It was the era of 2G. Marketing teams would dutifully prepare company folders filled with the latest press releases and newest data sheets on the right, and placed neatly behind the stat-filled company overview on the left, the partner logo sheet. Column upon column of named partners that was more representative of logo use than that of knowledge share and collaboration.
Just as 2G has progressed, so have partnerships. In today’s digital world, partnerships have evolved to partner ecosystems…and there is a very different set of expectations that go well beyond this catchy new business buzz phrase. Such as advancing innovation through collaborative initiatives, building customer experiences that utilize the best of each other’s capabilities, and collectively generating reciprocal market growth.
Those businesses that understand the importance of working with a variety of digital partners across industry borders are smartly setting themselves up to benefit from the next wave of innovation (such as 5G) combined with a collision of trends (IoT, growth of cloud adoption, and machine learning to name a few) that are moving from looming on the horizon to crashing market places with tsunami-like force. It is these forward-thinking, ecosystem-oriented organizations that will achieve far beyond what any individual business can do on its own though the sharing of knowledge and unique experiences to develop new applications, products and services.
Though most businesses operating in the digital era are fully aware of the importance of partner ecosystems, they are often stagnated with where to begin. What should the program look like? Who should be invited to the partner ecosystem table?
But first, organizations must appreciate how partnerships have evolved. Like consumers, partners expect to be treated equally on the customer experience scale and expect relationships to be meaningful, not just a business deal or transaction. Whereas their business objectives, and such nuances as how they consider offerings, how they like to purchase, and how they prefer to interact with their customers, including your company, are thoroughly understood and equally considered. In other words, organizations should treat partnerships as a business with dedicated, ongoing resources and a healthy budget. The same goes for partners in turn. Like reciprocity drives loyalty. Building any solid relationship takes time, but those organizations willing to commit will experience the most success, not simply mutual logo use.
Armed with this understanding, the other pesky questions can be addressed. Keep in mind, like relationships, building a program takes time. Start small, start simple, continue to nurture. A current partnership can be a pathway for learning how to collaborate on new services in vertical and across adjacent markets, sharing data and experiences, streamlining operations, adding new suppliers, and everything that comes with doing business in the digital age.
Experience in hand rapidly speeds the process and scale of bringing on more partners and expanding services into new markets. Remember, with partner expansion also comes ecosystem management. The digital world requires an ecosystem-enabled Digital Support System (DSS) platform. One that is SaaS, cloud-based and most importantly, one that can support any business strategy and any business model regardless of B2C, B2B or B2B2X plus any combination thereof on the same DSS platform.
Let’s not forget the competition. As lean, agile digital natives untethered and unabated by traditional ways of conducting business continue to cross industry borders and more and more legacy organizations place focus on building digital initiatives, it’s easy to be blindsided by competition. Impossible to defend all fronts, strong partner-ecosystems provide broader insight, intelligence and front-line defense across markets being served.
As this five-part series on Digital Excellence comes to a close with this final installment, we have examined how the digital era is driving transformation at speed, scope and scale never before experienced. Forcing organizations to fundamentally rethink how their business is conducted, implement the right technology for competing today and whatever their business may look like tomorrow, inducting customer centric business strategies for unsurpassed digital experiences in alignment with individualized expectations, and the fostering of organizational culture in support of digital business. Partner programs have clearly not been exempt from this evolution. Developing into partner ecosystems with far greater expectations than logo pages of the past. Where ecosystems are a path to innovation and growth and partnering with those that may also be, or once have been, your fiercest competitor becomes an accepted norm for achieving unrivaled collaboration and innovation.
In case you missed any of the other blogs in this series, you can find them here: The Four Pillars of Digital Excellence; The Right Mindset; The Right Business Model; The Right Technology; and for further reading, download The Fourth Industrial Revolution White Paper.