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Xerox Trains Key Resellers to Transition from Products to Services Model

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/7/2013

The printer and copier industry has a familiar challenge: transform itself from a products company to one based on a services model. One might also recognize the enablers of such a strategy—the cloud and the emergence of remote automation for homeworkers. Xerox’s efforts to utilize their partnering capability to facilitate this change was the subject of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit presentation “Printers Inc.: The Need for Higher Level Collaborative Skills in the Transformation of the Printer Industry from Products to Managed Services.”

The good news for Xerox is that prospective companies have a need for print-on-demand services. Meanwhile, system integrators now see this solution segment as relevant. The bad news is that the skill sets of many of Xerox’s technology resellers were still hardware-based a few years ago. Thus, Xerox was challenged to make sure its partners had the right skills to sell their emerging cloud-based offerings.

Before developing its partner’s capabilities, Xerox had to start from within. The company equipped its alliance professionals with CA-AM certifications. They then worked with their own internal partner managers to develop their knowledge of the company’s solution set. The company also augmented its alliance management function with new hires who had partner experience, according to Mark Ballinger, CA-AM, general manager of enterprise alliances in Europe at Xerox.

Xerox then implemented its SCORE (Select, Connect, Onboard, Review, Execute) partner selection methodology. Select saw the Xerox alliance strategy leaders assess the appropriate partners for their mission—the companies that need print services. In the Connect stage, Xerox gathered information from its internal teams and customer base to figure out the right value proposition for both the customer and partner prospect. When it was time to Onboard, Xerox and its allies would gather requirements from Xerox and its partners and the evaluation of how the offerings would work and how they could be made better.

Candido Arreche, CA-AM, global alliance director at Xerox, then expanded on the onboarding process's four steps. The first entailed a strategy session in which Xerox and its customers set expectations and developed a joint business plan based on them. Then Xerox trained the people in the partner organization responsible for sales, operations, and delivery on its solutions. Xerox followed up the training by assigning a mentor to each partner sales rep to coach them along two or three sales opportunities, conducting joint calls to help leverage the mentor’s expertise. Xerox would even help them close the deals and walk them through the ordering and fulfillment processes. Lastly, Xerox utilized a governance structure with scorecards and regular reviews to address concerns and questions as they came up.

Xerox’s strategic partner portfolio now consists of 90 organizations in Europe, plus several more in North America, South America, and Asia. The executives said they expect that number to decrease over time as star players emerge, get a deeper grasp on Xerox’s offerings, and grow joint print services revenues.

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Can You Hear Me Now? NetApp’s Partners Say, “Yes!”

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

One of the most critical challenges faced by alliance management practices today is to implement effective partner listening programs and turn the feedback into meaningful action. In their presentation “Voice of the Partner: Can You Hear Me Now?,” Seema Kohli, senior manager of partner loyalty at NetApp, and Ramesh Subramaniam, CA-AM, chief strategist at alliance consultancy Alliancesphere, demonstrated how the two companies collaborated to develop their own mechanism to ensure that NetApp listened to and acted on its partners'—and customers'—concerns.

Kohli began by asking who of the audience had served as a subject of a customer/partner survey. Several hands went up. She followed up by asking whether they felt their customer feedback was heard. Fewer hands went up. Was action eventually taken? The initial sea of hands had shrunk to a small puddle.

Kohli then asked if anyone in the room was tying together feedback from both partner and customer listening surveys. Only one confirmed his company did.

With that, the two speakers walked through the evolution of NetApp’s partner listening program. Subramaniam outlined five tenets of a successful feedback program: 1) one common framework; 2) data delineated into a reasonable amount of actionable intelligence (i.e., not an overwhelming amount of information); 3) integration of multiple viewpoints—customers, distributors, resellers, and alliances; 4) governance structure with well-established cadence to ensure stakeholders derive consistent value and processes are efficient; and 5) recognition that it’s a long journey. (NetApp’s program took three years to develop, which was two years ahead of schedule, according to Kohli.)

The NetApp-Alliancesphere team set out to gather a variety of partner perspectives from obvious places such as formal surveys as well as feedback from other not-so-obvious sources such as summits, events, quarterly business reviews, and other sources.

“Qualitative data is just as important [as quantitative],” said Subramaniam.

