Last Updated on May 13, 2021
Companies today require agile innovation and the ability to quickly form creative solutions to solve customer problems. The need for more agile ecosystems has created a demand for an entirely new way for companies to work with partners with speed, agility, and effectiveness.
Research from top analyst firms like Gartner, IBM, Accenture, IDC, Forrester, and others show that the top-performing companies have adopted an ecosystem model for partnering.
Companies have been selling their solutions through channel partners (“sell-through” model) for years using traditional PRM solutions. But to remain competitive and thrive in today’s market, modern partnering requires collaborating with your partners in an ecosystem model (“sell-with” model).
What is Ecosystem Cloud?
While this massive disruption is taking place and ecosystems are on the rise, the ecosystem partnering model has lacked a solution designed with these new collaborative partner motions in mind. Companies have been using spreadsheets and emails to collaborate with partners requiring excessive amounts of time and effort for manual updates and data reconciliation between partners.
Ecosystem Cloud is the shared place where all partners engage equally through a single, secure, cloud-based network. Your company can share its solutions, opportunities or marketing plans with selected partners. Your partners can share their solutions, opportunities or marketing plans with you. Notice that explicit sharing is needed – only those users and partners that are in the sharing list are given permission to collaborate.
Ecosystem Cloud enables a collaborative environment. Each company can selectively engage with their ecosystem and customize their own data model, access policies and reports for their needs; integrate with its own SSO, CRM, PRM, and Marketing Automation systems.
“As Is” Architecture: PRM + Spreadsheets
PRM and Partner Portal solutions were designed and built to handle the traditional channel “sell-through” model of partnering. The philosophy when implementing a PRM and Partner Portal solution is typically:
- Set up a partner portal
- Invite partners to your portal (partners login to each company’s different partner portal)
- Offer training and enablement
- Enable deal registration
- Track partner incentives
However, your top partners demand more collaboration with you and want to execute on sell-with, market-with and build-with motions that are customized for their objectives and initiatives. Such collaborative execution is simply not handled by traditional PRM solutions. In fact, for your top partners, they may also have their own PRM / Portal solution. When that happens, who will log into the other’s portal to transact major deals together? The answer is neither — companies are not using PRMs for these kinds of transactions.
What is used? Your Partner Business Managers (PBMs) – sometimes called Partner Development Directors (PDD) – are using spreadsheets and emails to try to manage their programs, initiatives and pipeline with your top partners.
The bottom line, if you’re like most companies, your current process to manage your top partners looks like the architecture shown above. You’re using a PRM solution to handle well-defined packaged use cases with partners (channel marketing, channel enablement, deal registration).
And for your top partners, your PBMs are managing programs, initiatives, plans, pipeline, solutions, and marketing in their own spreadsheets. However, each partner manager uses a different format of spreadsheet and a different process depending on the partner they are working with, the region, industry, and solutions they are selling. This makes it hard to report and manage effectively across all your top partners.
“Modern” Architecture: PRM + Ecosystem Cloud
Ecosystem Cloud is built as a network of peer companies that are planning and executing together. Each company, including your own, logs into one place to work with all of your ecosystem partners. Your partners do the same to work with you and their own partners. This provides a single, shared system of engagement and system of record to manage their partner build-with, market-with, and sell-with activities.
As the chart below shows, Ecosystem Cloud allows your PBMs and their counterparts to work in a single place together that securely integrates with your CRM and PRM solutions to align all of your GTM motions with your ecosystem partners. Many of our customers choose to keep their current PRM and Partner Portal in place to provide a simple login-based model for your volume channel VAR partners to log in and download partner materials or training courses.
Collaborative Execution via Ecosystem Cloud
An Ecosystem Cloud enables these 3 elements for effective collaborative execution:
- A Peer Network of Companies — All participating companies in an Ecosystem Cloud are peers across the network and log into one system to connect and conduct business with all other partners on the network. This allows partners to engage in “n-way” partnerships inviting in whichever partners are working together to bring a solution to market or manage joint pipelines together.
- Flexible business schema — All companies on the network have their own ways of organizing their internal systems and ways of interacting with the market. Ecosystem Cloud solutions have the built-in flexibility to accommodate different data models and configuration tables for each company in the network to allow for every company’s unique way of defining their building blocks of business, like industries, regions, market units, organization structures, etc.
- Configurable business policies — similarly, each company in the network may have different ways of defining their business processes, data views, metrics, derived fields, values, etc.
PRMs are not organized to enable Ecosystem Cloud. Each PRM is set-up by the host company and is customized for the host company. Your partners cannot set up their own business schema, set up their own SSO and access policies, set up their own CRM integrations, and hold their opportunities private from you.
There is a massive opportunity ahead for organizations able to embrace this modern architecture leveraging the Ecosystem Cloud platform. McKinsey estimates that digital ecosystems will account for upwards of $60 trillion of revenue by 2025 — more than 30 percent of all global corporate revenues.
And at the same time, IDC declares:
“Partners that adopt an ecosystem business model will grow 50% faster than partners which do not.”
IDC, January 2019
Forward-thinking organizations are preparing now by defining and implementing a vigorous ecosystem strategy that includes a modern partnering architecture with Ecosystem Cloud.