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How Do You Build the Partner Executive of the Future?

Posted By Michael J. Burke, 6 hours ago

The rapid pace of change over the past few months has had everyone scrambling to keep up and adjust to whatever the “next normal” is—if it even makes sense to talk about “normal” at all these days. This has been true in every industry, but perhaps nowhere more so than in information technology, where the disruptions and changes were seemingly constant even before the coronavirus pandemic hit and the beat goes on accordingly.

As part of the on-demand content available to those registered for the just-concluded ASAP Global Alliance Summit, a panel was convened to discuss just how today’s technology alliance and partnering leaders can weather these frequent storms, be proactive in responding to partnering trends, act strategically, and think multiple steps ahead as they face so many uncertainties every day.

Moderated by Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, CEO and founding principal of Phoenix Consulting Group, the panel—“The Strategic Partner Executive of the Future and the Skills Needed for Success”—also featured:

  • Rafael Contreras, area vice president, global operations, strategy and chief of staff at ServiceNow
  • Jim Chow, enterprise cloud solution evangelist and strategic partnerships/channel executive at Google
  • Greg Fox, CSAP, formerly general manager of networking and communications/vice president of alliances at WorkSpan

Watenpaugh began by outlining a list, put out by Pearson Learning and the Society of Human Resource Managers, of what makes a “star partner/alliance manager.” They must be:

  • Able to lead and influence
  • Willing to take initiative with little or no oversight
  • Strategic and global thinkers seeking and creating opportunities
  • Dynamic, creative, independent thinkers
  • People-oriented with high empathy
  • Highly cooperative, preferring to work in teams
  • Effective at networking across organizational boundaries
  • Able to flex rules to get things done
  • Capable of dealing with high levels of ambiguity

About the last quality, Watenpaugh commented: “In particular, in today’s business climate, especially in the last three to five months, we’ve had to use this muscle a lot, because it is a very disruptive, uncertain market, and being able to navigate through it is key.”

And that’s a lot. But that may not be the half of it.

Being a “Connector” Is No Longer Enough

Jim Chow of Google spoke of what he called some of the “more traditional mindsets and skills of alliance leaders, [versus] mindsets and attributes of what I believe is the partner of the future.” Among these necessary changes in attitude were going from a “built to last” mindset to “built to adapt,” “walking the talk” on digital transformation, and having alliance managers go from just being a “people person” to acting as the “CEO or general manager of the alliance,” someone who can think and operate strategically and also bridge generational and other divides. And as much as anything else, they need to embrace change.

“How do I think about change differently?” Chow asked. “Not just, ‘It’s going to come up and I’ll have to deal with it,’ but actually build change into the process. The market is moving faster now than anything I’ve seen in technology in the last 10 years.”

Chow was emphatic about the kind of mind shift alliance managers need to embrace and own if they want to succeed in tomorrow’s world. “In the past,” he said, you’d hear “‘I’m an alliance manager, I’m just a connector.’ That is no longer enough. You need to be owning the business, driving the business, helping partners as an executive, directing them to realize the value of the partnership, guiding them and telling them where to go.”

He also advocated for “evangelizing solutions” with more of a launch-iterate–fail fast approach, which he said has worked for Google, Amazon, and other high-tech heavyweights. “You’re not going to get it perfect coming out of the gate,” he advised. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and there’s not time to find out to make it perfect. So you do your best to launch what makes sense quickly, rapidly and aggressively get feedback from your customers and partners, and iterate and launch until you get it right.”

It’s All Ecosystems Now

Greg Fox, formerly of WorkSpan, said that alliance managers—including prospective ones—need to understand the shift from traditional one-to-one alliance models to ecosystems of multiple partners. He cited research from IDC, Accenture, and Forrester showing the importance and disruptive power of ecosystems, including that companies in ecosystems are growing 50 percent faster than those that are not part of one.

He also said that alliance and partnering managers need to be able to orient themselves around build-with, market-with, and sell-with frameworks, and to connect with all tiers of an ecosystem; to emphasize creating a great partner experience as much as a great customer experience; and to adopt digital tools to drive collaborative business relationships, since traditional tools are no longer enough given an ecosystems context.

Fox stressed that much of what he and the others were discussing, from business trends and speed of change to the capabilities needed by those who seek to manage partnerships and ecosystems, goes beyond the usual realms of IT and biopharma and extends into other industries, from insurance to agribusiness to retail and more.