From there, Alliancesphere and NetApp synthesized a wide range of inputs into information on year-on-year trending, comparisons versus benchmark, and stats on closed-end questions as well as open-ended comments, and streamlined them into two categories: 1) viewpoints that affected broad strategy, and 2) responses pertaining to specific aspects of the alliance. This enabled NetApp to stratify the top few things the company’s C-Suite, geo/regional leader–level executives, and core alliance management team needed to know about their partners—and ultimately their customers.

To close the loops with partners, NetApp conveyed the feedback that was provided to them, the actions the company would take in response, and when partners could expect to see said changes.

With feedback from customers, distributors, resellers, and partners all woven into one, NetApp's allies had actionable feedback that was unparalleled in its depth. NetApp and its partners knew more than just how stakeholders felt about the relationship; they had detailed information on what each aforementioned group thought they needed to take to market—intelligence NetApp’s sales and alliance people could take to their planning sessions.

Moreover, the Voice of the Partner exercise distinguished NetApp in the eyes of its partners.

“It established NetApp as a leader,” said Kohli. “Our partners kept telling us that nobody else is doing this for them.”

The partner listening exercise has also created so much value for the stakeholders within NetApp who touch alliances that they are clamoring for more insight. Kohli and her team are happy to commit to the extra workload that comes from these demands.

“We're seeing a pull across company—account teams, strategy planning office, and other parts of the organization,” she said. “They want this information.”

Subramaniam also mentioned that feedback was provided to individual alliance managers as well.

“Not just the feedback of the partner, but the customer as well,” he said. ”One-to-one feedback is helpful, but integrated feedback is exponentially beneficial.”

Across NetApp, the message is heard loud and clear.

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Talk About a Revolution: Alliances and Social Media

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

Social media: What is it? How can it be used to promote alliances? And where to start and how to do it? Those questions and more were addressed this afternoon on day two of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, as presenters Kim Tremblay, senior director of global strategic alliance marketing at Schneider Electric, and Candice Kyzer, marketing manager for global strategic alliances at Schneider Electric, laid out the social media landscape for alliance managers in “What’s the Buzz: How the Smart Use of Social Media Can Accelerate Alliance Culture.”

“There are some amazing things that can be done with social media,” said Tremblay, pointing to the emergence in world politics of the Arab Spring—a revolution, as she observed, that was started and accelerated by social media. And while alliance managers may not think of themselves as fomenting revolution in their companies, even their internal and external marketing efforts can be radically transformed by the deployment of a concerted social media strategy—if done properly.

Along with a survey of some of the more popular social media platforms—such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest—Tremblay and Kyzer proceeded to give their six steps for planning and executing a social media effort:
  1. Objectives: What are you trying to do?
  2. Determine platforms: Choose and agree on which media to use (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc.).
  3. Establish measurement tools: Whether free or paid software products measuring sentiment, message amplification, geographic penetration, gender distribution, popularity peaks.
  4. Response management: Need to respond in a timely manner and respectfully.
  5. Execute: “Put on your hard hat and dig in!” exhorted Kyzer.
  6. Monitor and measure: An ongoing process.
Corporate blogging, and collaboration between partners on same, is another key social media platform. Schneider Electric started doing it two years ago, according to Tremblay. Bloggion can deliver content in digestible bits, build blogger “personalities,” and allow the use of a more relaxed style than other corporate communications, including more personal opinions—all in the service of motivating people, copromoting content with partners, and delivering business value.

Regular social media communication helps increase and foster alliance awareness and contributes to alliance culture, according to Tremblay and Kyzer. Schneider Electric does trainings with guidelines for bloggers on writing a good blog, including links, writing to the appropriate length, and avoiding misrepresentation.

But in the final analysis, with all the caveats and steps to follow, Tremblay advised attendees that in social media, alliance managers should just “get out of your comfort zone and take the plunge.” Revolution, anybody?

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Keeping Cool Amid Chaos in the Alliance Hot Seat

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

In trying to describe a “day in the life” of an alliance manager, Subhojit Roye, head of alliances at Infosys BPO Limited, came up with a number of metaphors: being in the “hot seat” in the alliance “situation room,” or feeling like “a gladiator in the ring,” among others.

“There were times I didn’t know what I was doing in a meeting, just going from one session to the next and having back-to-back conference calls,” he admitted. “It feels like a madhouse, each time you’re wearing a different hat, sometimes in the same meeting. Sometimes it’s just chaos. So how do I find a method in the madness?”

