When I ask Service Providers, ‘which is the most successful technology partner ecosystem?’, inevitably the answers are either Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Cisco. We all understand how important these ecosystems are, generating a significant amount of revenue – either directly or indirectly.
Healthy programs not only generate additional business to the program owner, but also deliver innovative, value-add solutions to the end customer. It also becomes a competitive differentiator. Despite the many benefits, I see many companies that still lack a strong technology ecosystem program or don’t have one that is healthy.
So why is that some technology partners have a successful program while others are struggling to build one?
Let’s look at some of the main requirements for a healthy technology ecosystem program.
1) Tangible Value: The program should provide a tangible value for the partners and the end customers. Partners will need to see direct additional sales and revenue benefits from this program and end customers should be able to solve their business requirements by supporting these additional partner solutions. Without articulating these values clearly, no program will be successful.
2) Qualification Policies: The program should have clear and measurable qualification criteria and performance metrics. When a program is created, the success criteria should be well defined. If the program entry is porous or lacks a regular compliance follow up, then quality and trust is eroded. I have seen many ecosystem programs that started off very well but lack the discipline of enforcing policies and end up as neglected and ineffective programs. When partners join a program but are not required to regularly comply with the program guidelines, the end customers lose trust and the partners who were previously in good standing, also stop following the compliance requirements.
Microsoft, Cisco, and other successful programs excel in implementing program guideline compliance. For example, Cisco and Microsoft require all partners to regularly go through an annual qualification program and the ones that are not compliant were expelled from the program. Enforcing these requirements will ensure that vested partners are actively participating within the ecosystems, and it promotes a vibrant system.
3) Partner Enablement: Market creation strategies are essential for your partners’ success. It’s the responsibility of program owners to help and create the market for the partners. If this doesn’t happen, your partners are likely to give up on your program early in the process. Your program will live or die according to how well you structure your partner support organization. Successful programs have a dedicated team to help with the sales enablement and market creation. This is a win-win for both the partner and your organization.
In today’s world where everything is run by complex, multi-vendor software solutions and is offered as a service, coexisting with third-party applications and technology components is absolutely mission critical. It is of paramount importance to have a partner program which is healthy, vibrant and provides value to all stakeholders.