What is it?

The Audit is a review of the ability of an organisation to partner. It includes an assessment of the match between the current business goals and existing partner resources, market reach, delivery capability etc. It may result in recommendations to change internal organisational structures, or to recruit new partners, or to end existing relationships. The audit should also include a business case for implementing its recommendations.

Conducting an audit internally is a challenge, as it needs to assess objectively the people and functions involved in partnering. Reviewers must understand the context, challenges and potential of effective partnering. Internal auditors may not have the required objectivity or partnership experience, and may lack the ability to ‘sell’ the need for change against inertia and ‘gut feel’.

Why do we need it?

Organisations contemplating partnerships for the first time risk investing in the formation of a partnership, only to see it founder due to a lack of appropriate resources and supporting structures. Equally, companies experienced in partnerships need a periodic audit to check that they are managing their partnerships in the most effective way, balancing short- and long-term objectives. Evidence from Alliance Best Practice (ABP) shows that annual reviews are a feature of successful alliances.

An audit has three purposes: to provide an objective assessment of the organisation’s partnering capabilities and current partner relationships, and to identify opportunities for improvement. The audit should uncover a basic business case which justifies investment in the partnership function.

"Sound strategy starts with having the right goal." Michael Porter

What is it?

The Partnership Framework Objectives cover setting the business goals for partnering, determining the requirements for partners, and developing a Partnership SWOT as a basis for strategy development.

The business objectives are ideally objective, but could also be subjective. They must, in either case, be documented and used consistently throughout the partnering process. The Partner Requirements document can be a ‘pen sketch’ of an ideal partner, or alternatively it can be a more rigorous list of requirements (in terms of market reach, technologies, support and service capabilities, and cultural fit). A SWOT is a great way to capture the internal and external situation in a single page document. It should highlight the most important issues and provide a focus for the strategic planning process.

Why do we need it?

Setting objectives is vital to the creation of any business strategy. For partnerships this is particularly important, since there is often considerable investment in building processes and relationships which, if the objectives are unclear, may not result in an acceptable return. Equally, potential partners may be reluctant to invest in a relationship with unclear outcomes and future relations may be soured by a vague approach.

Given clear business objectives, it is possible to create an outline of the type of partner required. This approach is in contrast to one based on historical or opportunistic relationships. Serendipity can sometimes deliver effective business, but it’s easier to justify investment if the fit is clear.

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." Sun Tzu

What is it?

The Strategic Plan covers the development of: the Partnership Strategy, the Tools and Processes for its implementation and management, and plans for Incentives and Internal Communications.

The Partnership Strategy documents the options and the chosen approach to partnering, together with the rationale behind it. It also covers the implementation plan for the strategy. Partnering almost always involves cross-company activities that can create conflict with existing functions (for example, direct sales). To avoid this, a plan to develop or adapt the internal performance incentives and internal communications should also be created at this stage.

Why do we need it?

If an organisation has a corporate, business unit or product strategy that describes 'the route to market' strategy in detail, then a separate Partnership Strategy may not be required. However, many organisations do not, and the cost of implementing partnerships with no strategy can be significant. There are costs in terms of management time to debate best approaches, to revise proposals, and to introduce apparently attractive but irrelevant prospective partners.

Few organisations have a partnering culture. For many partnering is a challenge. Having a partnership strategy, incentives for staff to follow it, and internal communications to ensure everyone understands the approach is vital to avoid prevarication and internal conflict.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln

What is it?

The Partner Plan delivers the plans and programmes required to guide the implementation of the Partnership Strategy.

Three documents describe how the organisation will select and work with partners. The Partnership Commercial plan covers the preferred commercial model(s), and who should be involved in creating them; for some organisations this may be a simple reseller agreement, for others a complex Joint Venture agreement. Getting the structure and limits of the commercial relationship agreed early on is especially important for larger organisations. The Partnership Programme describes the structure of the relationship with partners in detail. It will include the selection, tiering and partner incentives. The Partner Identification document converts the partner requirements into a list of targets or target criteria.

Why do we need it?

Most organisations wanting to recruit partners will have a well developed partner programme, but this may be inflexible, incomplete or not reflect the objectives and strategy. If the commercial model is missing there may be ongoing delays in signing up and motivating partners. Without good partner identification, effort may be expended on attracting, negotiating with and then losing inappropriate partners, bringing the programme into disrepute.

“Every solution to every problem is simple. It's the distance between the two where the mystery lies.” Derek Landy

What is it?

The Solutions element of the Partnership Framework defines and communicates the solutions that the partnership will take to the market.

An objective of most partnerships is to create a sale. In all but the simplest sales situations, this will be around a solution consisting of both products and services. The solution and proposition are defined and documented together with the audience-specific messaging. This is then used to develop the internal and external communications. This information can be combined in a partner-ready Portfolio Guide, which covers all the solutions that are to be taken to market with the partner(s).

Why do we need it?

Communicating your capabilities or offer when the solution is not well defined, the proposition is ambiguous or the messaging is generic, is a recipe for endless debate and lost sales. As a prerequisite for working with partners, a clear description of your propositions and audience-based messaging is required. This is to ensure that partners get a consistent view across their organisations and that they understand the value you bring to the relationship. Pulling this all together in a Portfolio Guide will maximise the opportunities for selling or finding partners that can enhance your solutions.