How indeed. Roye urged the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit attendees to ask themselves the following questions in this “situation room”: Who am I inside? What role do I play? What game am I playing? And how do I play well?

In addition, a good alliance professional needs to be constantly switching gears—or hats—between the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. “Whatever you did at a transactional or deal level, what does it mean at a strategic level?” Roye explained.

Roye also mentioned the “IDEA” approach to the alliance life cycle: the acronym stands for Identify, Define, Establish, Assess.

A second acronym Roye presented was SMILES—a type of report that uncovers Suspects (potential new partners), Milestones (e.g. a product launch or event, or a partner moving to a new level in the alliance life cycle); Interactions (meetings or calls); Leads; Exits; and Successes. The use of SMILES makes for a unified way for alliance managers to report the status of their alliances, and serves as a framework for thinking and reporting.

Final questions Roye left the audience with were: What are the resources I have? Are these concepts relevant to my situation? If I’m starting from scratch, can I apply IDEA and SMILES as is? If not, can I modify my current systems? How elaborate does my system need to be? Finally, can I share my experience with my peers at ASAP?

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Disruption Eruption—ASAP Toronto Chapter President Examines History, Current Landscape of Market-Disturbing Innovations

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 3/6/2013

Getting back to some of the insights from the first day of the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, ASAP Toronto chapter president Phil Hogg, CA-AM, vice president of strategic alliances for Moneris Solutions, closed out the day with his presentation “Next-Wave Challenges, Next-Wave Opportunities: The Impact of Disruptive Technologies on Strategic and Operational Fit,” which traced the history of disruptive innovation, described the main characteristics of such advances, and revealed how this applies to today’s business landscape, particularly in relation to mobile technologies.

Although people associate disruptive innovation today with technology-based products and services such as cloud computing, mobile, and social media, it would be a misconception to think that market disturbance is always technology-based. This became apparent from Hogg’s quick history of this type of market force. He walked attendees through the story of the steel mill industry, which saw over time the dissolution of once-powerful large integrated steel mills that proliferated in the United States last century. Starting in the 1960s, smaller mini-mills ultimately eroded the larger mills margins one steel type at a time, starting with the lower-margin rebar steel type and ultimately usurping the larger mills’ hegemony in every steel category, including angle iron, structural steel, and sheet metal.

The steel mill example illustrated one commonality of most if not all disruptive innovations: they have the luxury of starting with a small lower-margin market. In general, these products and services tend to be affordable, accessible, and effective. In addition, performance thresholds can be lower for disruptors; the first generations of mobile phones had poor sound quality, but the benefit of mobility outweighed the negatives. Moreover, the first entry into these markets usually comes out ahead, whether it be Amazon (online retail), Dell (PC/desktop market), or Toyota (fuel-efficient cars).

One reason established companies fail to combat these forces is that traditional training sometimes fails to prepare them. According to Hogg, business school training emphasizes understanding your best customers and focusing on highest-growth products. However, disruptors can enter the market through products that are essentially rejected by the bigger players. Moreover, the aforementioned lack of similar margin pressure might steer a disruptor to a blind spot on the bigger player’s radar. Hogg used the term “asymmetric motivation”—the principle that one company’s strength is another’s weakness.

How can a big company protect itself? Through acquisition, internal development, and spinoffs such as Intel’s Celeron chip set series aimed at the low-end of that market segment.

“Intel essentially became its own disruptor,” said Hogg.

Moneris, Canada’s largest credit and debit card payment processor, is dealing with mobile devices as a disruptor to its market. It is working with partners on two fronts: for current clients, it is providing its eSELECTplus Mobile option to provide clients the ability to process payments with mobile devices; new customers can select Moneris’s Payd offering, which allows new consumers to download software that provides mobile payment processing.

The bad news for alliance managers? Product life cycles will be in the decline stage. Whatever was used five years ago will soon not be a strategic fit. Operational fit (resource allocation, time dedication, etc.) will erode with some longstanding partners with whom you may have grown comfortable.

On the other side of the coin, “ally” will be the right choice oftentimes following a build-buy-partner analysis since it is frequently a lower-cost avenue to approach a problem. It also provides quick entry into the disruptor’s market. Moreover, the exit strategy is commonly easier.

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