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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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Huawei’s Strategy for Partnering Success (Part Two): Focusing on Customer Challenges that ‘Only Innovative Partnering Solutions Can Solve’

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Updated: Saturday, March 3, 2018

This is the second of a two-part blog post based on my recent interview with Greg Fox, CSAP, a longtime ASAP member who is currently vice president of strategic alliances at Huawei Technologies, headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. For the past two years, Fox has lead Huawei’s efforts to build information and communications technologies (ICT) industry-leading alliance management competencies and global partnering capabilities.

 

Organizations that Huawei is most apt to forge alliances with are heavily driven and influenced by the needs of their business groups and associated business units, where Huawei products and solutions are incubated, produced, and delivered to the market.

 

According to Fox, during the early phases, he and his team were focused on traditional alliances in the IT space, including independent software vendors (ISVs), systems integrators (SIs), and key technology partners. As the business evolved and expanded beyond this core, it brought in a new era of partnering with non-traditional partners focused on specific industries.

 

“For example, we partner with GE Digital to push the industrial industry towards digitization and automation, with KUKA for smart factories to enable acceptance of the smart production applications in the manufacturing sector, and with the likes of Honeywell to bring to market smart building offerings that take advantage of the latest IoT [Internet of Things] technologies to help make buildings more sustainable, secure and energy efficient,” he said. “In our digital transformation platform effort, we are open to any mutually advantageous partnering arrangement, where we together can combine our capabilities and value to deliver customer success.”

 

Fox explained that some partners are global and cross-industry in nature, while others focus on specific industry business needs, where a relationship may just be tied to that industry. “We are finding that in this age of digital transformation and the desire for increased innovation, productivity, and growth, there are not absolute boundaries that exist. What we do today with a partner in one industry, as the business grows, and we prove things and show success, this may also lead to expanding that partnership to include another industry, and it can scale in breadth and scope, but also in depth.”

 

The most attractive areas of cooperation for Huawei today, and for the foreseeable future, are areas in which customers are experiencing their biggest business challenges that only innovative partnering solutions can solve. One of the central business challenges they face is how to foster innovation and achieve growth, and many are placing digital transformation at the center of their strategies through 2020. Yet, according to Forrester research, only 27% of businesses have a coherent digital transformation strategy in place for creating customer value. This is a major concern, and there is fear of becoming obsolete if this gap is not addressed.

 

Huawei’s goal is to be the digital transformation platform that connects intelligence, data, and devices, and that enables its customers to increase engagement with partners and develop applications that foster innovation. “The beauty of digital transformation is that its customer-centric marketing and business processes require the ability to work across business verticals and silos, which requires partners and ecosystems to achieve,” Fox said.

 

To learn more about Huawei’s partnering efforts, read part one of this blog as well as Genevieve Fraser’s Member Spotlight in the Q4 2017 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine. Greg Fox also co-presented, with Andrew Yeomans, CSAP, of Merck Serono, the January 18, 2018 ASAP Netcast webinar “Building the Engines of Collaboration Inside and Beyond the Borders of Mainland China.”

Tags:  alliance management  cloud  digital transformation  GE Digital  global partnering capabilities  governance structures  Greg Fox  Honeywell  Huawei Technologies  ICT  independent software vendors (ISVs)  manage alliance relationship  partnerships  strategic alliances  systems integrators (SIs)  technology partners 

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Huawei’s Strategy for Partnering Success (Part One): Tapping into the ASAP Community’s Best Practices, Professional Development, and Tools

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Monday, March 5, 2018
Updated: Saturday, March 3, 2018

Decades before Greg Fox, CSAP, assumed his current position as vice president of strategic alliances at Huawei Technologies, headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, he held senior strategy, channels, sales, alliance management, marketing, product management, and business development positions at Citrix, Cisco, Novell, and HPE. For the past two years, Fox has lead Huawei’s efforts to build information and communications technologies (ICT) industry-leading alliance management competencies and global partnering capabilities. Today, Huawei Technologies is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world.

 

“Having a strategic alliance background has provided a competitive edge with prospective partners. In fact, strategic alliances are quickly becoming a core part of the Huawei culture and an embedded part of our business strategy,” Fox stated.

 

“And with Huawei’s global market leadership in key markets involving carrier, consumer, enterprise and now cloud, many companies want to do business with us for mutual business advantage. It is a nice problem to have, but that makes it ever more important that we do partnerships the right way, and we set them up for the long-term,” he explained.

 

Given the magnitude and scope of their current level of partnerships, Huawei has developed a tier-one companywide process called Manage Alliance Relationship (MAR) that focuses exclusively on managing the alliance relationship process. This includes traditional 1:1 alliances, as well as managing one to many and many to many partnerships.

 

As Huawei has adopted many of ASAP’s best practices and tools for partner evaluation, recruitment, and on-boarding, the alliance management organization has created many templates within the MAR process. These templates and tools are actively used in every current or prospective strategic partnership and have afforded Huawei a competitive edge in cultivating its growing portfolio of partnerships.

 

“We have a straightforward approach outlined by a five-step process to executing mutually profitable partnerships and as we follow this, we feel that we can improve the odds of success and ensure that all parties profit,” Fox said.

 

“The first step involves partners agreeing on a common set of objectives and a strategy for achieving them and being clear on what all sides get from the alliance. Next, partners must write out a business plan, including determining who is our customer, why will they buy from us, and what is our expected ROI [return on investment]. Third, partners must install governance structures that assign key responsibilities, clarifying who is responsible for what, and which has an identified sponsor who is senior enough to mobilize resources and change course if things go off track,” he said.

 

“Step four involves creating proper incentives for both the direct sales force and indirect channel, with compensation designed to get all parties to make the alliance a priority. And finally, every partnership should be flexible, and alliances must be reviewed quarterly to help leaders respond to changing business conditions,” Fox explained.

 

The five steps are not performed once and then set aside. Instead they are done in an iterative loop, where processes are refined, and targets regularly adjusted as needed, based on every changing competitive environment.

 

To learn more about Huawei’s partnering efforts, see Part Two of this blog as well as Genevieve Fraser’s Member Spotlight in the Q4 2017 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine. Greg Fox also co-presented, with Andrew Yeomans, CSAP, of Merck Serono, the January 18, 2018 ASAP Netcast webinar “Building the Engines of Collaboration Inside and Beyond the Borders of Mainland China.”

Tags:  alliance management  business development  channels  Cisco  Citrix  cloud  governance structures  Greg Fox  HPE  Huawei Technologies  manage alliance relationship  marketing  Novell  partnerships  product management  sales  strategic alliances  strategy 

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