At the Summit: The New Skills Alliance and Channel Execs Will Need in the Age of Ecosystems

Posted By: Jon Lavietes Global Alliance Summit,

In the context of our continuing shift to ecosystems and subscription-based payment models, tech companies are reorganizing their various alliances and partnership groups and divisions. In the view of Jay McBain, principal analyst of channels and alliances, we’re seeing five pillars of collaborations emerge on a hypothetical horizontal line diagram.

On the left side of that line is the “influence channel,” a collection of 28 moments that customers encounter prior to selecting any type of IT-related product or service. In the middle is the actual technology “selection and purchase” process, which will be conducted through marketplaces 24 percent of the time, according to Forrester’s estimates. On the right is the “retention” phase, in which tech companies must continually meet the needs of customers through exceptional customer service and a steady stream of new offerings over the course of time. Overlaying these three groups are the technology alliances that bring companies critical application programming interfaces (APIs), software development kits (SDKs), and co-innovation capabilities that are essential to evolve with customer demands, as well as the strategic and business alliances that align all collaborations with broader corporate strategy.

Ecosystem Chief Rules All Collaborations

And who is running these groups? That responsibility is increasingly being turned over to the ecosystem chief. In the past few months, Google, IBM, Rackspace, and a few others have pulled out the anointing oil for ecosystem leaders who are now charged with overseeing every collaboration under their respective umbrellas.

“All of these things, when you talked about channels, alliances, and those people that ran those things in different departments in different parts of the company in silos, are all coming together under one leader. There’s an increased motivation to have that leader in the boardroom reporting to the CEO driving the future go-to-market routes for that company that can’t go at it alone,” said McBain, before adding that ASAP leads the world in providing the education needed to drive business and strategic alliances. “This is the exact association you should be joining if you want go after these C-level jobs that are being announced every day now.”

Co-innovation Skills Help Channel Chiefs Survive in a World Without a Big Sale

Whichever role you play in this new partnership paradigm, the chances are that you will probably benefit from a skills inventory update. At the 2022 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, McBain will lay out the gaps employees tend to have in their skillsets today and how to fill them in his presentation “The Alliances Tipping Point: Opportunity or Risk?” In fact, we are going to see plenty of overlap in the competencies those manning each of these positions will need to carry out their duties.

“If I’m on the channel side of the business I have to recognize that there are four other parts of the ecosystem,” said McBain. “I need to build technology alliances—ISVs [independent software vendors], APIs, SDKs—I need to build those co-innovation skills. My partners today are probably sales[-oriented]—they’re VARs and resellers. They make their money on the percentage of the sale. In this world, they don’t rely on the sale at all. It’s the 1+1=3. They have to build skills around strategic and business alliances.”

Alliance Leaders Must Watch All Channels

Managers of strategic alliances may want to borrow from their reseller counterparts as well. 

“If you’re an alliance leader sitting in the crowd, I’m also telling you that those channel skills are critically important,” said McBain. “The transactions are radically shifting. Your industry will be one-third marketplaces by the end of the decade. If you don’t have the skills to build relationships with Microsoft, AWS, Google, and Salesforce, and all of the top 20 marketplaces, if you don’t have skills around AppDirect, Miracle, CloudBlue, Vendasta—the niche marketplaces—one-third of your company’s revenue is going there. Those business alliances need to be built so that you can participate in your company’s target-addressable market through the serviceable-addressable market, which will go very digital through third-party marketplaces.”

No One Gets a Cookie for Their Marketing Efforts Anymore  

In McBain’s view, those 28 moments prior to the sale are going to require some new training courses for many in the business alliance world.

“The partners that wrap around those [28 moments] are critical. In the last year, we lost cookies, so there is no way to harvest personal data. Now we have to make partnerships with these folks that are earning these clicks and encourage them to share data with us and get into these value creation/co-innovation types of alliances,” he said, “I need to make relationships around 28 alliances, affiliates, affinities, ambassadors, advocates—all kinds of different business models that I don’t have experience in. I have to attribute the art and science of what they do. I have to do data sharing at scale with them to pick up that second-party data to make us successful. These are all new skills.”

Register now and join us in Tampa, Fla., this April 20–21 for the 2022 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. In addition to McBain’s insights, you’ll enjoy more than a dozen sessions outlining the latest trends in partnerships, plus master classes, networking events, workshops, and other activities during which you can mingle with others in your profession facing the same challenges that you see each day on the front lines.