At Ease: CCM Webinar Explores How to Simplify the Partner Experience
As we have frequently written over the course of the last year, the partner experience you create goes a long way in determining the success of your collaborations. In fact, partners are becoming more and more like customers; if you present too much friction and hassle in your everyday dealings with them, they will replace you with a new ally faster than you can say “partner of choice.” (See “Treating Your Partners Like Customers,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q1 2022.)
With that in mind, the title of the most recent ASAP Collaborative Connection Monthly webinar and roundtable also doubles as great advice: “Beefing Up Your Partnering Capability by Increasing Ease of Doing Business.” Philip Sack, CSAP, CEO of CollaboRare, a consultancy whose name literally means “collaboration” in Latin and Italian, dispensed knowledge gleaned from lengthy stops at Oracle and Sun Microsystems, as well as 13 years serving as president of ASAP’s Asia Collaborative Business Community.
Being Your Customer’s MVP
Sack compared the exercise of devising simple, effective processes and communications structures to building a startup. He broke this undertaking down into three broad tenets: 1) “establish urgency in how you operate together,” 2) “always put your customer first,” and 3) assemble the makings of an “MVP,” which in this context simultaneously referred to both a “minimum viable product” and a “minimum viable partnership.”
The first step, “establishing urgency in how you operate together,” according to Sack, entails “[maintaining] a regular heartbeat, trying to drive things forward, and really not being held up by bureaucracy and other things in the organization.” Partners need to figure out “a lightweight operating plan in how we engage and work together. What are the roles and responsibilities of the working teams and executives?”
The goal isn’t just to develop nimble and practicable communications cadences and rules of engagement, it’s to center them around client needs.
“What is the customer requirement, and then how do we collaborate together around the customer?” Sack said.
Short Cycles, Not Long Documents and Meetings, Help Partners See the Light
What Sack described almost sounded like a twist on the agile software development methodology; he urged listeners to get these processes up and running quickly and tweak them as needed to ensure that they truly enable alliance teams to tackle customer problems easily and efficiently.
“How do you create this, iterate on the fly, [and] test it? Does it work in the field? If it doesn’t, how do you modify what you’re doing?” said Sack.
In putting together the MVP, alliance managers must figure out which executives need to connect, overcome initial resistance and internal inertia from stakeholders from other divisions, and assemble the right working teams that will help the partners begin to crystallize their unique value proposition, joint offerings, and proofs of concept (POCs).
At least in the beginning, Sack once again advised partners not to burn lots of time in strategy meetings and messaging sessions and reading 50-page business planning documents.
“You may get to that level in the future when you’re going down a more formalized path, but I would keep away from that to begin with. Just get this [partnership process] operating well, see if it works, and make a decision around whether to invest behind it and push it forward,” he said.
And, of course, your partner’s feedback is the brightest flashlight for illuminating the smoothest path together. Formal or informal surveys on their views of your operating principles and your marketplace differentiation are essential in shaping the right procedures for your partners and customers.
Or, as Sack put it, “You can’t read the label from in the jar.”
Less Is More: Streamlined Operation Results in Increased Access
The tangible and intangible benefits of being easy to do business with are numerous and far-reaching.
“If you’re being efficient, you’re lowering your cost, particularly the cost of engagement and transaction. You’re getting a bit of an increased productivity hit as well because you’re not wasting a lot of time. There’s not a lot of lost engagement in areas and opportunity cost from doing the wrong thing. There’s less bureaucracy in how you engage, and your speed to market is relatively quick. That generates, to some degree, a level of satisfaction in how you operate together,” said Sack.
The ripple effect produces more than just greater efficiency, fewer errors, and higher employee satisfaction. Becoming a partner of choice helps with “attraction and retention” of new employees, partners, and customers, according to Sack. Preferred partners even get access to special resources and capital.
“To some degree, you might be getting preference in certain areas. We will work with Partner A over Partner B because it’s very difficult to engage and work with the rest of the marketplace. They’re easier, they’re more efficient, we’re very quick to market, and we’re very satisfied in how we work together,” said Sack.
In fact, it’s simple human nature.
“People like to gravitate to something that is more simplified,” said Sack.
After you ring in 2023 and return to the office, we hope you’ll gravitate to the next Collaborative Connection Monthly webinar, “The Transformation Ecosystem—Partnering Strategy for a New Year,” on Jan. 5.