Partnership Thought Leaders: Predictions for 2023

partnership thought leaders predictions for 2023

Last Updated on January 12, 2023

As we get started on this new year ahead, partnership professionals are embarking on an exciting time.

Partner ecosystems have seen tremendous growth in 2022, and the momentum is gearing us up for another year of growth and development in 2023.

But the annual questions still remain: what should your business focus on in 2023? Are there areas of opportunity that you haven’t tapped into but could? How can you ensure success despite the potential economic challenges that we face ahead?

It’s no secret that the upcoming year is already looking like it could be a tough one for SaaS and tech in general.

We’ve already had some significant layoffs with possibly more to come. Inflation. VCs pulling back on funding. A possibly deeper recession in the next 12 to 18 months.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Partnership professionals are uniquely positioned to help their organizations weather the storm and drive significant revenue at lower cost than their direct revenue colleagues.

In this article we asked some of the brightest minds in partnerships to predict what they foresee in the industry in 2023.

Whether you are new to partnerships or a seasoned veteran, we hope these predictions will shed unique insights into the industry and offer guidance on where to double down in 2023.

Predictions for 2023

Name: Kristine Stewart

Role: Founder, Lexington Group

kristine stewart

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

I think we will still have a continued lack of understanding on the part of some company’s execs on why they need to build out their ecosystem and, in particular, their co-selling partnerships (I’ve heard it twice this past week) and second (and inextricably tied) for companies to decide what exactly they expect from and need to build out their partner tech stack.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

I think the forward thinking companies are really going to get their hands around the partner GTM motions around account data sharing and the practice of co-marketing and selling together and showing the results of that to their management. Those companies will have tight ties across all their teams and specifically between their chief partner officer and their CRO. These companies will be accelerated versus their competition.

Name: Allan Adler

Role: Managing Partner, Digital Bridge Partners

allan adler

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

With layoffs and limited operating expense budgets, downturns are always tough because people have to do more with less. This is compounded for partner people, because when layoffs happen, not only are partner teams that are understaffed even less resource than normal, but they work with other partner teams that are also understaffed, and are having the same kind of struggles with fewer people to do more work. When two partner teams who are supposed to work together are both understaffed, that’s a bad combination.

Partner teams will also be pressured to show return on investment from having invested in new tools like automated account mapping, but lacking partner operations investments, lack of integration to other groups & weak alignment with RevOps teams, will make it difficult to argue for continued investment.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

2023 will be the year that customer success and partner teams finally work together to deploy tech partner integrations and better together stories that lower churn and drive NRR growth.

Name: Chris Samilla

Role: Chief Partnership Officer, Partnership Leaders

chris samilla

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

Lack of context up the leadership chain about the value of Partnerships is unfortunately quite common. If you haven’t invested in helping the leaders of the other departments (Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, Product) understand partnerships and the value it generates for their organizations there will be risk for the partner team as many businesses face economic headwinds. You could have a similar situation at the board level as well. Make sure everyone understands the role of Partnerships and the impact it generates beyond just sourced revenue.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

The partner tech stack is still quite fragmented and siloed from each other, but the lack of available funding in the market will likely drive some companies to be acquired by better funded or later stage companies. We will also see SaaS solutions focused on sales and marketing professionals start targeting the partnership space to expand the value they provide and create differentiation thanks to an increasing awareness about the partnership persona being underserved tooling wise compared to other GTM functions.

Name: Alex Smith

Role: VP of Channels, Canalys

alex smith

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

Unfortunately, we have to point to the economy. I don’t believe we’re heading towards a catastrophe, but 2023 will certainly see less growth than 2022 and 2021. If you weren’t making big bets in the past 18 months, you have probably fallen behind your competition. But going forward, a degree of conservatism is important to planning. For partner professionals, the challenge will be showing quicker returns in a highly scrutinized business environment. This is a difficult ask because a successful partnering strategy is about longer-term ROIs. Partner professionals will have to learn to operate in an environment with shortened return cycles, and that may cause frictions amongst stakeholders.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

Budgets will see limited growth. The market has had a ‘one-two’ punch of record inflation and slower growth, putting strain on profitability. This, coupled with rising interest rates puts a burden on corporate income statements and businesses are looking for every edge to retain (or reach) profitability. Layoffs, headcount freezes, marketing holds, project terminations; businesses are looking at budgets to see where tightening is possible.

