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Partnering Superheroes | Who Better to Combine Collaborative Leadership Skills with Strategic Vision and Ride Them All the Way to the C-Suite?

Posted By Mike Leonetti, CSAP, Friday, April 17, 2020

Superhero movies are definitely, as the kids say, “a thing.” They’re fun and exciting, a great way to liven up a long winter night. But do superheroes really exist, and could they have any relevance for us in terms of business strategy? I didn’t think so, but recently I was part of three conversations that changed my mind.

 

First, I spoke with Elizabeth Gazda, CEO of Embr Labs, in anticipation of her upcoming Leadership Forum talk at the ASAP Global Alliance Summit. Embr Labs makes a wearable bracelet that can raise or lower your skin temperature to help with stress reduction and anxiety and improve sleep and focus. Before joining Embr, Liz cofounded a fintech and a music technology startup, and worked at some of Boston’s first “unicorns,” like ATG and m-Qube.

 

Liz made the point that the collaborative leadership and critical thinking skills needed in the C-suite are very close to those of the alliance management competency profile. Liz believes partnering “superheroes” can and should be showcased in their organizations as potential future CEOs. In her view, alliance management is the perfect preparation for executive leadership, especially as more and more companies undergo digital transformation via partnerships and seek to nurture and reward collaborative entrepreneurial excellence.

 

A second conversation took place in early February in Boston, at an ASAP New England chapter meeting whose theme was “Taking the Next Step: Critical Skills for Aspiring Alliance Executives and Organizational Leaders.” Moderated by Mai-Tal Kennedy of Vantage Partners, the discussion featured panelists Lou Shipley, former CEO of Black Duck Software and a lecturer at Harvard Business School and MIT; Christine Carberry, CSAP, board member at the UNH Entrepreneurship Center; and Andrew Hirsch, CFO and head of corporate development for Agios Pharmaceuticals.

 

All of them highlighted both the difficult job alliance managers have and its relevance for future career success. Lou in particular noted the number of alliance management “superstars” at his previous organization, including one who combined the roles of alliance management, business development, and investment banking expertise—superhero skills indeed. This individual directed the ultimate spinoff of the company and saved it close to $10 million. How’s that for adding value?

 

The third conversation was Jay McBain’s January 30 ASAP webinar, “Top 10 Channel and Alliances Predictions for 2020.” This presentation, an outgrowth of Jay’s influential research for Forrester, highlighted key trends affecting not only the tech world but most industries, as nearly every company, he says, is fast becoming a technology company. (See our cover story in Strategic Alliance Quarterly on ecosystems, for more of Jay’s and other experts’ timely insights and analysis of this exploding phenomenon.)

 

Among these trends is what Jay calls the “trifurcation” of the IT indirect sales channel into an influencer channel, the familiar transactional channel, and a retention channel. He noted too that with such heavyweights as Microsoft and Salesforce bringing hundreds or thousands of new partners into their ecosystems every month, a great partner experience is quickly becoming as important as a great customer experience when companies look strategically to their future.

 

With this heightened awareness of the interrelated issues of customer and partner experience—especially the complex retention phase—how are we going to manage all these relationships and ecosystems? What sort of superheroes will be needed to lead behemoths like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, IBM, and others into the partnering-everywhere world?

 

I think you know the answer. Who better than alliance professionals? As Jay said, they’re the ones with the right résumé to be ecosystem managers and orchestrators—not only in IT, but in biopharma, manufacturing, consumer goods, and across industries. These partnering specialists, collaboration leaders, and strategic visionaries have the capabilities, the skills, and the superhero savvy to get it done—the same attributes that make them ideal candidates for the C-suite.

 

So what’s holding us back? Despite an abundance of evidence, not enough companies have grasped the full implications. I see many organizations focused on the transaction—and not applying partnering best practice in the retention phase of sales partnerships. As Jay argues, some of them—even among the Fortune 500—will end up losers, sticking their heads in the sand and refusing to adapt to an oncoming future where customer satisfaction is increasingly delivered through a great partner experience (Px).

 

Alliance professionals can make Px a reality right now. The lessons of past partnership failures should be enough to rally today’s C-suite leaders to seek success in the massive partnerships their organizations will undertake. In addition, organizations must begin grooming their best alliance managers for the C-suite and other positions of leadership in the future—even as they’re employing them for partner and customer retention in the present. We have the tools, the skills, and the people to get the job done; what’s needed is a true focus and consensus that partnerships are difficult and require best practices and trained professionals to make them successful. That and a hardy band of partnering superheroes—with or without the cape.

Tags:  alliance professionals  Black Duck Software  Christine Carberry  collaborative leaders  c-Suite  ecosystem  Elizabeth Gazda  Embr Labs  Google  Harvard Business School  IBM  Jay McBain  Lou Shipley  Mai-Tal Kennedy  Microsoft  MIT  partnerships  Salesforce  UNH Entrepreneurship Cen  Vantage Partners 

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Five Future Channel Trends to Plan for in the New Year

Posted By Jay McBain is CEO of ChannelEyes, Guest Blogger, Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As we kick off 2016 and prepare for the March 1-4 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland,  outside Washington, D.C., I wanted to share some of my observations on the ever-changing technology channel.

