The Do’s and Don’ts of Partner-to-Partner Ecosystems

September 20, 2007 at 1:32 am Leave a comment

By Diane Krakora

The Facts are:

1. More than ½ of all technology purchases through indirect channels now involve 2 or more solution providers

2. 75% of solution providers partner with other solution providers to improve their capacity, capabilities or reach

3. Solution providers project 25% of their revenues in the next year will come from partnering

Partner-to-Partner networks are generally formed by a vendor to encourage peer-to-peer collaboration in order to bring more complete solutions to their customers in less time and for less money. Vendors invest in the design and implementation of these ecosystems to facilitate the process of different types of partners coming together to collaborate on the development of new and innovative solutions to customer needs. Basically, they’re helping companies of all types, hardware makers, software developers, solution installers, service outsourcers, to find, meet and engage with each other. This enables organizations to find allies no matter their geography, technological expertise or vertical market knowledge and coordinate activities designed to deliver comprehensive solutions to customers.

An interesting recent example is that of Cisco helping two of their partners — Calence and IPcelerate — come together to collaborate on a solution for a franchisee of 26 SUBWAY restaurants in Tucson, Ariz. The customer was looking to upgrade his communications infrastructure and add a series of new feature-rich business applications such as timecard and shift management, daily deposit reporting and operational task reminders. IPcelerate, a Dallas-based Cisco Technology Developer Program Partner, designed, developed and implemented a set of highly customized applications so that using the touch-screen of a Cisco IP Phone, employees could interact with software applications in the same way they interact with the franchises’ current point-of sale-computers. While Calence, a Phoenix-based Cisco Gold Certified Partner, planned, designed and implemented the Cisco Unified Communications system to go along with the new app’s.

In facilitating partner-to-partner networks we recommend the following:

Do – Focus on customer and partner needs

First off, the vendors should define a customer centric ecosystem: Consider, what is of value to the customer? Where do they like to learn about solutions? Where do they buy? This will help the vendor determine what types are partners are needed to reach the customers with a full solution. This focus on the customer’s need directs who should be part of the ecosystem and what types of transactional relationships need to be built.

Do: Develop a P2P Plan

Begin with the research to understand where your partners are already typically partnering. Consider what they are already doing? How they are doing it? What do they need from you to make their efforts easier or more effective? Plan your ecosystem growth accordingly. Determine up front how many partners you are able and/or willing to support through the ecosystem, when to develop and ramp each type of partner into the ecosystem, and what readiness or enablement activities are needed to make it effective. Determine what role you want to play in developing an ecosystem, what the rules of engagement will be and what infrastructure or technology you will use to facilitate their collaboration. Ecosystems can sometimes take on a life of their own, such as the International Association of Microsoft Certified Professionals, so vendors need to decide how much direction facilitation, participation and investment they want to make into the ecosystem. We recommend a supervisory role rather than a command and control position in the ecosystem.

Don’t: Underestimate the investment needed

Partner-to-partner ecosystems cost money — lots of it and other people’s too. Most organizations we’ve talked to have underestimated the investment their organization and the partner’s organizations had to make to develop the environment that facilitates collaboration among ISVs, IHVs, and Solution Providers.

Don’t: Forget to measure success

The investment in both the infrastructure and human resources that are needed to facilitate partner collaboration needs to be considered and weighed against the potential sales influence and increased revenue that could be driven by the ecosystem participants. Establishing metrics by which to measure P2P Program performance will help you more easily track the program’s success and determine the ROI you are realizing from your partner collaboration enablement efforts. Finally consider that possibility that not all partners will choose to participate. Some may already be connected to the partners they need through other means, or find the investment to engage with you too high. Several organizations we’ve talked to about partner-to-partner ecosystems have overestimated the benefits of investing in developing a network and have challenges proving the value of their investment.

To read more about P2P ecosystems and get a practitioner’s perspective, click here to read highlights from of a Q&A session with Mike Haines, General Manager of US Partner and Channel Strategy at Microsoft. Mike tells us more about what Microsoft is doing to facilitate partner-to-partner ecosystems and some of the benefits and challenges they have experienced. To view the replay of a webinar on the topic, click here.

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Entry filed under: Partnering Tips.

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