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Back to the…Mainframe? Not Exactly, but the Cloud Is Changing ISV-GSI Governance into a Blend of Old and New

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Friday, February 21, 2020

We’ve reached the latter stages of the editing process for the Q1 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, coming out soon. As always, we have some great material that didn’t make the cut for the magazine, so we wanted to use this space to pass along some of the insights that emerged from our conversations around the evolving relationship between traditional independent software vendors (ISVs) such as SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft and global system integrators (GSIs) like Capgemini, Deloitte, and Accenture.

In the print version of the article, we talked about the concepts of “rolling adoption” and “continuous innovation.” When companies shift portions of their computing infrastructure from inside their own data centers to a public or private cloud, software is consumed much differently. In the client-server IT model that preceded cloud, ISVs would often take up to two years refining new versions of their applications to make sure they were as bug-free as possible before making them available to the public. The customer would then work with a GSI to customize that new software to their business processes. Now, however, the cloud has enabled software vendors to make updates remotely in an expedient manner. Consequently, new versions come out as rapidly as every six months, and each stakeholder—the ISV, the GSI, and the customer—understands that they will in essence be adjusting solutions on the fly to meet customer needs well after their release.

More Information, Faster, Means More Governance

A couple of the alliance experts we spoke to touched on how this phenomenon is affecting governance models, which are evolving to serve these faster, perpetual sales cycles. For example, teams meet more often and share more information than they did 15 years ago. Lisle Holgate, CSAP, senior director of strategic alliances at Avanade, a joint venture of Microsoft and Accenture, said the core teams of the alliance he works with are meeting weekly, while salespeople convene biweekly and regional leaders gather on a monthly basis to evaluate the dozen or so leads in the pipeline. Global executives get together every quarter, and even the respective CEOs huddle once a year to discuss the alliance at the broadest level.

“We have about 45 or 50 points of exchange across the breadth of the organization on a regular basis, so there’s a more organic understanding of each other,” said Holgate. “Whereas in the old days, [meetings were] about, ‘How many deals did we do? What’s in the pipeline? Okay, ready? Break.’”

To that end, the level of granularity in the information alliance partners are exchanging with each other is unprecedented today. Holgate said that marketing documentation now goes “all the way down to emails about the value proposition. That was unheard of back in the old days.”

Bill Thomas, CA-AM, an industry veteran and current alliance director who has worked in alliance programs at leading enterprise software vendors and global GSIs, has observed a shift toward alliance program governance models specified by software vendors and away from those originated by GSIs as the cloud has taken root. Two decades ago, when GSIs were counted on to significantly customize large-vendor software in on-premise deployments, potential clients calculated cultural, resource, and process fits based heavily on GSI governance models because the GSI's implementation methodologies were foundational to the project’s success. 

Now, software vendors see an obligation to prescribe the governance model and deployment methodology as a way to ensure delivery quality, and they’re telling GSIs, “‘This is how our program works,’” said Thomas. “Alliance structure and governance are codified in the agreement [with the software vendor] in order to promote delivery quality and consistency.  Also, having a standard, repeatable process ensures fairness in the ecosystem and supports the ability to scale the business to meet the demands of rapid growth.” 

What’s Old Is New Again

Steve Blacklock, CA-AM, vice president of global strategic alliances at Citrix, saw parallels between today’s cloud-managed IT model and the old days of the mainframe, the predominant computing model of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in that “you don’t have to own the whole thing, you can just provision what you want, it’s secure and separated from everything else, and you can pay for what you need,” and he surmised that “the way partnerships, channel, and GSIs behave in [cloud] markets [is] probably analogous to the way things were done before [in the days of the mainframe], too.”

As he said this, Blacklock waved his hands apart and together like an accordion to illustrate how the ISV-GSI relationship has “come together and fractured and come together again” as computing transitioned from the mainframe to the client-server model that took root in the 1990s to this emerging cloud model. He pointed out that in the 1960s, IBM would essentially play the role GSIs play today by supporting the mainframe the customer bought from it and managing the client’s processes, and then speculated on whether the “Big Three” public cloud service providers (CSPs)—Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP)—might fulfill this role in the future, thereby cutting out GSIs.   