From Legacy Leftovers to Listening Channels

Rafael Contreras of ServiceNow proposed another idea that cuts across many industries and verticals: not allowing “comfortable legacy ideas to dictate your strategy.” And given that change and evolution are continuous, as he put it, “A lot of things that have worked before need to take that step forward.”

Time horizons in many cases also need to change. “We’ve challenged a lot of our alliance managers to think beyond the 12-month range of commissions and quotas,” Contreras said, “and really start to focus on that long-term business objective.”

Another golden piece of advice Contreras provided was “never build in a vacuum.” He urged, “You need the feedback from the ecosystem, from the alliance managers, you need the business to share its feedback to you as well.” At his company, this is done via “listening channels,” councils, trainings, surveys, and other means. All of it helps in understanding partners’ and customers’ pain points, problems, and requirements, and what would constitute success for them.

Where Do Alliances Fit?

Acknowledging that partnering and alliance management are not always recognized or understood in organizations, and may report to numerous divisions ranging from marketing to sales to even human resources, Watenpaugh asked the panelists to suggest where in an enterprise alliances might best fit.

Chow took the first run at the question. “I think the best place in the organization—as long as the executive team views alliances and partners and channels as critical—is as a direct report to the CEO or general manager of the business. Then the partnerships or alliances team has a seat at the table for all the highest-level strategy in the organization. That’s ideal.” This is not always the reality, of course, and as he said, it can be dictated by “power dynamics or who’s running the show.”

“Regardless of where it reports,” Fox chimed in, “it has to look at how outcomes can best be achieved—whether revenue, or customer success, or accelerating times to market.”

Said Contreras, “It comes down to the objectives desired: What kind of experience are you trying to have with partners?”

Lucky to Be on a Wild and Crazy Ride

Toward the end of the panel presentation, Watenpaugh commenced a “lightning round” in which she asked the panelists what advice they would give to someone who says they want to be an alliance manager.

Fox: “Excellent! Welcome to the profession. Now, get ready for a wild and crazy ride!”

Chow encouraged asking why—if they want to have an impact on strategic alliances, then “great.” They’ll need energy, patience, and persistence, because it’s a difficult job in which “you don’t control a lot,” so often all you have at your disposal is “influence.” But if they say they’re a “people person” and they think it would be cool to work with partners, then “find something else to do.”

Contreras said that he had actually hired some budding partner managers right out of school, and felt that they were very “lucky” given the kind of exposure they get right off the bat.

“You’re not going to get this in almost any other department,” he explained. “You’re talking to entrepreneurs, founders, people who have taken the risk and the leap to start new businesses—and their business model depends on your alignment with them and their business objectives.”

So the partner leader of the future had better buckle in, put the strategic thinking hat on, wear the ecosystem pants, and get ready for a wild and crazy ride. Because the future gets here fast these days.

Tags:  channels  Ecosystem  enterprise cloud  Google  Greg Fox  information technology  Jim Chow  Norma Watenpaugh  pandemic  partner exec  partnering  Rafael Contreras  ServiceNow  technology alliance 

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As-a-Service at Your Service—Citrix, Ingram Cloud Blue Executives Educate Summit Attendees on Marketplaces

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Whether you have stopped to think about it lately or not, marketplaces are now a big part of our life. Most of us can’t go too many days without purchasing something from Amazon, Google, and Apple. Similarly, millions of businesses of all sizes have turned to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for any number of software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) subscriptions rather than hosting these IT solutions themselves.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of marketplaces are popping up all over the business landscape. Many other companies with a sizable customer bases and partner ecosystems are opening up their own virtual shopping malls for clients to browse and transact on their own terms, such as major carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile and enterprise tech bluebloods Oracle and Salesforce.

The growing trend toward marketplace shopping has confronted businesses with several questions. Should they build their own marketplaces for their customers and channel partners? Should they invest in campaigns around other ones? These are the issues that Glen Kuhne, director of major accounts at Ingram Cloud Blue, and Roger Williams, senior director of mobility and marketplace alliances at Citrix, wrestled with in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Marketplaces: The New Buying Centers in the Age of As-a-Service,” which is on demand now for those who have registered for the event.

More Than Just a Place to Purchase

Williams began the session by outlining some of the trends driving the rapid spread of marketplaces—according to research firm Gartner, they will be the dominant channel for infrastructure software by 2024. Consumers are getting more and more comfortable making purchases via mobile and voice, and millennials, who have grown up in the digital age and know no world where they can’t browse an app store, are expecting the B2B universe to offer similar options. The proclivity toward self-service browsing and purchasing is forcing companies to incorporate marketplaces as part of the organization’s broader omni-channel strategy or “holistic point of view,” as Williams put it.

