarterly resource offers channel leaders an inside view into the latest channel trends and investments, valuable benchmarking information, and strategies to drive success.  360insights leverages its proprietary database of channel management professionals to conduct the Channel Pulse survey, targeting senior leaders with direct channel management responsibilities at large, distribution-focused organizations across a variety of industries throughout North America.

For more information on the Channel Pulse and to participate in future surveys, please visit: https://go.360insights.com/channel-trends