“They’re not there yet, but I could see a day where [Microsoft] Azure says, ‘If you need to run SAP in Azure, come here, sign this contract, and we’ll provision it for you, we’ll get your networking there, we’ll make sure it’s up and running, we’ll support the software—we’ll give you what you need and you’ll pay for it as you use it.’ Well, how is that any different from what IBM was doing with the mainframe?” 

This is just a small slice of what we learned from ASAP members in the trenches of these software vendor–integrator alliances. Be on the lookout for the Q1 edition of ASAP’s flagship magazine Strategic Alliance Quarterly to learn more about the changing dynamics of the ISV-GSI relationship. 

Tags:  Accentura  Amazon Web Services (AWS)  Avanade  Bill Thomas  Citrix  Cloud  cloud-managed IT model  Google Cloud Platform (GCP)  IBM  ISV-GSI Governance  ISV-GSI relationship  Lisle Holgate  Microsoft  Steve Blacklock  Strategic Alliance Quarterly 

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Q4 Strategic Alliance Quarterly Sourcing Outtakes: The Power of the First Draft, Ever-Changing Tech Standards, Customers and the Cloud, Value vs. Discounts

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, December 11, 2019

In our upcoming issues of Strategic Alliance Monthly and Strategic Alliance Quarterly, we will examine the changing nature of supplier collaborations in today’s business world. In a lengthy feature for Strategic Alliance Quarterly, we dive deep into how advanced digital technologies are transforming sourcing and procurement managers’ jobs such that they now need alliance management skills and practices to effectively carry out their responsibilities. Meanwhile, a feature in our next edition of Strategic Alliance Monthly explores how a company can become a preferred supplier in the eyes of its partner.

As is the case with just about every piece we put together for ASAP’s publications, there were plenty of great insights left over from our interviews with experts from the ASAP community that don’t appear in either article. Here are just a few of those nuggets.

Alliance Agreements and the Power of the Pen

Andrew Eibling, CSAP, vice president of business development and alliance management at Enable Injections, Inc., made it known several times during our conversation that he felt that, in pharma, the procurement division was generally a parking lot for nonstrategic partnerships. In other words, wind up with a procurement manager as your point of contact and odds are that you have almost zero chance of having any real influence over the partner organization’s affairs. In that discussion, Eibling noted that initial contract negotiations offered a sign of how a partner will view your organization and relationship. The goal is to agree on a contract that hews closer to the principles set forth in The ASAP Handbook of Alliance Management rather than a boilerplate supplier agreement, and the best way to ensure this is to compose the first draft for the partner’s review.

“Somebody has the power of the pen. Who drafts the agreement first? Everyone wants to take the first pass because that becomes the substrate you’re going to work from,” said Eibling. He added that an alliance agreement “tends to be more bidirectional versus what we would get from a monodirectional supplier agreement [where] you will do what’s on the schedule according to the terms we agreed to, and that’s that.”

Are We a “Standards Fit”?

An important element to assembling a tech alliance that we didn’t end up exploring in great depth in the feature was the layer of complexity added by the number of disparate standards for emerging technologies, such as cloud and IoT, competing in the marketplace. Companies putting together a smart tractor, for example, have to find partners that are not only a feature/function fit and a cultural fit but also a “standards fit,” so to speak—that is, they base their systems on technical protocols that align with your IT architecture.

“Things are moving so fast. You might get a standard out there and get everybody to adopt it, but then some new technology comes along that disrupts it all. You’ve spent all this money on standardization and it didn’t endure. That’s one of the reasons why, as a supplier, you need to know what your customers’ sourcing strategies are, and if you’re going to be compatible with the direction they are going in,” said Russ Buchanan, CSAP, vice president of strategic alliances at Xerox and ASAP’s chairman emeritus.

As an example, Buchanan talked about how companies that base their technology on proprietary standards want to be sure to avoid getting entwined with organizations that are placing their chips on open source models.

“OK Google: I’m Seeing Other Cloud Companies”

Subhojit Roye, CSAP, vice president and head of alliances at Tech Mahindra Business Services, singled out the three cloud Goliaths—Google, AWS, and Microsoft—as another potential source of complexity in constructing an alliance. One or more of those vendors may pressure the manufacturer to make it the exclusive cloud platform for the new product or service, but in many cases decent portions of the OEM’s customer base may be split among each of the three cloud leaders. The manufacturer can’t risk alienating a portion of its clients. Thus, the sourcing manager may need to stand up to a powerful market mover, something alliance managers have been doing for years.

