Recruiting technology partners is an advanced skill reserved for those companies with both a strong competitive drive and a culture that values strategic thinking. By aligning partner recruiting with strategic planning efforts, companies can outmaneuver competitors and maximize their market success.
Technology partner recruiting snaps into the larger strategic alliances assessment effort, but instead of focusing on capacity planning, the emphasis is on addressing customers’ unmet functional requirements and filling competitive gaps by with other ISVs. Your company may not have the industry or technical expertise to develop a specific capability or the desired product functionality might be IP-protected. In either case, speed to market, inability to recreate the functionality, and compelling revenue potential are good motivators to recruit technology partners.
Partner strategy is an important element of the strategic planning process. The partner team is in a unique position to drive new growth by 1) providing cross-group perspective of the company’s top growth opportunities (that transcends individual product teams) and 2) extending current product capabilities through partners.
To do this, the partner team needs to work with the product teams to understand the development roadmap and the customer team to understand functional gaps currently posing sales challenges. Well-connected partner team leaders are able to assess the company’s product strengths and weaknesses and the ability of partners to fill those gaps. The annual business rhythm around strategic planning encourages this cross-group collaboration, but the partner ecosystem data gathering and market assessment should be year round.
Company growth can be organic (expanding along the current trajectory in existing market segments) or inorganic (faster growth through new partnerships or acquisitions). Where senior leadership is driving a high growth agenda, the partner team can provide value in quantifying new market opportunities and how new partners and acquisitions enable faster than organic growth. This is different than sourcing technology partners to be more compelling to customers in current markets. Rather, this is about monitoring partner intellectual property and execution strengths and taking a strategic view as to which adjacent markets could be entered or entirely new markets could be created by teaming with other technology partners. This kind of leadership is more commonly found among startups where they are open to new directions and possibilities. Larger companies have to force themselves to think this way to avoid the natural innovators dilemma trap.
The result of a technology partner recruiting assessment includes documenting the market segment opportunities, the criteria to win customers or new markets, and valuation of the technology partner recruiting effort. This Partner Gap Assessment informs the degree of investment in corresponding business development resources and marketing incentives.
Technology Partners Assessment Criteria
The criteria for assessing technology partnerships includes market potential and partner execution capability.
Size of market unlocked: Take a multi-year view of market potential, understanding that teaming takes time. Establish a minimum market size, below which it isn’t worthwhile to investigate further. When pursuing competitive partners, consider your managed partner support costs (required after the incubation period).
Predictability of future revenue streams: When modeling market potential, include an indicator of probability. Big revenue opportunities with low probability may indeed be worth pursuit, but it’s important to understand that before investing in the effort.
Current partner relationship: The current partner program tier and depth of current product integration indicates degree of alignment and commitment. The more competitive their current position, the more incentives you’ll need to provide to win them over.
Competitive alignment: Investigate programs enrollment and degree of engagement with your direct competitors. Explore whether target partners have a managed relationship with a competitor, which would pose resistance to a managed partner relationship with you.
Technical track record: Consider the pace of innovation and integration/development history of potential recruits. If they’ve grown through acquisition and subsequently released only minor updates, they may not be as capable to engage new ventures.
Marketing muscle: Assess whether target partners are effective in launching new products and their ability to solicit and close new customer sales. Partners more focused on maintenance will be challenged to execute well in new markets.
Customer reputation: Consider the general satisfaction of target partners’ customers as well as other partners working with them. This “ease of doing business” indication will help you assess risk and probability of success in partnering.
Technology Partner recruiting entails mobilizing business development managers who can secure partner commitment of development resources, preparing joint partner planning (with milestone based rewards/support), and driving go to market activation. Measurement of solutions in market, marketing campaign results, and closed business are key performance indicators.
How is the partner team integrated with the strategic planning process today?
Are there steps you can take (partner ecosystem modeling, product roadmap assessment, analysis of market potential) that can enable you to have a more strategic contribution during the next planning cycle?
How is the partner team actively positioning complementary technology partners to customers?
How is the partner team contributing to corporate development and the definition of new markets?