Accenture Research: Building High Impact Partner Ecosystems

accenture research july 2021

Last Updated on August 17, 2021

The partner ecosystem landscape is at a major inflection point. On one side of the coin, customers don’t want to buy single products and narrow solutions anymore. The old world of selling a single product through your channel sales resellers using a PRM is a thing of the past. Customers expect fully integrated, end-to-end, tailor-made joint solutions that create a holistic customer experience. Capitalizing on this customer expectation means actively working with your most innovative ecosystem partners and collaborating to bring the best joint solutions to market.

Partnering with a single company on a single solution is a thing of the past. Delivering end-to-end solutions requires a group of engaged partners that work together on multiple fronts.

At the same time, partner dynamics are rapidly changing. It used to be that large technology providers had their pick of strategic partners to work with. But as more and more tech providers emerge, standing out as an attractive partner becomes more and more difficult (yet critical) to build a high-impact partner ecosystem.

But how exactly can your company ensure the growth and success of your ecosystem? According to a brand new study from Accenture Research, winning the battle for partner mindshare comes down to three critical factors:

  1. Co-Innovating for growth
  2. Collaborating at scale
  3. Co-Investing for the future

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We couldn’t agree more!

We’re thrilled to see these survey results from Accenture because it shows that partner leaders are recognizing the dramatic changes taking place in the market.  And that companies need to build a high-impact partner ecosystem to get ahead of the curve, co-innovate to bring new solutions to market quickly, grow their partner coselling muscle, and beat out fast-moving competitors.

Here’s more on the three pillars, why it’s important to you and your organization, and how you can accelerate your journey with the right technology platform.

Co-Innovating for Growth

With co-selling joint solutions becoming the new name of the game, driving value from your partnerships is integral to ensuring a healthy ecosystem of partners. The best way to add value to your partnerships is by co-innovating for growth. According to Accenture’s survey, 45% of surveyed partners say that their primary business objective is to expand by bringing in more consistent innovation to their products and services.

While single company products may have been enough to win in the past, in today’s hyper-competitive and fast-moving markets, collaborative co-innovation with your partners is critical because it maximizes each partner’s IP and capabilities and, done right, can be launched to market quickly. 

“57% of their surveyed partners believe that the biggest benefit of collaboration is the ability to create more complete solutions to meet customers’ needs.”

By co-innovating, partners can quickly combine complementary capabilities to create new solutions, make preexisting solutions more specialized, solve business problems and win the next deal. In addition, the very activity of collaborating on co-innovation strengthens the relationships between partners and customers creating a healthier ecosystem. 

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According to Accenture, the best practices you should follow to generate the most returns from partner co-innovation are:

  1. Identify compatible offerings
    • Work with partners who are well suited to using your service or platform. Having partners that understand how your products work will maximize the returns from your co-innovation. 
  2. Target investments for co-innovation
    • Make a point of investing in projects that will drive innovation. Doing so will attract the partners who value and are most prepared for co-innovation.
  3. Collaborate to create joint offerings 
    • Co-innovation can’t be done without active engagement from all partners. Ensuring this constant collaboration is integral in the success of your co-innovation.

Co-Investing for the Future

Delivering a holistic customer experience means driving value across the full lifecycle of your customer experience. Partners no longer fulfill archetypal partner roles but instead collaborate to drive value motions, address emerging challenges and innovate together. But as partner types continue to blur, your company needs to re-evaluate their co-investment models and how they measure partner influence. While co-investment in partnership can take different forms, according to Accenture, partners most value co-investment when it relates to innovation. 

Given the dramatic change in partner roles, Accenture highlights some new emerging models that may be more suitable for the new landscape of partnerships. Accenture points out the movement from traditional forms of market development funds (MDF) to the broader definition of co-investment and innovation funds. While market development funds used to be the gold standard for co-investment, innovation funds that create collaborative offerings are the model of the future.

