Partnership Myths – Part 2
6. Partners usually embark on a simplistic Go To Market: This is probably what I am most passionate about. Great business plans are almost never worth anything once the partnership has been announced. The go-to-markets vary from the banal “I will take you to my account and vice versa” to more lofty “we will integrate our products/services”. Simple integration usually does not lead to too many gains. Part of that comes from the fact that now you have two companies fighting for the same (or nearly the same) budget that the customer has. And inherently, each will try to maximize their share.
7. Making a partnership work takes a lot of hard work: If anything, this is the single most reason why partnerships do not pan out. It is not easy to keep so many divisions of two different companies in constant touch points and ensure are working [part of their time] on common goals. It takes a lot of commitment and trust from each partner. Setting up a Partners division usually does not do anything other than the fact that you at least have somebody who will try to follow up on action items and try to keep the “relationships” live. However, this organization usually has absolutely no authority to get anything executed thru the line managers. Successful partnerships have commitments right from the top who is willing to demonstrate it too.
8. Success from partnership requires patience: This goes with the previous point. My experience has been that C-level executives expect results – in terms of sales dollars – too quickly from partnerships. It takes a few years to get a coherent story to the market that customers find appealing. And this assumes all the backend from sales commission to product integration has been worked out. However, usually, executives start questioning or second guessing within 6 months of announcing a partnership.
9. Successful partnerships take very deep skins in the game: The only kind of “deep skin in the game” I know of is hard money. There are two cases where I have seen partnerships have the rare success. The first is where a company not only announces a partnership but at least one of them takes a stake in the other (sometimes both take stake in each other). This is commitment at the highest level. There is a tangible way of benefiting from each other’s success. In case of vertical partnerships (e.g. one is a software company and the other is a services company), it gives the much sought after “exclusivity”. The second model – which I have seen lesser number of successful cases – is when the sales organization is commissioned on selling the partner’s offerings. The reason it is less successful is pretty obvious – at the end of the day, a company will pay more to a sales person for bringing green dollars to the company.
10. Two and Two has to add to Five: Finally, a partnership, from a customer’s point of view is something interesting (and the whole partnership will eventually come unstuck if customers do not buy) if the sum of the two is truly more than the parts individually. Other than the marketing slides, the customer needs to be convinced that this truly solves their business problems more and at an advantageous rate. Most importantly, the two teams together can do a better job than if the customer has to buy them separately and put them together.
I do want to point out that there are partnerships in software world that have succeeded. I consider the Big-5 partnership with SAP as a big success. From what I saw, I think Accenture with Retek was a good success too. I am told IBM and Dassault had a very successful partnership too. But they are few and far between. If you or your company are thinking of getting into a partnership that is to bring in any meaningful money, think about it carefully and convince yourself that you are willing to put in the money and the effort. For the fun truly starts after the initial euphoria of PRs and handshakes are over…