We are witnessing a changing of the guard from a channel perspective. Fewer companies will fit the traditional reseller or solution provider label, as many have transformed (or born into) a recurring revenue business model around managed services, cloud, SaaS integrations, line-of-business, and vertical specialists.

The channel topped out at roughly 1,000,000 companies worldwide in 2007, employing more than 10 million people. In addition, hundreds of thousands were employed indirectly at vendors, distributors, associations, and media organizations. The deep recession of 2008 had a major impact and hasn’t bounced back the way most of us expected. While the broader economy is trending back up to 2008 levels, the channel continues to slide.

What is happening out there?

1. The channel is shrinking at an alarming rate: Recent reports from CompTIA and IPED show a current North American technology partner base of 160,000 companies (600,000 worldwide). It may sound like a healthy number, but it is down 36 percent since 2008 and continues to face 10 percent to 15 percent annual attrition for the foreseeable future.

Keep in mind the 160,000 includes a much broader audience than just resellers—it includes all kinds of consultants, coaches, etc. A more accurate number, including people who directly influence and resell hardware and software products, is closer to 75,000 (with half of those selling enough product profitably to sustain a business). Your future channel and alliance partners will be smaller in number, but more focused, specialized, and effective.

2. The channel is getting younger—much younger: Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of
CompTIA, kicked off his ChannelCon keynote with several pieces of research. First, an estimated 40 percent of the entire channel will retire in the next 10 years. Yes, 4 in 10. Second, those retiring will be replaced by millennials. In fact, in 10 years, 75 percent of the channel demographic will not have been alive when IBM introduced the PC (and the channel as we know it) in 1981.

This generation grew up on computers and will be pursuing different business models than the traditional reseller models we have today. They will look more like vendors, with in-house development teams, software products, and intellectual property. In the future, strategic discussions with partners will be less about incentives and education and more about integrations and co-marketing.

3. The channel is small business, and getting smaller: Much of the attrition that I mentioned above has come from within channel companies. They are doing more with less. The average channel partner has eight employees, and 97 percent of them have fewer than 50.

With the rapid growth of freelancing (think oDesk and Elance), offshoring (Fiverr), and rapid software development (Mechanical Turk), many companies are outsourcing their own functions, such as marketing, operations, finance, and custom development. Vendors are looking at opportunities to help their partners with these functions and keep them focused on (selling and) delivering solutions for end customers.

4. Vendor numbers are exploding: The above trends have an interesting side effect—the number of vendors in the marketplace is growing at a surprising pace.

Channel companies are leveraging their deep industry knowledge with unique integration skills (across dozens of vendors’ APIs) and creating products and specific intellectual property to deliver niche solutions.

At one time it was called “value add,” but today partners are incorporating these ideas into new companies and products and then going to market themselves. These products have narrow addressable markets, and the need to find resellers will continue to grow.

I predict that in 10 years, the number of vendors will outnumber the amount of pure-play resellers. Start thinking about future competitive threats and how to manage co-opetition moving forward.

5. Influencers and connectors are becoming more important: Without naming names, our entire channel ecosystem boils down to a small number of individuals who connect large amounts of like-minded people. You probably know many of them!

For example, the North American IT channel has roughly 100 people that will get you one degree of separation from anyone else. These super-connectors are very different from one another—some are media, some run associations, others are vendors or distributors, others make a living on making connections for you.

Some things are clear: The amount of noise and clutter will not stop growing. People buy from people they like. Economic scarcity is evolving into information scarcity. The network effect will drive winners and losers in the next 10 years. Start thinking about your network—do you have the right mix of influencers and connectors to drive your channel sales?

Seventy percent of all IT dollars are now being spent outside of IT by people that vendors and channel partners don’t know all that well. Sales, marketing, finance, HR, operations, and development teams are rapidly deploying technology, and it is forcing the channel industry to get smarter.

These trends are reshaping the channel, not replacing it. As with every other threat in the past 30 years, the channel will come out stronger, more nimble, and better able to serve evolving customer needs.

Happy New Year!
 

Guest blogger Jay McBain is CEO of ChannelEyes information technology services

http://channeleyes.com. He will be presenting the session “Five Future Channel Trends That You Need To Be Planning For Todayhttp://www.strategic-alliances.org/page/sum16sessions, at the March 1–4, 2016, ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland, USA.

Tags:  channel partners  Channel Trends  ChannelCon  ChannelEyes  cloud  CompTIA  connectors  influencers  integrations  IPED  Jay McBain  line-of-business  manged services  revenue business model  SaaS  technology channel  Todd Thibodeaux  vendors  vertical specialties 

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