“Suddenly, if you’re the procurement manager you have to explain to Google, ‘I’m sorry, but customers are demanding that we have to talk with all three companies,’” Roye said.

Don’t Nickel-and-Dime a Valuable Relationship

More than one interviewee stressed that lower prices are no longer the end game for sourcing and procurement managers. Overall value is the buyer’s main goal. Roye explained the situation in greater detail.

“The procurement function is becoming more and more strategic. The chief marketing officer is becoming critical. Chief customer service officer, the head of sales, and the CEO are suddenly banking on the procurement officer to say, ‘Listen, those days are gone. Don’t nickel-and-dime the vendor. Don’t ask him to give us a $10 item for $6. We’d rather get more value for $10. We’d rather pay him $12 to make sure he’s happy with us, he gives us our products on time—we don’t wind up with a screw-up on Thanksgiving or during the winter holidays—or he doesn’t switch at the last minute and go to a competitor.”

Remember, this is just what hit the cutting room floor. Be sure to check out the next issues of Strategic Alliance Monthly and Strategic Alliance Quarterly for more great insights into alliance management vis-à-vis the sourcing and procurement functions in today’s corporate landscape. 

Tags:  alliances  Andrew Eibling  AWS  Cloud  digital technologies  Enable Injections  Google  IoT  Microsoft  procurement  relationship  Russ Buchanan  Sourcing  Strategic Alliance Quarterly  Subhojit Roye  Tech Mahindra Business Services  Tech Standards  transforming sourcing  Value vs. Discounts  Xerox 

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The Tsunami Effect of AI on Partnering—Part 1 of the 2019 ASAP Summit Keynote Address

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Friday, March 22, 2019

How do you align for the era of smart?  “Let’s put smart to work” was the mantra Bruce Anderson chose for his keynote address “Partnering in the AI Era: An Essential Shift from Value Chains to Business Ecosystems” at the recent 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Anderson is IBM’s global managing director, global electronics industry, and he painted a vision that appeared highly relevant to alliance managers and their associates in the packed room.

“In my world, with the scope of clients, there is almost [always] an alliance idea that happens several times a day,” Anderson said, setting the stage for his address. “We put a lot of structure around that. I have seen that structure help us define these alliances and what they could do.”

The market is moving so fast from a linear to dynamic approach that you need to ask how your company should be thinking about alliances in this accelerating business approach, he stated. “IBM figured out a long time ago you have to partner, and the real value of companies like IBM is to bring the pieces together to create business value. That’s where the ecosystem comes into play.”

Anderson then provided some context: Design cycles for hardware took years, but now technology development is going faster and faster. As companies come into this space, they need to leverage what they’ve created by “reaching out to a broader ecosystem to create value. The approach is getting more open,” he pointed out. “This is only going to accelerate. The change is not only how products are brought together, but also how they partner in the marketplace.”

In this climate, alliance managers need make sure ideas are aligned “because a lot of thought went into the idea of strategy to get momentum for the alliance in the company. We use the word cognitive. You can use the world AI. We think about augmented intelligence and using data to make life—at work and at home—better. This is done most effectively in the Cloud. So there has been a lot of change for us since the ‘80s. But the context for what this is useful for is industries.”

In the advancing era of artificial intelligence (AI), companies need to create all the pieces—and alliances—necessary to make it easy to adapt for the advancement of products, he said. “Alliances have become fundamental to the idea of strategy. How has IBM shifted over the years?” he then asked, flashing a slide of a revenue chart IBM put together years ago with the overarching header “Over 50% of IBM revenue will come from Cloud and Cognitive Solutions in the near future.” Anderson then followed with a slide on AI “emerging across ecosystems … everywhere,” that was broken into three categories:

  • AI-enabled engagement
  • AI-enabled analytics
  • AI-enabled operations

AI seems to have an unlimited number of applications, and Anderson talked about a small handful of which IBM has been partnering on: digital farming, block chain (which prevents waste), mapping the microbiome, sensor detection of pathogens, and radical recycling. A discussion then took place about the multiple benefits of AI in IBM’s Food Trust.