Marketplaces aren’t just forums for purchasing; customers are conducting more and more research and holding dialogue about products and services of interest in these virtual shopping centers.

“You have more buyers essentially getting their information about prospective products from their marketplaces than their sales reps,” said Williams, who noted that more than one-third of buyers in Citrix’s market now gather background from a marketplace, compared to 27 percent who tap their sales reps for details about an offering of interest.

Cataloging Your Marketplace Strategy

Is a marketplace right for your company, or is it better to piggyback other established virtual bazaars? Do you make your marketplace offerings available to everyone in your ecosystem?  Kuhne took the floor to go over these questions and other finer points of marketplace strategy.

First, marketplace activities are shaped in large part by whom you sell to and how you reach those audiences. Consumer companies generally make their entire catalog of products and services available to any marketplace browser. However, there are different routes to market in B2B. Ingram Micro, for example, sells largely through resellers and, thus, must ensure it doesn’t undercut these channel partners. There are other instances where it may only make sense to offer marketplace buying options to a limited subset of enterprise customers.

Another good question to address: who owns the company’s marketplace strategy? Is it the reseller division, alliance management, or product management? Perhaps it is the CEO? Someone has to take charge of the overall vision of for building your own marketplace and/or a platform that works with one or more other marketplace channels. Kuhne did warn viewers that executive changes can disrupt marketplace projects.

“They’ll make a strategic decision and then the efforts toward whatever project you were on might be curtailed or redirected,” he said.

Kuhne also cautioned listeners to be cognizant of potential new legal and accounting burdens that result from marketplace selling. If buyers in different regions are purchasing from your company directly through a marketplace, then the finance department may have to sort out the resultant tax implications.

“The states are getting aggressive in revenue collection,” chimed in Williams. 

Are Your Buyers Ready?

Kuhne then urged listeners to ascertain how ready their buyers are. Although marketplace adoption is growing rapidly, there are many that aren’t going down this path willingly. Some are old school and would simply rather deal with a sales rep or order from an old-fashioned website. Others may prefer traditional transactions but understand that these online markets are the future. These businesses might be good candidates for beta testing, as they might want to make sure they are not getting left behind if the marketplace becomes the standard conduit for conducting business.

Kuhne then outlined a number of potential challenges companies could confront as they assemble their marketplace strategies, including:

  • Product complexity – If your product portfolio contains many interdependent components, it may make sense to offer only prepackaged bundles. Maybe it is only economical to offer best-selling products. If your customers are savvy, perhaps you grant them more options and configuration control.
  • Education – Marketplaces are places for self-service research as much as they are for shopping. Thus, it is critical that product specs, reviews, how-to videos, and forums are easy for your buyers and channel partners to find and understand. If a product is too complex for self-service, it may not be ready for a marketplace.
  • Security – Customer verification, fraud protection, credit card verification, and payment authentication must be built into all marketplace transactions. In fact, there are many ready-made services available in these areas, so companies do not necessarily need to develop these capabilities from scratch.
  • Data privacy – If you sell online to customers in the European Union (EU) or California, make sure your customer communication complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), respectively.
  • Catalog management – In addition to deciding which products to sell via marketplaces and in which marketplaces to sell, businesses must support both one-time purchases and ongoing subscriptions. Some customers are accustomed to a mix of both. For example, many in IT buy hardware once but prefer to subscribe to software as a service.
  • Channel management – Find a way to enable both selling to customers directly and through resellers and other channels.
  • Standardization and maintenance – When companies sell through resellers, it is critical to make that process easier for them. Ingram Micro, for example, has an automated go-to-market tool that forces new vendors to fill out sales and product documents before they can resell Ingram Micro’s products.
  • Demand generation – Promote your marketplace offerings every chance you get, and have your channel partners do the same. Again, an omni-channel strategy involving mobile, voice, AI, and web is critical.

