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5G: Overhyped, or a “Fairy Tale” Come True?

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Friday, July 17, 2020

Ready or not, the future is coming. In some ways, it’s already here.

So it is with 5G, the latest generation of mobile connectivity. The promise of this technology, and its implications for consumers, businesses, and partnering, were among the topics discussed in one of the many on-demand presentations that form this year’s ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

“How 5G Will Transform and Disrupt Business and Partners,” moderated by Stacy Conrad, director channel sales, TPx, featured three panelists:

  • Pradeep Bhardwaj, senior strategy director, Syniverse
  • Manoj Bhatia, CSAP, partner business development (technology alliances), Verizon
  • Andreas Westh, CSAP, director global partnering strategy, Ericsson

“Once upon a Time” Is Now

After a short introduction by Conrad to set the stage, Bhardwaj began by noting, “The story of mobile has been nothing short of a fairy tale. We have come a long way since the start of the first generation of mobile technology in the early ’80s.” Each generation of mobile technology has come with its own advancements, he added—including texting, Web browsing, and video—and 5G is no different.

For Westh, 5G brings with it “a lot of opportunities” for both consumers and businesses. These include connected smart homes, low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) technology, enhanced live event experiences, gaming, wireless virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), remote robotics, connected vehicles, and connected logistics for business. Westh views 5G as an “innovation platform” where “different companies come together and cocreate.”

Bhatia sees 5G’s impact as primarily occurring in three areas: mobile connectivity for business, new consumer services such as home broadband, and big industry services that will help enterprises digitalize and leverage IoT technologies, for example.

Of this last category, he said, “This is an area [where] everybody has been working for a while, trying to get new innovations. But with 5G, the speed, latency, moving massive amounts of data in a much more efficient way—that’s where the new challenge and the new excitement comes in.”

“A Complete Paradigm Shift”

Asked by Conrad whether 5G has been overhyped, the panelists seemed to agree on a resounding “no.” If anything, they suggested that perhaps the technology’s potential has been underestimated.

“The hype is very justified,” Bhardwaj maintained. “It’s a complete paradigm shift.”

Bhatia chimed in that when speed can be “magnified and amplified” anywhere from 10x to 100x over 4G, and latency reduced as much as 10x (avoiding delays in the movement of large amounts of data), “the hype is understandable.”

Furthermore, he said, “All businesses struggle not just in the transport of data but also in managing these big chunks of data. And that’s where 5G will actually help.”

“Cut All the Cables”

Westh said, “There’s huge interest from the business side, not just consumers. It opens up a lot of opportunities. We see a lot of interest from partners from different companies who want to leverage 5G for their businesses.” He added that his company, Ericsson, recently released the results of a survey predicting that mobile data consumption will increase 4x in the next couple of years, which has both business and consumer implications.

Looking at different verticals where 5G will have an impact, Bhatia mentioned healthcare—in particular noting contract tracing for the coronavirus, collection and analysis of public health data, the use of AR/VR in diagnosis, and telehealth. (And about the changes wrought by COVID-19 worldwide, he said, “We’re all going through this crisis. We’re all gathering the strengths, the technology, and the ideas to solve this problem more efficiently, so we are better prepared for this kind of crisis in the long run.”)

Westh mentioned advances in entertainment, including enhancing the experience around live concerts, shows, and sporting events—and even consuming entertainment safely at home. In these areas, he said, 5G will help remove or reduce capacity constraints, interference, and connectivity issues. Westh added that one of Ericsson’s goals is to “cut all the cables”—which means that professional cameras at live events will be able to get into spaces where it hasn’t been feasible up to now.

Bhardwaj took on the manufacturing sector, where he said that 5G could greatly improve both process and production automation, as well as connectivity and logistics, robotics, and other functions.

Partnering in 5G: From Small Islands to Super Ecosystems

Not surprisingly, the promise of 5G has spawned any number of new and innovative partnerships involving multiple players. “The foundation has been there,” Bhatia said, noting the prominence of technology and systems integrator partnerships, which he called “small islands.” But 5G, he predicted, will bring “a super set of ecosystems” with it, along with the incubation of a “new round of innovation—[creating] something that was unimaginable before.” Verizon itself is working with many startups on 5G projects, as well as with device makers like Samsung, and investing in “labs for new ideas.” But Bhatia warned that any such efforts must provide real, beneficial, “significant change,” or else it’s simply “hogwash.”

