How to Tap the Power of Strategic Alliances and Partnerships?
SARITA BAHETY | November 2, 2021
Why form strategic alliances and partnerships?
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Strategic alliances are key to business growth. They bring our strengths together to serve our clients better. I believe that each partner offers unique benefits to tap into and help achieve value at scale that the digital world demands.
The North Star that guides our partnerships is our purpose to engineer sustainable businesses to improve everyday life. The partner ecosystem strives to bring end-to-end solutions to our clients and to continually infuse innovation as well as best-of-breed thinking to influence business outcomes. To that end, we constantly explore the potential of emerging technology, growing our relationships and building our partner network so that we bring fresh ideas and custom-made solutions to better serve our customers.
How to establish winning alliances?
The heart of building and nurturing alliances lies in designing and managing them to foster collaborative behavior. It also requires being aware as well as being able to mitigate the factors that can result in alliance failures. A successful partnership is pivoted on the winning formula of, “1+1 is greater than 2”. We work with our strategic alliances, the recognized leaders as well as the disruptors in the industry to generate Return on Investment (RoI).
Best practices to develop and nurture a differentiated alliance:
1. Laser focus on who and how to partner: While it may look good to have a vast number of partners tagged to one’s brand, it is often an ineffective approach. It simply spreads the focus too thin. I believe in working with a fewer number of strategic partners, understand their operating model, craft a solid go to market strategy and implement it with the endorsement from executive sponsors. This means, aligning on a singular vision – agree on the impact we want to co-create and then formalize an execution plan to co-sell. It is equally important to highlight the strength of alliance to all the stakeholders across the business. While the fundamentals of how to run an alliance remain the same, each vendor is unique: they vary by industry, region, size, complexity, and hence require a bespoke approach. Strategic alliances are not a one-off transactional relationship, but a long-term view of how the partners can generate synergies to help address clients’ pain points. An added dimension to achieving partner success is the “three way” or “triple play” partnerships. An alliance of three partners with complimentary strengths and assets can yield competitive advantage.
2. Leverage the power of networks: An alliance success is often determined by the power of networks.
Trust is the heart of any network. A well-run partner ecosystem relies heavily on the people driving it. Professional networks in the industry across geographies and executive connect at both business and technology level are pivotal to run a well-oiled partnership engine. I have observed that successful alliance leaders not only cultivate relationships across functional areas internally, but also within the alliance organizations across the regions and with the clients and prospects. Even if one’s purview as an alliance leader is a certain partner (industry and geography), it is important to be able to deal with the cultural differences. This is true especially when engaging with the stakeholders across the organizations and regions. It is getting even more relevant in today’s hybrid mode of work.
3. Partner Up: A consistent communication with our partners helps us uncover potential opportunities early in the sales cycle and iron out any differences. Regular partner governance ensures legal compliance and privacy imperatives are embedded from the beginning. This allows us to not only jointly solve the challenges our clients grapple with but also to co-innovate. Cadence also helps organizations to predict demand, timely invest in training, certifications and overall enablement of associates to be delivery ready. After winning business together, partners should look to leverage these successes with the support of marketing. Partner marketing can elevate and amplify the visibility of alliance across social channels. The impact can be seen in terms of accelerated lead volume, higher deal velocity and expanded deal size. Simply put, it improves the overall health of the pipeline.
An ideal alliance leader:
Gone are the days when alliance management was a nascent business function and an after-thought.
Today, as forward-looking businesses are leveraging their partners to tap into newer revenue streams, the art of managing alliances is now being recognized as a business acumen. Organizations are investing in these roles and are assigning Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to generate partner-led revenue. Increasingly, alliance leaders directly report to the C-suite.
Another clear trend is, often professionals who have spent a certain time in the industry and have taken up a variety of roles across geographies are hand-picked to don the mantle of an alliance leader. This can work well given that these individuals bring with them a well-rounded perspective of the industry and a vast professional network. This comes handy to diligently navigate both internal and partner organizations, align and advance.
Businesses can radically improve their alliance success rates by incorporating the best practices. They need to invest in people, processes and relevant technologies to derive the full potential and future proof their alliances. It is both an art and a science. Therefore, it is important to build an alliance team, which is both diverse and inclusive. Such a team sparks new questions, challenges the status quo and fuels outperformance.
The rewards of adopting alliance best practices can be big. The risks of not doing so may be even bigger.