Kuhne then concluded by laying out a series of best practices:

  • It is not all or nothing. Businesses can test out a minimum viable marketplace option, then scale the operation by creating application programming interfaces (APIs) if the original proof of concept sparks optimism.
  • Secure executive sponsorship. Again, whether it is product management, channel management, or IT, it is critical to appoint and empower a respected leader to see these initiatives through.
  • Choose a technology platform that scales with your ecosystem. Whether your goal is to sell 200 units per month or 200,000, the technology underpinning your platform better support it without a hitch.
  • Start with a customer segment and its buying journey. Make sure there are no bugs in the process of browsing, selecting, customizing, and paying for products and services. Involve customers in the design and testing phases to ensure that the marketplace fits their desires and buying habits.
  • It’s not just a purchase. Customers expect their entire histories of interaction with your company to be accessible, including outstanding purchases, purchase history, past communication with support teams, and the like. “It’s more than the buying experience,” said Kuhne. “It can turn into a ‘My Account’ place if it’s your own marketplace.” If you sell through another marketplace, make sure the accounting, billing, purchasing, invoicing, and shipping processes—the entire “e-commerce cycle,” as Kuhne labeled it—are seamless.
  • Don’t underestimate the investment needed to take a marketplace to market. Kuhne counseled viewers to set aside a “decent chunk of your budget against that.” Customers need to know where to find you, and what you are selling. Remember, you must enable resellers to sell your marketplace, too. “It is not a build-it-and-they-will-come endeavor,” read a bullet on Kuhne’s presentation slide to hammer home the point.

Kuhne and Williams delivered more great insights during their session. Remember, Summit registrants can view the full presentation, as well as close to two dozen other sessions chock full of information and advice that will help improve your career and the alliances you work on each day.  

Tags:  AI  Channel management  channel partners  Citrix  customers  Data privacy  Demand generation  Education  Glen Kuhne  Ingram Cloud Blue  marketplace alliances  Marketplaces  mobile  mobility  omni-channel strategy  Product complexity  Roger Williams  Security  voice  web 

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A Virtual Event, but a Rich, Living Community—Thanks to You!

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What a day! And what a Summit!

Thursday, the final day of the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, was filled with highlights, and served as a resounding demonstration that the ASAP community is alive and well and that the whole organization and its members and staff are supremely flexible and able to pivot from an in-person gathering to a very successful virtual event.

Flexibility and agility, in fact, were two of the recurring themes of this year’s Summit, and its last day was no exception. The day’s livestream programming began with an in-depth panel discussion, “Biopharma Commercial Alliance Management Challenges,” skillfully moderated by Jan Twombly, CSAP, president of The Rhythm of Business, and featuring eminent panelists Brooke Paige, CSAP, former vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics and ASAP board chair; David S. Thompson, CSAP, chief alliance officer at Eli Lilly and Company; and Andrew Yeomans, CSAP, global alliance lead for UCB.

Aligning Around the North Star

Commercial alliances are the go-to-market phase of biopharma partnering, and thus there’s often a lot riding on their success or failure. The panelists discussed various aspects of delivering value from commercial alliances given the business risks, human risks, and legal uncertainties; the prospect of misalignment between partners; the perils of operating in different geographic regions with their varying cultures and regulations; the need for speed and flexibility; and other pitfalls.

Amid such challenges, alliance managers have to keep their eyes on the prize—or, as Paige put it, “It always goes back to the basics: providing alignment by constantly pointing to the North Star of the alliance.”

Twombly noted that bringing partners together to hash out a commercial strategy to maximize value coming from the alliance—and then implementing it effectively—is always “the crux of the matter.”

Yeomans, citing an alliance that operated in China as well as other experiences, said the constantly accelerating speed of events means that even the most experienced alliance managers end up “learning on the job.” “Things are so much more immediate in the real world,” he said. “A lot of things can happen fast.”

More than one panelist mentioned the human element in these alliances—from training alliance professionals to dealing with human risk and misalignment. “It comes down to, do you have the right people?” Paige said. “You have to have the right people with the right mindset” to make the alliance work effectively.

Driving alignment, according to Yeomans, happens in “three buckets”: formal (contract terms), semiformal (governance), and informal, which includes both performing regular health checks and doing the internal work of alignment to “get your own house in order.” In this way issues get turned around and resolved, and escalation is avoided. “This is where alliance management can really come to the fore and add value,” he said.

He also urged alliance managers to work toward achieving a “complementary fit” in the partnership and to “be a conduit” between global and regional representatives and between partners. “Be adaptable and be ahead of the curve. In this way you become almost the go-to person,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Yeomans said he could “wholeheartedly recommend” getting into commercial alliances. “Venture forth. Go forth and conquer!” he exhorted.