Another emerging co-investment model is consumption/services funds that allow partners to give discounts to customers for joint offerings. Accenture believes that providing partner funds that can increase a customer’s use of your platform, ultimately leads to higher recurring revenue for both you and your partner.

Besides co-investment models, how companies measure partner value and influence also needs to be reconsidered. Given that co-innovation is becoming more important, measuring partners just based on traditional metrics such as sales volume is an incomplete assessment of true partner impact. 

In addition, with end-to-end customer solutions becoming so critical, measuring ROI solely around the transaction doesn’t properly reward or drive the right partner behaviors to deliver value across the entire customer lifecycle. 

Some of the new metrics that Accenture suggests companies should use to give a more holistic assessment of partner behavior includes:

  1. Initial Solution Development Fund
  2. Solution Enablement 
  3. Influence on Revenue

Collaborating at Scale

Co-innovating and co-investing are key to getting the most of your partnerships but these processes are only sustainable when you have a large collaborative partner ecosystem. Partnering with a single company on a single solution is a thing of the past. Delivering end-to-end solutions requires a group of engaged partners that work together on multiple fronts.

“86% of their surveyed partners agreed with the statement that as the world moves to solutions, partner-to-partner collaboration is more important than ever”

According to Accenture, 86% of their surveyed partners agreed with the statement that as the world moves to solutions, partner-to-partner collaboration is more important than ever.

While moving away from a single partner solution, the traditional partner resell model is giving way to greater collaborative sales motions to close deals together. Collaboration is required for creating more tailored and optimized solutions. According to Accenture, 57% of their surveyed partners believe that the biggest benefit of collaboration is the ability to create more complete solutions to meet customers’ needs.

While creating a healthy and collaborative ecosystem is imperative, it is also extremely difficult. Some of the challenges that arise from creating joint solutions with multiple partners include coordinating solution development, understanding how each company’s solution and capabilities can complement each other, working through approval processes across companies and organizations, as well as just finding optimal partners to work with. To mitigate some of these challenges and maximize the ecosystem, Accenture advocates for an ecosystem orchestrator. An ecosystem orchestrator helps define:

  • The overall customer solution
  • Respective partner roles different partners will play
  • Key partners that contribute to the solution
  • Exchange of value between the players

Accelerating Your Ecosystem Journey with Technology

Creating a collaborative and engaged ecosystem is impossible without the right technology and platform. Just as companies are putting the right processes and systems in place to build a holistic customer experience, they also need to build processes and systems that deliver top-notch partnering experiences, reduce friction and grow revenue together.

An ecosystem business management (EBM) solution is the right answer for today’s modern partnering motions.

Effective ecosystem collaboration requires a platform that allows partners to:

  • Manage and streamline co-innovation processes across company boundaries to bring joint solutions to market quickly
  • Allow partners to request, gain approval, and secure co-investment funds at every point along the customer lifecycle
  • Manage a joint pipeline of opportunities for collaborative partner coselling with multiple partners engaged in deals together
  • Work in a shared platform to quickly find, connect, and engage with new innovation partners 
  • Provide reporting and analytics of all shared activities across companies, partners, geographies, solutions, and customers

Along with enabling the ecosystem, having the right platform is crucial to attracting the right partners to work with you. According to Accenture:

  • 75% of surveyed partners seek a provider who can deliver digital experiences that improve ease of business
  • 71% of surveyed partners seek a provider that has analytics capabilities and can share data/insights 
  • 69% of surveyed partners seek a provider that brings together a community of partners and developers for collaboration 

This all adds up to one simple bottom line: if your goal is to co-innovate for growth, co-invest for the future, or collaborate at scale, investing in an ecosystem business management platform is imperative for your success.

Talk to one of our ecosystem growth specialists today.

Chip Rodgers
Chip is passionate about building strong customer/partner communities around enterprises to amplify brand and market impact. Prior to WorkSpan, Chip was with SAP for over 13 years, most recently growing the SAP Community Network to over 2 million engaged customers, partners, and developers. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago and an engineering degree from Northwestern.

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