Name: Janet Schijns

Role: CEO, JS Group

janet schijns

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

2023 will be a challenging year in the partner community as we will see economic stress coupled with changing market dynamics creating a double impact in the market. Changing how partners go to market to digital first, ensuring partners know how to practice social selling as only 11% of partners are highly skilled there, and evolving how you use MDF to drive sales vs brand awareness despite larger partners not wanting that evolution are top of mind as some of the difficulties we will see in the market.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

The right channel partners become the ANSWER for corporations who need help with deflation to overcome challenging economic times. With staff redux, economic stress, high interest rates, and political uncertainty all being stressors on corporations the right partners will help corporations use technology (AI, data, mobility, automation) as a deflation enabler to combat inflation in all other areas of the business.

Name: Amit Sinha

Role: President and Co-Founder, WorkSpan

amit sinha

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

2023 is projected to be a tougher economic environment, doing more with less is required. It is already the norm in partnering – we do not need to shift to that (perhaps the only team in enterprise B2B that has that DNA, to begin with!). However, in 2023, partnering leaders will prove this with data.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

Data will be the key component to successful partner programs. Here’s how:
1) Revenue Impact – Partner leaders can show how a new pipeline was added with partners (partner sourced), how quickly it converted to revenue (deal velocity due to warm introductions and relevant advice), and how often we won with partners vs. without (higher win rate with a partner attached).

2) Efficient Marketing Expense – co-marketing performance data will show the reduced marketing cost to introduce new solutions, and reach new buying centers and markets vs. other marketing tactics (ecosystem sourced leads), including digital, which will prove to be more expensive.

3) Efficient R&D – Each company will focus on its core, they will partner for the rest – expect co-innovation to be bigger (number of joint solutions), cheaper (cost to develop a secure, globally scalable solution on hyperscaler for instance is already a fraction of what it used to be as an example!), and faster to market (time to market) – ecosystem will be a more efficient R&D machine in a tough economy.

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

Organizations that are trying to do more with less often move to survival mode and go back to old ways like direct-only B2B.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

That’s a hard one – I predict that the organizations that take the opportunity to continually invest in their partner programs during any down cycle will gain greater market share. Not investing is a self fulfilling prophecy.

Name: Dan Graff-Radford

Role: CEO, Allbound

dan graff radford

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

Leaders of partner programs are being asked to do more with less. We have had thousands of conversations with channel leaders and they have had a lot of support this year versus prior downturns as their leadership teams are tapping them for durable growth strategies. This is based on the metrics well run programs have put out in the last few years in terms of ROI. That said, they are being asked to achieve more results with limited increases in investments across the board.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

I predict that there will be a bifurcation of channel programs. Leaders with great relationships with their C-Suite and clear ROI metrics will see expansion of their programs across 2023. Some of the other programs that have not yet proved their metrics are more at risk over the next year.

Name: Adam Michalski

Role: VP, Partnerships, Crossbeam

adam michalski

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

Influenced revenue is going to be under more scrutiny than ever. In a down market, pipeline generation is crucial – partnership teams need to focus on Sourced Revenue while still pushing hard on why Influenced is a key metric. Better attribution is coming soon to help – for now, don’t try and swim upstream – give the C-Suite what they want: sourced pipeline.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

2023 is the year that partnerships go mainstream. As an industry, we’ve been saying it for a while. But 2023 is when it actually happens.

Advances in technology and macro shifts will make it clear that your ecosystem is your most efficient growth lever.

Name: Daniel Lancioni

Role: Senior Director of Partnerships, Reveal

daniel lancioni

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

A reduction in collaboration from key internal stakeholders with the partnership’s organization. Large layoffs means there are less resources around partnership teams to run events, build product integrations, to speak with partners, etc; all of the things that are critical to a healthy and predictable partner program. Internal resource availability for most partnership teams has often been a struggle, and I only expect this to get tougher in the year ahead.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

A heightened focus. As the economy leans into a downturn focused on profitability over growth, partnership professionals are going to be expected to demonstrate and highlight their value and deliver material impact to the business from their leaders.