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s live, onsite coverage of this session and others from 2019 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Cynthia B. Hanson is managing editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance publications. 

Tags:  AI-enabled engagement  alliance managers  Artificial Intellegence  block chain  Bruce Anderson  Cloud  cognitive Solutions  design cycles  digital farming  ecosystem  global electronics  IBM  partner 

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The Value of Honing in on Partner Specialization and Expertise—the Google Way

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Google has been called a trendsetter; a more apt description might be “epoch-maker.” The company repeatedly has surged ahead of the pack to set long-term standards. When adapting to the evolving multi-industry, multi-partner ecosystem, Google places great value on making specialization and expertise central to strategy, says Nina Harding, channel chief at Google Cloud. Harding discussed that message today in her session “Transforming Partnerships in the Cloud” at the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum, “Reimaging Part­nering in a Disruptive World,” on October 17, at the Four Points by Sheraton, San Jose Airport, San Jose, California. In a fascinating pre-Forum interview, here’s what Harding honed in on:

Your session description describes Google’s link to transformation as pervasive in a world of continuous change. How does this philosophy fit into Google’s present partnering mindset?

We partner differently. We approach partnering much more from the ways companies and partners are transforming. I plan to talk a lot about traditional services and resellersthe way partners build their businesses. That traditional way is in the rear view mirror. We are finding increasingly the need to build businesses around where they have expertise, so it makes it easier to partner to fill in gaps. We ask the question: What do you want the ecosystem to do for you, and how do you want it to extend value for you? We look at channels differently as we meet with partners and look at the marketplace. Those traditional partners don’t exist anymore. They don’t show up as one type or two types anymore.

The shift from vendor to ecosystem partner requires figuring out for a particular company how they can best ride their business. You need to look at it more from a behavioral perspective: How can we make you successful or profitable? Or if you want to just sell, how can we unbridle you from the resell? Become strategic advisors if you don’t want to be bridled into reselling. We talk about transforming and looking at the landscape of the ecosystem and how they want to engage with us. It’s a very different approach. Companies like Google, SAP, and Microsoft used to have a lot of power in who their partners were. Now, with social media, purchasing is through networks. Our job is not to assess the value of a partner. Instead, it’s to differentiate the business. There is a fundamental shift in the way you want to engage and work with our ecosystem. We talk a lot more now about how we help partners differentiate in the marketplace and how we make them successful. Because we created a culture, we ask questions like: How do we find the right partner? How are they specialized? What is their expertise?

As one of the big leaders in this new ecosystem, how is Google adapting and adjusting to the change?

It’s critical. One of the biggest areas of investment in the last six months requires really focusing on industry perspective. For example, some of our great new partners and customers are makers of wearable devices, where they have the Google Cloud platform. This is not the traditional cloudwe take geospatial data, maps, linguistics, etc., and intertwine them. The power of having such tools and resources through Google partnering is to be able to deliver transformative options in, for example, the healthcare space. We also have Chrome. The utilitarian nature of a Chrome book allows hospitals and organizations to have a utility laptop that anyone can access. They can sign into their account regardless of it being their machinebecause everything is in the cloud. It’s not just signing into an epic system; it’s anything and everything they have access to as a user, from the G-suite to GCP, Chrome, maps. There’s a tower of solutions as a partner.

You state that companies need to become business advisors solving customer challenges in an agile, customer-centric, digital environment. Why is that the new normal?

Customers are almost ahead of partners sometimes in digital transformation, as partners are no longer going in to solve a lift-and-shift problem. Whole conversations need to be about imagining what your business could be and tackling what your next version of your business will be. It’s about transforming your businesshow to reach and serve your customer versus going in and saying “This is our tech, and this is how this will fit.” That’s the conversation we’re having about being that trusted advisor.

What are key considerations when building these new partnering programs?