Influencers, Referral Partners, Resellers, and Customers

The next presentation in today’s livestream was also concerned with go-to-market partnering, albeit geared more toward the tech industry—but with broader applicability as well. Larry Walsh, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group, spoke on “Making Everyone a Part of the Sales Process”—and by “everyone” he meant not just resellers, but also influencers and referral partners. All have a role to play, and if handled correctly, all contribute to the eventual sale and the booking of revenue.

In fact, the customer should also be included in this continuum, as a satisfied customer could be converted into an influencer, or even a referrer, according to Walsh. He quoted one of his “heroes,” Peter Drucker—no doubt a hero to some others in the ASAP community—who said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.”

“That’s why we have channels,” Walsh elaborated. “You try to create points of sale as close to the customer as possible.”

Walsh reminded the audience that the oft-mentioned “customer journey” is in reality just “part of the totality of their experience,” in which even if they’re not buying your brand, they’re still making judgments on it one way or the other. Thus it’s important to try to effectively engage everyone along the continuum from influencers to referrers to resellers to customers because, while expectations should not be overestimated, successful referral programs can be very effective. “Referrals have a lot of power!” Walsh enthused.

Since customers who are happy with a product or solution can become influencers, and influencers can become referrers, and a referral partner may even seem to be a sort of “lightweight reseller” in Walsh’s phrase, this seems to ring true. It also dovetailed with something that Tiffani Bova of Salesforce said on the first day of this year’s Summit: “Your greatest sales force is your customers and partners advocating on your behalf.”

Partner to Partner in the Ecosystem Cloud

“Customers and partners” was a theme of the day’s final presentation as well. Amit Sinha, chief customer officer and cofounder of WorkSpan, and Dan Rippey, director of engineering for Microsoft's One Commercial Partner program, gave a presentation with the lengthy title “How the Microsoft Partner-to-Partner Program Is Disrupting How Technology Companies Are Leveraging the Power of Ecosystems to Grow Their Business, Acquire New Customers, and Gain Competitive Advantage.”

It’s a mouthful, no doubt, but Sinha and Rippey provided some great insights into, first, how WorkSpan uses its Ecosystem Cloud product to help alliance managers, channel partners—really anyone who puts partners together and seeks to manage and keep track of a multipartner ecosystem—both collaborate better and gain greater visibility into the tasks, activities, processes, pipelines, workflows, etc., that are creating value.

Sinha noted that traditionally, “a lot of partnering is meeting people.” Current conditions certainly make that challenging—our Summit being no exception—but he said that with Ecosystem Cloud, remote work becomes more possible and effective and “we can scale even in COVID times.” In addition, as partnerships become more multi-way and complex, these tools become even more necessary. “It’s shifting toward an ecosystem,” he said. “It’s multipartner.”

Among the major partners in this ecosystem is Microsoft, which is where Rippey comes in. As Microsoft has shifted over the years from selling products to selling more solution-based offerings, it has also shifted from an emphasis on individual partnerships—or “pick a partner to work with the customer,” as he said—to more collaborative solution creation and selling arrangements involving multiple partners.

Microsoft realized that it needed to encourage partner-to-partner—or P2P—collaboration in order to push the company forward and grow the ecosystem. It needed to “embrace multiparty conversations,” in Rippey’s words. “In some cases Microsoft just gets out of the way. It really puts the partners at the center of the conversation.” In other cases, Microsoft comes back to the table as needed, but either way, he said, “This puts the partner in the lead.”

When a new solution is discussed, the first question is, “Did somebody already build this?” In that case those partners can be pulled in to tailor the solution to the new end customer in mind. Otherwise, “is this an opportunity,” Rippey said, to design something new?

He noted that while Microsoft doesn’t always have to lead these discussions, they seem to be fruitful in any case, and the P2P program has led to “exponential growth.” Some of its new capabilities will be “lighting up for our partners next year,” he said. “It is Microsoft’s joy to see those partners succeed, [often] without needing our help.”

New Thinking at the New Breakfast Table

This does not come without new thinking, or at times “uncomfortable” negotiations or conversations, Rippey admitted. But he said it forces a large enterprise like Microsoft to be “putting [our] startup hat on again” and to get out and “hustle at all tiers of the ecosystem.” As is often the case in the IT world, some of Microsoft’s competitors are also involved, because “we’re better together.”

And while the P2P platform—just like a social media site—is in need of “moderation,” as Sinha put it, so that there are rules and community norms and some structure, it’s also important to be fairly straightforward about your company’s needs, capabilities, and interests.

