Remember when you started your first ever job and you fell into your respective team?

Whether that was a sales position, a marketing position, a software development position or a support position, you would have fallen into a team of people that did the same role as yourself in order to be trained and learn the job.

I know that I went through this structure for most of my adult working life. A structure that was a team of the same position that was split by region or project part.

The channel sales team worked together, the channel development team worked together, the channel marketing team worked together etc.

This structure has been the same for years and is good for learning from your peers for your specific role but let’s take a look at an alternate method of grouping people that is much more efficient.

Introducing the pod system

The pod system splits the teams up into grouped skills. The team may be split by region but consist of one of each position within the team. The team are ultimately trained on each others position in order to be able to carry each cross function.

Imagine a world where everyone knows each others roles and support each other across all processes.

First we need to look at what positions make up the core of the channel team.

Channel Development Managers

Channel development managers are responsible for building the channel in terms of partner recruitment, partner training, onboarding and business planning. They are the first step on the chain of bringing the partner to an ability to transact. Channel development is an important role because it promotes partner readiness for them to be able to be worked with by the channel sales managers. Channel development managers have regular contact at the start of the relationship and then semi regular contact after the initial onboarding. The semi regular contact is made up of monthly business reviews against their targets, additional training sessions / update sessions and arranging sessions for the partner outside of the scope of sales related activities.

Channel Sales Managers

The position that takes care of the day to day business that is conducted with and / or through the partners. Tasked with maintaining a rhythm of business, following up with leads, identifying key opportunities with the partner and moving deals through the stages. If a lead comes in that is for the channel, it’s the channel sales manager who would know best which partner that lead needs to go to. The channel sales managers know their partners very well and have the most contact with their partners on a day to day to basis.

Partner Support Specialists

The technical side of the channel team. Their main role is to support the partners with any technical requirements including technical training, support with proof of concepts, help with tenders and technical support for the partners own setups. Done properly, each partner will require the partner support specialist less and less as they go due to the skills that the partner picks up from the partner support specialist along the way.

Channel Marketing Managers

In charge of campaign management as well as calculations and allocations of marketing development funds throughout the channel. Any requests for marketing funding run through the channel marketing managers and are approved or rejected by them. They are tasked with measuring a return on investment from marketing activities conducted in the channel. In addition to their role of managing MDF, they plan and orchestrate events and webinars in conjunction with the other teams.

All of these teams typically work with others of their kind. The channel sales managers are a team, the channel development managers are a team, the channel marketing managers are a team and so on.

What would happen if we took one person from each team and made up a pod?

These teams could be split up by the regions that they cover. For example, a pod could be made up of:


2 x Channel Sales Managers

1 x Channel Development

1 x Partner Support Specialist

1 x Channel Marketing Manager


2 x Channel Sales Managers

1 x Channel Development

1 x Partner Support Specialist

1 x Channel Marketing Manager

How does this differ from the original model?

Grouping people by job role is how it’s always been done. Introducing the pod system allows each person within the team to learn each others role and thus makes them cross functional. Everyone starts to learn each others positions and can support each other much better than just being a group of single cogs that have the same function.

There may be more of one type of position within the pod but this doesn’t pose a problem as there is a correct support process in place for who they need to go to for what they need.

Each pod have their own weekly meeting where 30 minutes of that meeting is spent introducing parts of the position of one of the roles to the rest of the team which encourages personal development from within. If you have one of the pod members missing for the week, everyone in the team is up to date on the state of their work and it can be carried by everyone else who is part of that same pod. Over a 12 week period, 3 of those meetings will be given by a partner support specialist which means an hour and a half of technical training that the team wouldn’t normally get. It’s a time for them to ask questions and learn.

Each pod needs a leader who can maintain structure and orchestrate the weekly meetings in addition to report pod related issues up to senior management. This position can be switched periodically to give everyone in the pod a chance of organising and leading which encourages the growth of the people and specifically their management skills.

Having the pod system encourages cross functional promotion of leaders who can overlook entire pods.

Let’s say you have 6 distinct pods based on regions with 5 people in each pod and one leader in each pod. You would need less senior management to support the pods. If those senior managers are promoted within, they will be cross functional anyway.

What happens if someone leaves?

If someone leaves the position, there is a less disruption than if someone left the position when it was grouped with people of the same position. Don’t forget that in this setup, everyone is cross skilled to an extent and everyone knows the state of everyone’s work.

In the previous setup of grouped positions, if someone leaves, it’s more or less a baptism of fire where nobody really knows what is happening with that persons work.

The pod system allows for redundancy and efficiency which makes processes smoother and gives a clearer picture of responsibilities.

What system are you working with in your current role?

Do you think the pod system is more efficient than the flat system?

Does the pod system encourage leadership growth as I suggest?

One thought on “The perfect channel team structure?

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