I don’t think the partner program are vendor-driven, they are ecosystem-driven. So when building programs, build to make the partner successful. Build their business. In this world, it’s about innovation, digital transformation, and the need to infuse with tech enablement, but also it about how to think differently and imagine a different world than we have today. It’s a different way to enable partners. It doesn’t mean anything to a customer if you are a silver, bronze, or gold partner. But it means something if I have specialization or expertise to give you an idea of where you need to take your business. It’s about serving your ecosystem rather than measuring your ecosystem. My message is more about how should companies should be thinking differently working with their partners. Look at this from a different perspective and be customer-centric, which is a different philosophy.

Stay tuned for more of the ASAP Media team’s coverage of the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum on the ASAP Blog at www.strategic-alliances.org. Learn more about the 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum at http://asaptechforum.org

Tags:  ASAP Tech Partner Forum  Chrome  cloud  customer-centric  digital Transformation  geospatial data  Google Cloud  innovation  Microsoft  multi-partner ecosystem  Nina Harding  partner programs  partners  SAP  strategic advisors 

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Transform or Risk Extinction (Part Two): Recognizing Value in Multiple Engagement Models

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2018

This is the second of two blogs continuing my April 2018 eSAM Plus article on “Architecting for Transformation: The Next Generation Partner Ecosystem,” the title of a lively conference session led by Russ Cobb, senior vice president, growth and business operations at SAS Institute, and Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, founding principal, Phoenix Consulting Group. The two took the stage at the A2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Propelling Partnering for the On-Demand World: New Perspectives + Proven Practices for Collaborative Business,”March 26-28, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. The drivers of seismic changes in channel partnering, Cobb and Watenpaugh explain explained, are the convergence of SMAC (social media, mobile computing, analytics, and cloud technology), the change in technology consumption, the rise of digital transformation (DX), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Part One of this blog post concluded on Watenpaugh’s comment, “There are no simple partner models anymore. They are adopting complex, multi-faceted business models where they do all of the above.” So how to recognize value across multiple engagement models?

Watenpaugh: Companies need to recognize value across multiple engagement models in the following ways:

  • Partner programs are evolving to recognize the breadth of contribution from partners across a blended business model.
  • Incentives shift to reward behavior and customer value.
  • Vendors can no longer subsidize profitability through rebates or discounts.
  • Recognizing value, investment, commitment, volume.

Cobb: SAS has a partner program that has a precious metals taxonomy as well. What we are trying to do is have more partners because of economics—if we can get a partner to look at different ways at engaging with SAS, such as the ability to resell SAS or engage in analytic services with a revenue-sharing agreement with SAS. We are really focused on economics because of customer behavior.  The more ways we can get engaged with you partner-wise, the more commitment you will get. The ROI will go up over time. One reason we get partners to do things with us is we create commitment over time.

Watenpaugh: The cloud strategy right now is evolving and emerging. We need a flexible view of what cloud means. We need to transition to a service model. How can we help our customers fit into third-party cloud environments? We’ve got to figure out how to meet our customers where their need might be. There is a complexity of applications. No one can do it alone, so we are seeing more partner-to-partner. There are so many specializations. No company has it all. It’s becoming more and more important to get from a pick list to what skills are needed to deliver.

Some people think it needs to be more like a blockchain model. That involves the challenge of finding new partners and finding how to engage to meet the needs of customers. Infrastructure companies are challenged, and finding the right value and provision in the cloud is really a challenge.

Russ: This all comes down to if you are a channel or IT partner, what is your unique value proposition? You need a very crisp value proposition. So what is the road ahead in ecosystem evolution?

  • Industry trends in cloud, digital transformation, and IoT are driving disruption and opportunity in the market
  • Non-traditional partners offering access to the line of business
  • Vendors will be required to think more holistically about the capabilities of the partner ecosystem
  • Vendors must create relevance to business outcomes or become commodities
  • Creating a compelling partner experience

Check out Part One of this blog post as well as the May 2018 issue of eSAM Plus for other topics addressed in Watenpaugh and Cobb’s session as well as ASAP Media’s coverage of other sessions at the 2018 ASAP Global Alliance Summit. 

Tags:  blockchain  business models  channel partnering  channel partners  Cloud  complex partnering  digital transformation  IoT  Norma Watenpaugh  partner ecosystem  partner models  Phoenix Consulting Group  Russ Cobb  SAS Institute  SMAC  value propositions  vendors 

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