It will be essential to over communicate that value internally to all stakeholders about what it is, and what it isn’t and also to partners alike ongoing on sourced pipeline and closed/won revenue for Partnership Professionals, especially in businesses who are performing below expectations. Why?… A low revenue expectations business + high interest rate/inflationary environment = more expected layoffs. So the closer you are, as an IC or a team lead, to generating and closing revenue, the more protected you will be in a turbulent 2023.

Name: Rob Rebholz

Role: CEO, Co-founder, Superglue

rob rebholz

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

Unfortunately, we’ll see more layoffs and budget cuts in partnership departments. Lots of companies that had a long term view on ecosystems will shift to a more short term perspective. Proving the ROI of partnerships and getting C-Suite buy-in will not become easier but it will become even more important.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

2023 will be all about doing more with less. Most partnership teams won’t get the headcount they need and will therefore have to find alternative ways to scale and drive their impact. We will see companies reevaluating partnerships and initiatives that don’t deliver immediate value. We’ll also see those companies looking for ways that partner tech & automation can drive efficiency and scalability.

What do you see as some of the challenges facing partner professionals this year?

As the economy leans into a downturn focused on profitability over growth, partnership professionals are going to be expected to demonstrate and highlight their value and deliver material impact to the business from their leaders.

It will be essential to over communicate that value internally to all stakeholders about what it is, and what it isn’t and also to partners alike ongoing.

What would be your one prediction for the upcoming year?

I foresee the green shoots of partnerships to come to the forefront as a strong strategic asset as businesses look towards either expanding alternative distribution channels, adding more value to current customers through connected solutions or closing sales faster with a partner led approach. This will create an *aha* moment for many, and those who don’t invest in this space will quickly fall behind their competitors.

The common theme

The common theme that permeated the predictions for 2023 involves navigating a changing (and challenging) economy.

In order for companies to weather a potential storm, it’s likely there will be budget cutbacks across the board. Those parts of the organization that can demonstrate they are driving value to the business will fare the best as resources become tight. So it’s critical for you and your partnerships teams to have the systems, tools, and analytics to drive value and to demonstrate that value clearly to your execs and the board.

Reductions in team and budget mean that the most necessary tools are those that help scale programs effectively, and ensure that revenue goals are met. Finding ways to do more with less is going to be a key theme for this upcoming year.

If you are a company that currently partners with a cloud provider like Microsoft, AWS or Google, you know the amount of effort needed to make it successful. Maintaining accurate data, consistently sharing it with partners, uploading it into partner portals – it is a heavy lift for partner teams to stay up to date.

How WorkSpan can help

The WorkSpan team feels for our customers and partners as we all prepare for potentially choppy waters this coming year.

WorkSpan’s solution can provide a valuable resource for lean teams looking to win at scale, by streamlining and automating key processes and enabling you and your partners to collaborate more effectively.

Manual entry of co-sell opportunities takes countless hours for your partner team, and results in opportunities missed and manual errors that slow down the ability to co-sell with cloud partners. It is time-consuming, frustrating, and putting a crimp in your pipeline.

WorkSpan easily integrates to your CRM and is already integrated with cloud hyperscaler partner platforms, resulting in error free, accurate management of co-sell opportunities. It also results in seamless communication between your sales teams and your partner’s sales teams and shorter sales cycles as information is shared in both directions in real time.

To make partner teams more efficient and empowered, they need to be equipped with tools that make time-consuming processes easier, and allow for deals to close quickly and seamlessly.

Wrapping it up

First we want to thank all of our outstanding contributors to this 2023 predictions blog! You’ve all gone out on a limb to share your predictions which is not easy. We really loved hearing from you and we know our readers will appreciate your thoughts as well. (We’ll check back at the end of the year and let you know how you did! 😁)

As for 2023, it’s shaping up to be a challenging year for the tech industry. However, with the right strategies and tools, partner professionals can help their organizations weather the storm, drive meaningful revenue, and come out well positioned for the boom that will be coming in 2024 and beyond!

So, as we move into the new year, it’s super important for all of us as partner professionals to stay adaptable, focused, well-organized, and committed to driving results for our organizations.

We’d love to partner with you to help you win in 2023!

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.

You might also like...

28-Page Ecosystem Maturity Guide and Self-Assessment

Inside You’ll Find:

  • The 5 Ecosystem Maturity stages
  • What stage you are in
  • How to move to higher stages and reap the rewards of a business ecosystem