By Jacqui Rand
In the last five to eight years, vendors, VARs, agents and distributors have performed 360-degree transformations to their businesses. Cloud and IoT technologies have exploded and are changing the landscape, forcing businesses to adopt subscription-based models over traditionally selling products and services. This has sparked a need to identify channel partners with whom to team up and deliver these solutions, as the wide range of skills and expertise required is often not available within one company.
Consequently, the channel is evolving. Fewer and fewer IT companies work in isolation, providing customers with all their technology solutions and solving all technology requirements. There is an increasing emphasis and need for partnerships across the channel.
But how are channel players coping with this change?
This is where partner-to-partner (P2P) collaboration has a large role to play. It has been heralded as the “next big thing” at Microsoft’s worldwide partner conference. With that in mind, we have outlined some steps channel organizations should jointly take to adopt a winning teamwork strategy.
Planning: First and foremost, establish if it’s an opportunistic project or a strategic decision for your business. This involves taking a step back from the daily issues of the business; it might be useful to seek a third-party impartial adviser to help you review your target customer, the components required and the options available. This is the most important step, as you will be deciding the main direction of the business going forward. It’s also important to put a timescale and goals around the business. As part of this planning stage, building a suitable business plan to drive the project forward and keep you on track will be a valuable investment.
The search: Hours of painstaking desk research may be involved to identify the most suitable companies for solutions, skills, resources and culture. Compiling that list can be a time-consuming task, which can be accelerated a little by partner portals and search engines. It’s also where my company comes in, with a platform that enables technology vendors and industry partners to locate one another to build quality relationships, irrespective of region or specialty. However you find partners to collaborate, look for the ability to search across vendors, geography and technology platforms. That will give you a competitive advantage.
Research, research, research: You need to understand your potential partners’ drivers and drawbacks. Research has indicated that the single biggest issue in any P2P collaboration is trust, so it’s important to establish it from the outset. It’s beneficial to organize a face to face at this stage of the discussion; sometimes Skype or conferencing will just have to do if distance dictates. But people do business with people, so make sure you bring the team that will be working with the partner.
Iron out the details: It may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked in the enthusiasm to start a new project. It is crucial to ensure that a joint statement of purpose is drawn up so that you can then be sure that all parties are aligned. This needs to outline the target customer, solution mix and the delivery mechanisms and all necessary checks and balances.
Also, an NDA should be in place. These don’t necessarily need to be barbed, but you need to feel confident that your ideas for collaboration will not be taken elsewhere. Likewise, iron out the terms of engagement — who leads, who follows, who transacts, who supports, 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 flows.
Lastly, discuss and agree on the message around the new joined-up proposition of the collaborated solution (in the form of PPTs and other collaterals) that will be marketed and presented to the customer.
Expect the unexpected: Change is inevitable, and the plan will no doubt alter as you engage with potential customers. But ensure that you make adjustments in collaboration, and never promise something your partner is unable to deliver. During the implementation, consider a project governance advisor — an impartial third party to oversee the relationship between customer and partners and to manage expectations. Certainly, for any large projects this is a must, but even smaller collaborations can benefit from an impartial observer to ensure goals, objectives and timescales are maintained. When you have an increasing number of moving parts it can ensure customer satisfaction and a good referral.
In summary, successful P2P collaboration is above all based on building trust. As you look to successfully take your offering to market, ensure that you put the right steps in place from the outset, so that your business can flourish.
Jacqui Rand is co-founder & director for Channeliser.