As we discussed in Part One, consumer cloud now enjoys a joined-up supply-chain so that, although the solution may involve multiple vendors and complex alliances, the delivery to consumers is now relatively straightforward. The channel needs to follow suit with the delivery of business solutions with multiple moving parts across the likes of the business cloud and the IoT landscape.
To do so, the channel needs to form strategic partnerships that enable resellers to take multiple solutions to market. Hence the new and popular phrase Partner-to-Partner (P2P), which is all about the collaboration within a channel community and which, by definition, doesn’t require the involvement of the vendor.
But knowing you need to partner to bring the right solution to market is one thing – executing on that is entirely different. Here is a 5-step guide to assist.
1. The Strategy: First, establish if this is an opportunistic project or a strategic decision for your business. Outside our industry, we liken this to a builder who accidentally breaks through the water pipe and calls the plumber, versus a construction company that puts together an architect, plumber, roofer, electrician and all the laborers and ancillary team to build a house. Horses for courses, as they say, and different skills are needed for each component. In today’s cloud-enabled world, along with innovations for the Internet of Things (IoT), there are multiple skills and solutions required.
This “strategy” step involves taking a step back, taking your time and taking advice. Using a third party or consulting company can be hugely helpful at this stage to help you review your target customer, the required components and the available options. This is the most important step, as you are deciding upon the core trajectory of your business. Put timescales and goals around this business unit, and if you have the resources, build a proper business plan.
2. Hide and seek: Finding the right partners with whom to collaborate is no easy task. Hours of painstaking desk research may be involved to identify the companies with complementary solutions, skills, resources and culture. Forming a long list is the most time-consuming element, but it can be accelerated a little by partner portals and search engines. There are consulting companies and tools that can assist, but consider a platform that enables all technology vendors and industry partners to locate one another efficiently to build quality relationships, irrespective of region or specialization. Saving time and being productive across the global IT eco-system is vital.
Intelligent, precision search capabilities for other IT companies should be your objective at this stage, enabling you to cut down the time it takes to find suitable potential partners. Having the ability to search across vendors, geography and technology platforms will give you a competitive advantage. Once you have drawn up a long-list, the due diligence has only just begun. So take up references, check out their social footprint and ask customers and colleagues.
3. Engage, making sure you give before you get: This is where the old adage “Walk a mile in his footsteps” comes into play, as you need to understand your potential partners’ drivers and issues. In that way, you can seek to help first and thereby build trust from the start. Research indicates that the single biggest issue in any P2P collaboration is trust, so if you can knock that one on the head from the outset, you are off to a good start.
So what do you give? It can be a sales opportunity that their solution addresses or assistance with some resources on a project – whatever you’ve got that they haven’t, which is why a partnership will make sense.
Face to face is preferable at this stage of the discussions. Sometimes Skype or conferencing will just have to do if distance dictates. But remember that people do business with people, so make sure you bring the team they will be working with together.
4. The Devil is in the details: This guidance may seem obvious but it is often forgotten.
a. Joint statement of purpose – You can then be sure you are aligned. This needs to outline the target customer, solution mix and the delivery mechanisms, checks and balances.
b. NDA – These do not necessarily need to be barbed, but what happens on tour stays on tour. You don’t want your ideas for specific components and collaboration to be taken elsewhere, nor do you want the parties to form the valuable partnership that wins the customers to work with someone else.
c. Terms of engagement – It's critical to outline who leads, who follows, who transacts, who supports, who gains what, who is the first point of contact and all the rest of the essential details. This should also include any exclusions such as working with existing or legacy customers and how the remuneration works.
d. Customer proposition – This is the new joined-up proposition of a collaborated solution in the form of slide decks and other collaterals that will be marketed and presented to the new customer.
5. Try it, amend it, and try it again: Be prepared to adapt the proposition as you engage with potential customers, as they may require something slightly different. But make sure that you do this in collaboration and don’t promise something your partners can’t deliver. This is where I would recommend a Project Governance advisor – an impartial third party to oversee the relationship between customer and partners and keep the expectations real and the wheels moving. Certainly, for any large projects this is a must, but even the first of smaller collaborations can use an impartial observer to ensure goals, objectives, timescales and continuity is maintained. When you have an increasing number of moving parts it can bring confidence to customer and partners alike. Indeed, if it ensures customer satisfaction and a good referral, why wouldn’t you?
In summary, successful P2P collaboration is in the long run based on trust, but as you look to effectively bring your solution to market, there are a number of considerations. This practical 5-step guide should assist you in a seamless strategic partner execution model, and ensure that as you put the right steps in place from the outset, your business accelerates onwards and upwards.