“A negotiation is designed to be uncomfortable,” Rippey said. “Be up front, be blunt about what you need, and be OK to say, ‘It looks like we’re misaligned here.’”

Both Sinha and Rippey commented on the need for speed, agility, and flexibility in working with partners, especially in the current pandemic conditions.

“The nature of collaboration has always been getting together to do things,” Sinha said. “Getting together in a room, in each other’s offices, to do joint business planning. Now we have to do more remote collaboration.”

Rippey noted that Microsoft itself had to transition its usual annual “show” from in-person in Las Vegas to virtual this year, which he said was “incredibly hard to do.” But, he added, “It’s not about the show, it’s about the conversations in the hallways. You walk into breakfast and you have nothing, but you sit down next to someone and you walk out of breakfast and you have something—a connection, a business card. It’s really hard to do digitally, and you can’t do it without a platform. We’re providing that new breakfast table.”

Here’s hoping we can all meet again before long over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a beverage to share insights and stories and to make connections. But until that time, it’s nice to know that we can meet virtually as members of the ASAP community and still get the benefits of sharing all the great wisdom, information, and learning that so many have been able to contribute.

Tags:  aligning  Alliance Management  Amit Sinha  Andrew Yeomans  Biopharma  Brooke Paige  channel  cloud  Commercial  Dan Rippey  David S. Thompson  ecosystem  Eli Lilly and Company  Influencers  Jan Twombly  Larry Walsh  Microsoft  Referral Partners  The 2112 Group  The Rhythm of Business  UCB  WorkSpan 

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Helping Partners Succeed—So That You and Your Customers Do, Too

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Thursday, June 25, 2020

In an increasingly digital world, how do you create business models that help your company succeed while ensuring that your partners reap the benefits as well?

It’s a question faced by many companies today—not just in technology—and it’s one that is top of mind for Carl DCosta, worldwide vice president and general manager of partner success for Blue Yonder (formerly JDA Software), which provides software and solutions focused on supply chains.

After all, “partner success” is right there in his title.

Building a Partner-Based Model

DCosta’s keynote presentation, “Foundation for Partner Success in the Digital World,” on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, the second day of ASAP’s virtual Global Alliance Summit, looked at how Blue Yonder has approached this question, largely by seeking to understand who their partners are, what their capabilities are, how to attract and recruit new partners, and how to make sure that value is created throughout the ecosystem and flows in multiple directions.

A tech-industry veteran with years of experience, first at HP and then at Oracle, DCosta arrived at Blue Yonder in late 2019 and was given a mandate: build out the company’s channel and partner business. This meant “working more with partners and leveraging the ecosystem,” DCosta said, as well as operating from a “more partner-based model.”

In service of this goal, DCosta divided Blue Yonder’s partners into three types: development partners, who extend solutions; selling partners, who give the company more reach; and delivery partners, who deploy and deliver products and augment Blue Yonder’s expertise.

Each of these partner types needed something different to both attract and enable them.

Needs, Leads, and Sandboxes

The development partners—largely independent software vendors, or ISVs—wanted free licenses and access to technology, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) agreements, and their own “sandboxes” to play in, in the cloud. They benefited from this arrangement by getting high margins with product IP, while Blue Yonder got an end-to-end solution offering.

Selling partners—business or systems integrators (BIs/SIs)—wanted referrals, resell agreements, and co-sell fees and agreements, and thereby they received resale revenue and margin while Blue Yonder got incremental leads, more products, and more users.

Finally, the delivery partners—again, BIs and SIs—wanted enablement and training as accredited technical consultants, as well as branding. Their reward was increased margins for their services business, while Blue Yonder saw their end of the deal as leading to greater customer success.

DCosta noted that unlike in “the old days of reselling,” often companies are more diversified now and may play more than one role—perhaps even all three. Thus it’s important to understand your partners’ capabilities and what they bring to the table—and what you do, too.

Another key point is removing barriers to working together, as much as possible. “We need to be easy to do business with,” DCosta acknowledged. “To be more consumerish, with one click. We want to make it easy technically and commercially to join that journey with us and for us to support [partners]. We’ve got to get better at this.”

Partner Programs Bearing Fruit

So far, DCosta said that the partner programs, processes, and metrics he has worked to implement have been helping in that regard, though he cautioned that it can take a few years for any such effort to truly bear fruit. What’s also important, he said, is to be clear about the nature of the opportunity and to measure the value created thereby—no matter whether the partner is purely transactional, directly pouring revenue into the coffers, or more of an influencer who is bringing in leads.

