Opinion Piece: Rethinking Partner Ecosystems in Times of Accelerated Change

29 April 2020 | Partner Enablement and Loyalty

In this opinion piece, Andreas Ried, Founder and Owner of Aximpro, shares his views on how global megatrends and accelerated change are impacting partner ecosystems. He also shares recommendations on how to shift focus accordingly and take the necessary action.

When we talk about partner ecosystems, we sometimes forget about all the people involved. Trends indicate that people are working in a much more individualized manner, without having established relationships with employers. Furthermore, self-employment rates are increasing, and organizations are becoming even more decentralized. Due to these factors, loyalty levels are naturally lower and no longer a given. Looking at this specifically within partner ecosystems, partners can work with Vendor A today, but choose Vendor B tomorrow.

Historically, vendors have been more focused on working with partner organizations but because of the current landscape, the need is now greater to focus on partners in a more individualized way.

Current Trends: Changing with the Times

In general, the consumption of technology has changed fundamentally. In the past, our industry was pretty much all about the technology business and partner ecosystems were there to serve tech vendors. In the past, not all businesses used technology, but nowadays there is not one single business that doesn’t – even flower shops do. Therefore, changes in this regard need to be acknowledged in order to serve all markets – even if they have a lower affinity to tech. It’s important to note that with these market changes also come changes in individual skills.

Another trend is that brands are becoming less relevant – especially if they have no purpose or don’t deliver a positive human experience. In the past, a company’s brand was always very important, but the reality is that customers don’t care because systems are compatible, and buyers’ decisions are more about price points. Because of this, partners now easily shift from Brand A to Brand B, which is a big disadvantage for big and well-established brands that relied on brand loyalty.

There are a few trendsetting companies that are managing their partner ecosystems well. For example, instead of having just dedicated partners in the ecosystem, some of them have hundreds and thousands of freelancers. It is proving to be a very beneficial approach. This also relates back to the trend of people working in more individualized ways.

Another example in the software industry, is an approach where many models can only be sold by the company itself or its partners. Out of this commitment, the company is really reaping rewards.

So, while in the past it was all about loyalty, these kinds of trends and changes are forcing vendors to rethink their approach to partner ecosystems.

Recommendations: Individualization Is Key

There are, of course, many approaches to adapt to trends and accelerated change, but now really is the time to rethink your partner ecosystem strategy and to deal with partners in a more relevant and individualized manner.

Recommendation 1: Get to Know the People
There should be a serious shift in focus and a serious interest in getting to know as much as possible about the people that are relevant to partner ecosystems. The focus should not just be on partner levels and partner organizations, because this really is an outdated approach. You should know as much as you can about individuals, follow their social footprints and actively engage with them. It’s about interacting with people and forgetting about partner levels while doing so.

Recommendation 2: Focus on Upskilling
We are currently trained on the tech we have, but with accelerated change comes new ways of working. Therefore, training is needed to empower those working in partner ecosystems and improve their levels of specialization based on the business needs.  

Recommendation 3: Run Cutting-Edge Programs
To work with partners effectively and provide impactful communication and individualized engagement, programs should run smoothly and be user-friendly. It should be 100% responsive and all features should be available on any device.

Final Thoughts: It Really Is About the People

I speak to many individuals that oversee partner ecosystems and for them portfolios and priorities are usually the main aspects that are top of mind. And this really is where the shift needs to happen – if you don’t intend to be good to individuals, then your offering won’t be good either and you won’t get to that individualized level.

The world – and business world for that matter – is nothing without people. There are people behind sellers, buyers, partners, vendors… There are not just production units, but actual people who are producing things. It’s from people for people. And this is what we forget so often, because we take such a super sophisticated and overcomplicated view of partner ecosystems. We need to put people in focus again – especially now.

Andreas Ried_Founder and Owner of Aximpro

About the Author: Andreas Ried is Founder and Owner of Aximpro, a multinational software development, as well as omnichannel marketing and consulting company. His experience includes international sales and marketing management positions at Microsoft, TechData, EpsilonSystems and Info’Products.

[CHECKLIST] How to Revive a Stagnant Partner Program

This checklist highlights some must-have aspects to revive a stagnant partner program, as well as helpful tips to motivate and retain channel partners.

Download Checklist