Major technical innovations and growing customer demands in recent years have led to the popularity of less centralized ecosystems in the business world. The stress is now on building equal partnerships with value-adding third party vendors such as service providers, hardware and software vendors, value-added resellers, two-tier distributors, managed service companies and referral evangelists, for a rich collaborative ecosystem supporting your company’s product/service offerings. If your company is not positioned to participate in this new multiple partner ecosystem model, then you are likely to lag behind. Are you wondering about the future challenges of successfully building mutually beneficial relationships in your own company’s ecosystem? What are the different types of companies that your business will need to partner with in the coming years for continued success? In this article, we explore the efficacy of network partner ecosystems to support the “anytime, anywhere, any device” business needs of today.
Why Ecosystem Partners?
Any large or small business can substantially reduce operating expenses and gain important competitive advantages from a strong, strategic partnership networks. Partners can help overcome your limitations of internal resources to build new solutions and allow you to scale your business in terms of technical ability, customer support, and sales capabilities that you would never be able to achieve alone. The technology ecosystems dating back to the 60s through the 90s were smaller and had a tendency to roll out changes over months or years. The difference going forward is that rapid advances in technology and changing customer demands now require a more agile adoption, development, and use of multi-vendor solutions for any infrastructure. Moreover changes on the vendor and customer side keep shifting the goalposts making it a real challenge for businesses to stay aligned. Businesses can no longer wait for providers to catch up with major technical innovations but rather look to unleash the power of skills, tools and ideas from associated partners in order to grease the wheels of growth. You get cost-effective, real-time access to diverse partners and solution providers as part of your technology ecosystem. A rich partner program enables adoption of assorted technology for different layers of infrastructure to create better solutions and services for customers. There are virtualized platforms, cloud services, appliances, on premise solutions, internally developed applications, hosting services, and different customer devices that can all interact.
Potential Ecosystem Partners
Success depends on embracing innovation, change, and technology to solve business problems. A rich partner network provides the best antidote for resolving business problems involving a range of services and technologies. Here are just some of the key partnerships businesses can develop with other organizations.
- Technology Partners– Partnering with a technology company provides valuable products that can be integrated into another vendor’s product to capture newer markets. They include third party application developers, implementation tools providers with specialization in “tools” to add value to your product and platforms, verticalization specialists focused on building industry specific customized solutions for their customers, or even platform providers for tighter integration. Businesses can also benefit from partnering with system integrators, who can build systems using off-the-shelf hardware and software packages from different vendors to meet your company’s IT needs, or even with bundlers or value-added resellers integrating various solutions into a single bundle for customers.
- Technology Service Providers– Technology service providers are professional service companies or individual professionals working directly with the technology product. They work either with end clients or together with other partner organizations. Tech service providers include implementation consultants to help customize and configure technology products for local markets, vendor management consultants for negotiating and procuring vendors, custom development specialists to build applications or technology centered on off-the-shelf solutions, or support service providers for maintenance and technical support of products. Managed service providers specializing in the network, its infrastructure, and the implementation of services for customers can enrich your business partner ecosystem as well.
- Sales and Marketing Partners-These partners are distribution partner channels that help in scaling sales and marketing of your company’s product and services. You may be interested in developing co-marketing partners to work on different solutions for the same customer base. Your business may even benefit from building partnerships with referrers or different types of sales agents who recommend their customers to your services or products. Most importantly, creating partner networks with end retailers of IT, network, and software solutions can most definitely help grow your business’ reach.
There are also non-technology service partners who can influence the decision of prospective buyers in the market towards preferred vendors like industry associations, standard developers, technology evangelists, training providers, and industry analysts.
A clear partner ecosystem development strategy should be part of the growth plan of your business. Let us look at some of the top challenges faced by the service provider ecosystem when building effective channels and partnerships for the future.
1. Your business needs to develop a gap analysis to identify pressing problems in different aspects of your business. This will help determine what you can do and what weak areas you need your partners to address.
2. You have to define and support a culture of partnerships within the company. It is possible to build a committed partner-centric organization with effective features like partner programs, deal registrations, conflict management policies and good support systems.
3. Finding and building relationships with the right partners and service providers can prove to be a real test as they need to be aligned with your company needs. Your choice of partners should be based on the value proposition and benefits you can gain from these different players.
4. Companies often find it daunting to manage operational challenges with partners, while working on ongoing sales engagement to strengthen their presence in the market. It can be hard to balance competitive partner alliances in order to reduce the pressure on the distribution channels.
5. Time and resource management is central to building trusted partner relationships. It is absolutely essential to fully support your partners’ solutions, services, and sales efforts for the sustained success of your business. You also need to ensure adequate training for the technical and sales teams to improve the quality of service and support your business offers. The real challenge lies in improving the integration between service, training, certifications and community supported knowledge base being offered by partner networks.
6. It is vital to keep communication channels with partners and vendors open in order to promote engagement and help partners grow the ecosystem as a whole. Good communication and partner-to-partner connections can lead to excellent execution and sharing of responsibilities for success.
Scale-up With Partners
Henry Ford- “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” With an ecosystem of trusted partners at your side, it is a win-win situation for both businesses and customers. Multiple players in an ecosystem model provide incremental value with the addition of each new user and each new service. Whether your partnership ecosystem is large or small, it enables rapid changes in competitive advantage for companies and helps create new customer experiences with a vision for the future. Businesses across all industries and not just limited to tech, product or service providers can develop partner ecosystems to capture new growth opportunities.