“What does a win or success mean for each?” he said. “What are you getting out of it, what are we getting out of it? Whatever the win-win is, I encourage you to have a common scorecard.”

Another recommendation DCosta gave was to try to “eliminate channel conflict” and “compensate both the partner and your sales force so they both benefit customers.” He added that sometimes there needs to be more exclusivity in certain geographic regions such as Russia or Latin America, but barring that, he urged compensating and encouraging everyone involved and avoiding what he called the “macho element of human beings: ‘I did the deal and the partner didn’t. I’m better,’ regardless of the compensation. But by and large, if both are mature enough to see the customer as the primary beneficiary that we need to optimize for, then we allow the customer to choose how they procure, and we compensate the partner—especially as the lead—even if the transaction happened through the vendor. Those policies are quite critical to making sure you don’t end up with conflict and you end up with cooperation,” he said.

Not Fade Away: The Future of the Channel

Asked the perennial question about the “death of the channel” and whether the indirect tech sales channel would be wholly replaced by ecosystems, DCosta’s answer was interesting.

“It’s a tough one,” he admitted. “If you mean ecosystems may not resell, and channel by definition equals resell, I do think the dynamics will change. At least in the technology world, ecosystems—or marketplaces if you will—already with a Salesforce or a Microsoft or Oracle seem to be an alternative way to transact from traditional channels or channel players. But everything is a continuum. Some technologies lend themselves to ecosystems better and easier than channels, so I don’t see this as either/or. There certainly is a big shift in the software industry going more toward an ecosystem/marketplace world where the transaction happens more directly.

“But even in that, there’s roles for partners, and especially partners that work across multiple ecosystems—cloud of clouds, as they call it—so there’s plenty of roles for partners and channels to play across multiple ecosystems. It clearly is a trend, but I don’t believe it’s a binary thing where it’ll flip one day and the channels will go away or anything like that. I think there’s a place for both.”

Tags:  Blue Yonder  business or systems integrators (BIs/SIs)  Carl DCosta  channel  cloud  ecosystem  end-to-end solution  OEM  partner programs  Partner-Based Model  partners 

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Cross-Industry Panel Imparts Insights for Executing David-Goliath Partnerships

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Thursday, June 25, 2020

Big company–small company alliances are a fact of life in some industries. You see them in tech when Global 1,000 technology vendors integrate innovative functionality from smaller startups that fill gaps in their offerings, or when Big Pharma organizations team up with biotechs to develop promising compounds into marketable drugs. Also known as “David-Goliath” alliances, these relationships can contain many hidden land mines if people aren’t careful. Just ask ASAP president and CEO Michael Leonetti, who has led alliance groups in Big Pharma organizations in his career.

“Quite honestly, I’ve seen [this dynamic] kill many an alliance in my time,” said Leonetti in the lead-up to a panel session titled “Managing Power Imbalances: How to Navigate Partnerships Between Large and Small Organizations,” one of the highlights of the second day of this year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Moderated by Jessica Wadd, partner at Vantage Partners, this well-rounded panel of seasoned alliance professionals from multiple industries brought a wealth of past and present perspectives from both ends of these types of collaborations:

  • Steve Pessagno, Alliance director and head of global alliance management operations, at GSK
  • Amy Walraven, founder, president, and chief strategy officer at Turnkey Risk Solutions
  • Joy Wilder Lybeer, senior vice president of enterprise alliances at Equifax
  • Troy M. Windt, associate vice president of global alliances and external relations at Reata Pharmaceuticals

“Cultural Diagnosis” Reveals What Might Ail a Collaboration of Big and Small

In kicking off the discussion with an overview of each panelist’s alliance portfolio, Lybeer noted that Equifax relies on smaller outfits to supplement its offerings in ways the company can’t do on its own, She added that the exercise of evaluating a variety of big and small partners “allows us to develop our understanding of potential coopetition, areas where we can supplement our capabilities, or find new routes to market.”

Walraven agreed with Lybeer that smaller companies have plenty of opportunities to complement larger organizations’ offerings with niche “cohesive enhancements.” 

Pessagno, who works with a number of GSK’s R&D-centric alliances with small entities, extolled the virtues of conducting a “cultural diagnosis” at the outset of the relationship to determine how the organizations are and aren’t aligned. This process usually unearths what truly matters to the collaboration as a whole, and these priorities that emerge are eventually woven into the governance and operational elements of the partnership, including the periodic health checks.

