For the past few decades, we have defined our industry’s innovation by technology gains and by the commercialization of the new business models attributed to those technology gains. The innovations have been fast and furious: millions of apps, self-driving cars, AI– (artificial intelligence-) operated wind turbines, concentrated solar power, intelligent robotics, human augmentation, and many other emerging technologies. What these all had in common was a widespread platform strategy of cloud– and security-inclusive technology that enabled rapid scale and seamless benefit delivery.
That age of technology innovation has delivered so many choices to the world that it has ushered in a new era: the age of collaboration as innovation. Let me explain: Long gone are the days when any single technology provider, partner, or creator could go it alone. The business needs are too complex; the technology is too advanced; and the need to integrate across business units is too great. Today, we see partners working with partners; partners working with direct sales teams; independent software vendors (ISVs) working with ISVs; vendors working with vendors; and an entire community of players working together to address the needs of the enterprise. The ones that are truly successful are working on collaboration in a new manner, which I’ll elaborate on in this report.
The State of the Partner Ecosystem
First, let’s set the stage for what is happening in the partner ecosystems. These ecosystems have always been a growth multiplier for businesses that distribute technology or need to service technology. But partner-led growth and influence have been constrained by a lack of data for decades. The status quo doesn’t scale. What every ecosystem chief knows now is that their teams will only scratch the surface of the potential revenue buried within their existing partner ecosystem unless they help drive cross-collaboration. But it’s hard to unlock all this potential revenue buried below the surface. Doing so often means breaking decades of ingrained behaviors that must be unlearned across the organization. So, just what did firms that succeeded at collaboration do to correct this issue? Here are some of the top takeaways we see in the market from those partners who are winning at collaboration:
1. Started With the Data
Successful collaboration partners have realized that they need the right data to collaborate effectively. Sales discussions and PowerPoint presentations alone simply won’t make it happen. They took the time and used the tools to ensure they had the right data on their customers, prospects, and shared opportunities. Guessing wasn’t in these partners’ vernacular.
2. Turned Away From Competition and Embraced a Culture of Collaboration
Partnering with firms that do many of the same things doesn’t throw these market winners off their game; rather, they welcome the overlap. They work with a wide variety of partners and establish clear strategies for how to manage the overlap (geography assignments, customer assignments, technology spaces, etc.) and then they execute past it. By not competing with those in their space, they often innovate past others who continue to see everyone else in the deal as competition. Often, they even create robust new solutions that help them outmaneuver their remaining competitors. As a result, they win more often and have a deeper impact on their customers’ business as they are seen as collaborators regardless of who wins the final deal.
3. Established Clear Rules of Engagement
Winning at collaboration takes a winning strategy and clear rules of engagement. Establishing these rules includes elements such as who will cover sales, service, support, and billing without conflict or overlap. Drafting, reviewing, and agreeing to these rules with the parties they collaborate with are the key to these collaboration firms’ successes. There are never surprises, grey areas, or unresolved issues thanks to said rules, which can be enhanced or updated as the situation demands. Clarity matters both to the partners who are working together and the end user customer who doesn’t want to see in-fighting among their partners.
4. Built Trust and Empowerment
Firms that win at collaboration as an innovation also have a unique way of building trust and empowerment deep in their organizations for those who work with other partners. They trust their teams to make the right decisions, work with the right partners (because they have the right partnership profiles in place), know the right direct sellers, and collaborate in ways that make the deals work both for all partners and the end user customer. Part of that trust and empowerment culture comes from tools that deliver a level playing field for the relationship and protect all parties in the collaboration.
5. Used the Right Tools to Power the Relationships
The tools to ensure collaboration are key. When working across multiple partners or with a partner and a vendor, organizations must ensure that shared data is accurate; that activities are carried out as promised; and that the rules of engagement are followed. These are all things that the right technology tools can help carry out. Tools like PartnerTap are being used successfully now by many organizations to map accounts, identify opportunities, and run the opportunities to a successful outcome.
The bottom line on collaboration as innovation is this: Winning firms aren’t winning by luck or chance. They are winning because they built a plan, had the data, used the data and tools available, and made the right impacts. What’s in your collaboration plan for the coming year? It might just be the biggest area of innovation you need in your business — so let’s go get to it!
Join us on February 23, 2023, for Partners Ecosystem Week, a digital event analyzing the business and IT imperatives around cloud, AI, automation, and cybersecurity ecosystems that define the future of partnerships.
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