“What really matters in a networked age? Relationships.” Reid Hoffman

What is it?

The Partner Recruitment Process enables organisations to attract and contract with suitable partners. The process of forming partnerships is split into two parts: Partner On-boarding and Partner Enablement. On-boarding is the commercial process of contracting and communicating the business engagement rules. Enablement (see separate column of the framework) moves the relationship to the optimum level.

A proactive recruitment approach is more likely to result in a productive fit. A Partner Prospectus describes your ‘to partner’ proposition. Such an approach helps, internally, to clarify the ‘to partner’ proposition, and to reduce engagement time with valuable partners and wasted time with unsuitable ones. If multiple partners are to be recruited, then a Partner Micro-site provides a valuable focus for communications. Once prospects are identified, a Partner Qualification tool ensures the right partners are recruited.

Why do we need it?

Ideally you will want to proactively choose your partners. So you need to target your chosen partners and attract them, rather than just signing up partners who are easy to contact, or who approach you. And you don’t want to waste resources by explaining your proposition to unsuitable organisations. Having a clear approach will help avoid issues and ensure those working with you can identify suitable partners.

Reducing the cost and time of selecting/creating partnerships isn’t just a good thing for your own organisation. It also prevents the partner from receiving a poor impression – you won’t burn bridges. Having a clear qualification stage, you can ensure that the investment in the partnerships will deliver an acceptable ROI.

“My model of business is the Beatles... great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” Steve Jobs

What is it?

A Joint Portfolio is created from partnership solutions and propositions.

For partnerships aimed at creating new products or propositions, once the partners are on board, the solutions and/or propositions need to be developed. This task is usually completed prior to taking the solution to market, although occasionally a customer may become directly involved. The Partnership Framework does not cover product development aspects – there are established processes for this.

It is important to test the proposition at the earliest stage possible and certainly before any significant investment is made. Testing should be internal, with the partner(s), and external, with prospective customers.

The Joint Proposition Development must be matched by a joint business case which ensures both (or all) parties see the solution as being viable.

Why do we need it?

Even where the solution development investment is relatively modest, it is still vital to have a formal process for developing and documenting the proposition. Without this, the resources expended in creating and developing the relationship may be wasted. The creation process ensures there is alignment with the partner in the areas of understanding the problem, the market requirements and targeting customers. As such, it is not so much a documentation process, as a way of capturing and aligning the IP and strategic perspectives of the partners. Early activity on this task will significantly reduce the subsequent costs of solution development and marketing.

In addition, by developing a Joint Business Case, the aspirations and commitment of the two parties can be agreed and confirmed prior to external communication, avoiding inconsistent engagement with customers. The business case also ensures that realistic expectations are set with senior sponsors; this should avoid conflict and lack of support as the partnership develops.

What is it?

Partner Enablement is the creation of the information, materials and processes that allow solutions to be sold effectively to both partners and end-customers.

Developing the partner solution and propositions will generate documents for internal use by product management, product marketing and marketing. These need to be developed into materials suitable for use by all those engaging with customers, and especially those responsible for sales. Taking the proposition and messaging as a starting point, a process is initiated which adds knowledge of the market, of the sales cycle, and of real customer engagement to produce content and tools to be used in sales situations. These describe the problem and solution and how to target the right prospects, together with supporting information needed to pursue a sale (competitive comparisons, proof points, case studies, etc.).

Why do we need it?

Most commercial partnerships are formed with the objective of selling something. So, it is important to ensure that salespeople are enabled to sell the solution. Traditionally this was done by providing technical information and customer materials, but this approach leaves a gap in terms of the information about ‘how to sell’ the solution. The consequence is more technical support, longer sales cycles and a failure to win sales. Fixing this is now seen as a priority by many technology companies. But it remains a real challenge requiring cross-company working. Marketing departments are often tasked with filling the gap, but they rarely have the resources or the ability to engage sales, the latter being essential to making the process a success.

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Andrew Jackson

What is it?

Partner Business Development is a systematic approach to seizing the opportunities for increasing revenues and profitability by winning business through and/or with partners.

It consists of developing short-term (12-24 months) plans for managing and enhancing partner relationships and, where applicable, growing partner sales (6-12 months). The Partnership Framework develops these as separate documents, but they are closely coupled and can be integrated. The Partner Sales Plan focuses on the revenue objectives and the activities required to achieve them. It can also incorporate non-revenue objectives e.g. the penetration of new market segments or improvements in customer satisfaction. The Partner Relationship Plan describes how the relationship will be managed and may range from the strategic to the tactical. Where appropriate, one or both documents may be shared and developed with the partner.

Why do we need it?

There are two perspectives on Business Development within a partner context: winning sales and building the partner relationship. The former without the latter is likely to deliver short term revenue at the expense of long-term growth. The latter without the former will result in senior executive scrutiny and the undermining of the partner investment. Planning the activities at the right level of detail helps with team-building, internal resources and direction. In addition, it avoids drift and discontinuities between the strategy and the day-to-day partner activities.

What is the Partnership Framework?

To make a success of creating and developing partnerships, organisations must adopt a structured approach, with supporting resources and processes. The Expertek Partnership Framework provides a model for the establishment and management of partnerships.

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