You arrive at work one day to discover the plaque on your door changed overnight from Manager and Entrepreneur to Creator and Visionary. Welcome to the new world of alliance management, where the Internet of Things is injecting radical change into the old job description. That’s the wake-up call Jonathan Ballon brought with this year’s opening keynote address, Partnering: The Connective Tissue of the Internet of Things, on Tuesday afternoon, March 1. This year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit is being held just outside the US capital, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Md. USA.
Ballon’s presentation exemplified and magnified the Summit theme of “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem.” Describing what he called The IoT for Life, Ballon says the new speed, scope, and scale of partnering will require never-before-seen levels of innovation, creativity, bold experimentation, and the ability to learn quickly, iterate strategies, try new models for value creation, and deliver and capture within new solutions.
“It’s happening now, in real time, so you don’t have the luxury of sitting back and crafting your ideal ecosystem strategy,” Ballon told the rapt audience of several hundred partnering executives.
The IoT is driving change on a massive scale, and offers the potential of improving billions of lives by harnessing data collected from sensors attached to objects and turning this data into problem-solving solutions, says Ballon. This is not coming around the bend, he emphasized; the future has already arrived with remote patient monitoring benefiting patients and providers. Widen the lens, and the potential becomes enormous in areas such as agriculture, security, environmental protection, and more.
Ballon noted that partnering of this type is a profound shift for Intel, traditionally a vertically integrated company. And it’s simply quite difficult to do well, he said. “Personally I’ve been experiencing a lot of challenges around partnering in this new IOT world,” Ballon acknowledged. Specifically, he said, partnering in the rapidly exploding IoT ecosystem is different than traditional partnering in four key ways:
- Business and partnering models are being created in real time
- Partners often aren’t the “usual suspects”
- Partnering is occurring at an exponentially faster speed and scale
- Experimentation and learning are the focus at this juncture in the development of IoT ecosystems
To be successful in this new IoT ecosystem requires rethinking the role of partnering and making it integral to your business model—and embracing that your role as a partner will vary, even if you are used to being the orchestrator of your ecosystem.
“Roles you play can change from opportunity to opportunity,” explained. “Some customers expect Intel to step up and be that back to pat. Other times we’re standing behind a systems integrator.” The most important thing, he says, is having “the agility of a school of fish” when you are aligning your ecosystem around the unique demands of each customer.
The Internet of Things is already here, but Ballon noted that many challenges of partnering in the ecosystem remain to be solved—including the fundamental economics of compensating multiple partners (and your sales forces, for that matter). “Sharing in the rewards of your customer value proposition—how do you value, calculate it, and pay for it. When you’re monetizing a service and checks need to go to other parties, I don’t’ think anyone has figured it out yet,” he said.
“One thing is certain: coopetition is the new norm,” Ballon said in describing the complex partnerships that come together around every IoT solution Intel rolls out. “There’s not a single case where there’s a clear line between what we and a partner does. We deal with this every day. The rubber meets road with sales force in the field. It’s a very trick thing and it requires the right compensation models with sales force to support these types of [partnering].”
Generally, Ballon said, expect the unexpected. “Not everything is going to be well programmed from the get go.”
The audience peppered Ballon with questions at the conclusion of his presentation. One executive generated chuckles when he asked, “How much of my partnering role will be automated?”
“Probably not much,” Ballon responded. “I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be an alliances professional because the opportunity presented before us, the IOT, is showcasing the value of this function. I would bet three years from now the number of people in this room will double.”