Asked what her organization looks for in a larger partner, Walraven cited domain expertise, a strong reputation, and a shared vision of where the fraud, risk, and credit markets, areas in which Humaitrix competes, are heading.

When do you know when you as a smaller organization might have trouble coping with the power imbalance? Windt said to pay attention to the latter’s adaptability right from the start. Since a large firm has lots of processes, can it tailor an alliance structure to fit a partner that might only have two points of contact? He recounted instances where an alternative structure was inserted into the contractual language only to see the large company “migrate back to one way of doing things.”    

Dealing with Outsized Expectations

At one point, Wadd wondered if the panelists ever got excited about a David-Goliath partnership, only to be disappointed when it didn’t fulfill its promise. The panel had no shortage of stories. Walraven spoke of a past partner that showed tremendous enthusiasm about her organization when it was brought in at a late stage of negotiation, but ultimately revealed itself to have little grasp of her company’s value proposition and business model as the collaboration unfolded. The parties tried retooling their joint client deliverables multiple times only to pull the plug on the project after a succession of misfires.

“You really want to make sure that you align ahead of time and that everyone has the same understanding before you set expectations about deliverables with the client,” she said.

Lybeer counseled viewers to identify “pink flags” quickly and abandon an initiative early if the team’s gut feeling is that it will never get onto the right course. She did, however, remind viewers that “the first idea is rarely ever the best idea,” and that oftentimes you don’t necessarily have to walk away from the partner altogether after one failed joint venture.

“As long as we are able and willing to learn and work together, we will find that next innovative idea together,” she said.

Plodding Behemoths Test Nimbler Smaller Companies’ Patience

What should small companies understand about their larger counterparts when evaluating a potential collaboration? Pessagno warned startup and SME alliance professionals that there is a good possibility some of the people in the negotiation stage will disappear after the launch of the partnership. He urged larger corporations to “deal with this transparently” and make some effort to guard against an “asymmetry in the governance.”

Even after some of the initial negotiators drift away, Pessagno acknowledged later in the panel discussion that the larger company’s team might still be four times the size of the smaller counterpart’s, and that the latter will have to endure cumbersome governance and operational processes at times. He recommended that the “Goliath” in the relationship assign a single contact person to the small company’s alliance manager and let the former liaison with the rest of the team and manage the bureaucracy.

In addition, Pessagno implored smaller collaborators to dispel the idea that their larger counterparts have tons of resources to dedicate to their activities. All alliances are competing for a finite amount of resources, even in big companies.

Tech Teams Need Alliance Management Principles

Walraven and Lybeer were asked specifically about analytics-based David-Goliath alliances. The big takeaway: remember that technology partnerships entail more than just technology. Lybeer once handed a technology alliance to the tech team and said, “Good luck to you.”   

“Mistake, mistake, mistake,” she lamented. “Alliance management competencies are a thing.”

The tech team didn’t understand escalation processes and collaboration models, which ended up delaying the activities of the partnership considerably.

Walraven exhorted alliance teams to look at everything through the technical, strategic, solution, and practitioner lenses. Also, take into account that each client and prospect will similarly imagine a joint solution differently.

“Everybody will see it through a different perspective,” she said.  

Alliance Skills Will Help Small-Company Personnel for Life

As the panel concluded, the panelists offered some final takeaways. Walraven reiterated that rigorous work aligning stakeholders on execution strategy up front would ultimately make it “easier to deliver to the client.”

Lybeer urged virtual attendees to strike that balance of being tough without compromising a collaborative mindset.  

“Let’s make sure we’re hard on the hard issues, but not so hard on each other,” she advised.

She echoed her earlier sentiments that you can always walk away from a project that isn’t meeting KPIs without abandoning the partnership entirely.

Most important, according to Windt, work with your HR department to teach collaborative skills and alliance management principles to everyone working on the partnership who may not have an alliance management background. In fact, lobby to make it a permanent part of employee training programs, wherever possible.

“They will serve you well as a person and an employee for the rest of your life,” he said.

Remember, Summit registrants can find this panel, a plethora of sessions from the first two days of the conference, and several prerecorded presentations on demand in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit portal.  

Tags:  Alliance  alliance management  alliance professionals  alliance skills  Amy Walraven  collaborations  Cultural Diagnosis  enterprise  GSK  Jessica Wadd  Joy Wilder Lybeer  operations  partnership  Reata Pharmaceuticals  skills  Steve Pessagno  Troy M. Windt  Turnkey Risk Solutions  Vantage Partners 

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