Westh agreed that partnerships are already an important element in the creation of new 5G use cases for consumers and businesses. “It’s a collaborative game,” he said. “It’s an ecosystem and a value chain [for] cocreation. We’re just at the beginning with 5G. It’s a long journey.”

If you registered for the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, don’t forget that all conference sessions—both livestream and on demand—are available for viewing from now through August 18, 2020, on the conference showcase.

Tags:  5G  Andreas Westh  AR/VR  channel sales  diagnosis  Ericsson  Manoj Bhatia  mobile  mobile connectivity  partner  partnering  Pradeep Bhardwaj  Stacy Conrad  strategy  Syniverse  technology  telehealth  TPx  Verizon 

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Managing Organizational Upheaval: Summit Session Teaches Alliance Managers How to Ease the Pain of Blistering Change

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, July 10, 2020

The 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit may have officially concluded last Thursday, but registrants will have the opportunity to fill their brains with knowledge for several more weeks through additional sessions that are on demand via the Summit portal.

One of those presentations came courtesy of a pair of partnering pros from legal, tax, and accounting information services firm Thomson Reuters, who weighed in on a predicament which many are finding themselves in, given the current state of the global economy, “Absorbing and Facilitating Change: Managing Your Partner Program Through Organizational Upheaval”

Although the original inspiration for this session was the aftermath of the sale of more than half of Thomson Reuters’ assets to private equity firm Blackstone in 2018, much of what Ben Anderson, CA-AM, JD, Esq., partner asset and licensing program manager at Thomson Reuters, and Susan Cleveland, JD, global strategic alliances manager at Thomson Reuters, shared could be applied to situations that many are facing today thanks to COVID-19.

Anderson and Cleveland explained that they have had their hands full adjusting to their new post-acquisition reality. They have had to change partner agreements, separate domain names, and untangle joint products and services that were embedded into the business. A simple method for gaining approvals—sign-off from the vice president of sales—has been supplanted by a new protocol that entails navigating a labyrinthine org chart and multiple stakeholders. Although Cleveland said the alliance management practice has been buoyed by the buy-in they have received as a result of this face time with officials from all reaches of the company, she acknowledged that the process has forced the group to be less nimble. 

Hit Change Head on

After a brief background on the corporate changes to Thomson Reuters, the presenters put up a slide summarizing advice gleaned from many works of literature about dealing with change in a corporate or professional setting. The common thread among these sources is “hitting change head on. Don’t try to avoid it,” according to Anderson. “You need to prepare and you need to have a positive attitude about it, and you need to be an advocate for change in your organization.” Otherwise, “that valuable time is going to be squandered.”

Employees dodge change for many reasons. Cleveland and Anderson listed fear, incomplete information, inconsistent transparency, project organization, alignment, uncertainty, educating new people, and challenges in communication as some of the reasons why many choose not to deal with it.

The plus for alliance managers is that they are used to dealing with everything mentioned on that slide, Anderson noted. Cleveland recommended tackling fear first. In her company’s case, “People [were] afraid of losing their jobs” after the acquisition. She counseled viewers who may be dealing with similar situations in the current pandemic to “acknowledge the fear and say, ‘Hey, I’m not here to take your job. Yes, things are going to have to change, but I’m here to make this a positive change that helps our organization and helps you do your job better.”

Keep Technology, Org Changes, and Alliance Portfolio Info up to Date 

How do you prepare for change? Start with your technology. Make sure internal database and workflow applications are updated to reflect forthcoming organizational changes, so that contract amendments and terminations can be inputted quickly, for example. It is crucial to update partner portals during these times as well, as many people often miss emails, memos, and other pertinent communication because they are buried in work and moving at a blazing speed in the midst of a crisis.

