The company said that 77% of those surveyed in August rated partner programs as important when evaluating vendor relationships, down from 94% in 2016.
Nine percent of those surveyed in 2018 said partner programs were "not at all important", while a quarter said they lacked importance.
The partner program survey was conducted in July and August to gauge from channel partners what aspects of partner programs, including cloud services, were of most importance to them and what channel leaders should focus on when implementing programs. A total of 263 channel partners from 51 countries responded.
"Increasingly, the ball is in the channel's court," said Smith, the senior director of Channels Research. "Partners have more levers to pull. They can provide more of their own services or make new technology vendor partnerships to fulfil specific opportunities.
"Meanwhile, vendors often change programs to reflect changes in partner business models and to spur loyalty, but such changes can have the unintended consequence of increasing complexity, leading to frustration."
The main complaint was a lack of consistency or changes to programs, with 16% saying so. Complexity in achieving certifications and specialisations was next at 15%.
Canalys analyst Sharon Hiu said, "This research clearly highlights the difficult balance that vendors need to strike. They must continue developing programs to remain relevant to their partners' evolving businesses, while also minimising the level of disruption and frustration that changes often create.
"As partners develop different service models, the most successful vendors will be those that effectively help partners adapt their technical capabilities. The huge challenge is to keep programs simple while our industry embraces complex new technologies.
"Vendors must take action, such as investing in stronger digital tools, including integrated automation and AI-enabled capabilities, to help reduce partners' manual administration work. Partner managers must also become more empowered and offer personalised support for individual partner needs. The channel is pressuring vendors to do just this."