Partner Engagement Technologies – Unravelling The Strategic Partner Go-to-Market Catch-22

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Despite billions of dollars flowing through strategic partner go-to-market initiatives, the integration of go-to-market processes between partners continues to be problematic. Companies can’t effectively assess cause and effect or make decisions about scaling investment because there aren’t effective means for tracking end-to-end ROI.  As a result, leaders managing these partnerships are often frustrated by their inability to gain sufficient political and financial capital to drive enterprise change with strategic partners.

Managing strategic alliances is a complex process.  It cuts across marketing, sales, development, finance, legal, and other enterprise processes and unlike managing a direct sales organization, involves working with partners’ systems which sit outside enterprise firewalls. The combination of disparate processes interacting with a multitude of third-party companies makes partner management goals (orchestration, operationalization, visibility, accountability, and scale) very difficult.

The ability of partner and alliances leaders to create systems that orchestrate, operationalize, and measure cross partner end-to-end go-to-market activities (what we call Partner Engagement Technology or PET), is held back by the lack of hard metrics quantifying the enterprise value of business partnerships and their joint activities.  And until recently, truly effective PET tools and systems, focused on cross-company, strategic go-to-market collaboration, have not existed.

Given these challenges, partner organizations often focus on solving point problems – such as how to effectively co-innovate, go-to-market, co-sell, on-board, co-market, motivate, tier, track, etc.  And many partner management systems are single-threaded (addressing point concerns), homegrown, and/or managed manually with spreadsheets.  Or in the case of PRM tools and partner portals, they concentrate on one-to-many marketing asset distribution and ineffective deal registration processes.

Ironically, partners, which are all about achieving enterprise leverage and scale, are managed through unleveraged, cumbersome, manual processes. It’s a catch-22.  The fragmented nature of the all the systems needed to manage partner activities results in a lack of hard metrics for enterprise impact, which keeps partner organizations from getting the funding they need.

At the end of the day, partnerships are hard to ramp, hard to train, hard to motivate, hard to track, and hard to measure. No wonder strategic partner go-to-market is often a clumsy art instead of a streamlined science!

To sum up, in the voice of the technology vendor C-staff leader:

“Yes, we need to go-to-market through strategic partner relationships, but no we won’t really invest to make them great and we’ll fire the guy in charge because he/she didn’t get it right, again.”

On the partner side of the equation, despite the huge dollars flowing through partner ecosystems, partners uniformly report that among their greatest frustrations is how hard it is organize and scale go-to-market with technology vendors. 

As the digital tsunami continues to push partner ecosystem players to alter their business models and become more important to vendors, the competition for ecosystem mind and wallet share may come down to vendors’ ability to efficiently ramp and scale strategic partner go-to-market activity.  Ecosystem players will stop doing business with clumsy non-agile partner processes just as they stopped using enterprise software that didn’t meet their end customer needs and expectations.

The strategic imperative for tech vendors is to:

Strategically orchestrate, operationalize, scale, and most importantly measure end-to-end partner go-to-market activities as a primary driver of market share growth and profitability”

Vendors who don’t get partners right will lose critical time to market advantages, resulting in lost market share and diminished enterprise/shareholder value.

Fortunately, the advent of new Partner Engagement Technology (PET) solutions such as those offered by Workspan demonstrate that ecosystem management can include scale, visibility, and accountability.  These new PET solutions promise to enable a whole new approach to managing strategic partner alliances.

Will this be the year of the emergence of PET as a new enterprise software category?  Vendors that are not strategically focusing on how to build agile and efficient partner go-to-market processes beware.

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