Next, keep up with structural changes being made in yours and your partner’s organizations that result from major transactions, personnel moves, and the like.

“We’re going to see a lot of organizations change as a result of these changes that are happening to our economy,” said Cleveland. “You need to know who the right people are.”

If you can graphically illustrate a gap in a reconfigured chain of command, it will help corporate powers-that-be make quick adjustments to improve workflow. Otherwise, leaders might be tempted to overreact to a bump in the road and take more drastic measures than necessary.

“People are able to quickly grasp that information and focus on solving a problem, rather than saying— and I always hated hearing this—‘We need to look at this with a fresh lens and completely redo it from scratch.’ That’s how that precious time component can be lost,” said Anderson.

Org charts aren’t the only visuals alliance management needs to prepare as change swirls around a company. Alliance pros should always have illustrations of win-win scenarios; quick wins that partnering can bring in lead generation, marketing, or speed-to-market; and “Negotiating 101” for partner contracts on hand in the event they need to educate employees in other parts of the company who will work on or oversee alliances in some capacity or prove the alliance practice’s value at a moment’s notice. The presenters have also found that it always helps to have materials at the ready that explain the differences between a partner and a vendor.

Punctuating this information with ASAP knowledge has boosted the credibility of the Thomson Reuters alliance group’s educational information.

“I love saying that there’s an organization that dedicates its time just to this subject,” said Anderson.

“Best practices are critical, but back it up with data. It’s a 1-2 punch,” added Cleveland. These presentations should be tailored around your company’s preferred success metrics, whether that be revenue, margins, or other statistics.  

“Radical Transparency,” Joint Clients Help Hammer Home Messaging

When communicating internally during organizational upheaval, both presenters endorsed a policy of “radical transparency,” which entails keeping critical information related to partner agreements and initiatives up to date and accessible to everyone in the company—Cleveland leans on a “smart sheet” that tracks every single phase of onboarding a new partner, for example. She also noted that this approach flies in the face of the perception that hoarding information helps retain power.   

Communicating externally to partners is slightly more nuanced. Alliance managers often know about developments that haven’t been publicly disclosed. They must be mindful not to share sensitive information, and know at all times what has already been put in writing. However, don’t waste a minute in getting details to partners once information has been approved for external consumption, and be careful in phrasing your updates.

“Words matter,” reminded Cleveland.

Anderson urged listeners to “become best friends with your external communications team” more than once during the presentation. The communications department can, and should, inform partners about major company transformations just as they would other key constituents, such as employees, investors, and the general public.

It also essential to align partner and client communication. It is understandable if clients need to get information first. However, too much lag time between informing clients and partners often makes the latter “feel out of the loop,” in Anderson’s observation.

And make sure to communicate through multiple channels—email, phone, portal, Slack, etc. Different people rely on different media for primary communication.

Cleveland urged virtual Summit attendees to recruit joint clients to share their endorsement of company developments, wherever possible, to boost credibility of the message.

“Joint clients talk,” she said. “They can help us evangelize when there are these changes.”

Either way, Anderson advised session viewers to “continue to advocate for your partners,” regardless of what is going on internally.

The presenters concluded the session with their key takeaways. Cleveland stressed that change isn’t new, and it’s inevitable.

“Have a positive attitude around change,” she urged, adding that a negative attitude can hamper the morale of those in your orbit. “We’ve all been in those meetings where that one person brings it all down.”

Anderson suggested that alliance pros look at change as an opportunity. They might get to try new things that could benefit them in the long run.

“If things are going to be done in a new way, then look at the positive,” he said. “If you start early, if you are prepared for that transition, you will come out on top.”

Again, this session is available to Summit registrants in the 2020 ASAP Global Alliance Summit portal, along with more than a dozen other prerecorded presentations and video of all three days of the live event itself. Summit content will be accessible until August 18. 

Tags:  accounting information services  alliance management  Ben Anderson  communications team  COVID-19  legal  onboarding  partner agreements  Partner Program  partnering  partners  radical transparency  Susan Cleveland  tax  Thomson Reuters 

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How Do You Build the Partner Executive of the Future?

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Monday, July 6, 2020

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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