Having multiple alliance partners within an ecosystem supplies additional resources, intellectual property, access to technology, and more ideas.
Alliances can also create additional challenges — no longer are you working with one set of developers, one sales team: everything is multiplied.
We spoke with Bluefin Solutions’ Global SAP Alliance Director, Robert Walmsley, at the SAP Global Partner Summit, to learn some of his best practices in alliance leadership. His team works closely with SAP to create powerful Bluefin solutions built on SAP technology.
Robert joined us at the summit on Facebook Live to share his best practices on alliances.
As an alliance leader, you wear a vast number of hats.
The first challenge Robert mentioned? The amount of hats you have to wear within alliances.
When he first came to Bluefin Solutions, Robert had a mound of work waiting for him: He needed to understand Bluefin’s go-to-market strategy, get buy-in from the Sr. Management, the president, the global head of SAP, and then, he had to go through similar steps with SAP. Further, he had to sell SAP’s vision internally at Bluefin, and then sell Bluefin’s vision to SAP.
This is true in most Alliance relationships. If you are the one managing the relationship, one day you will be sitting with senior management, aligning the companies’ visions, the next, you’ll be sitting at a desktop putting together a joint pipeline spreadsheet.
While there’s a lot of tactical work involved, it’s also book-ended on either side by immense amounts of strategy and execution.
Alliance leaders influence indirectly.
In alliances, you will frequently work with KPIs you only indirectly influence: Many of the metrics upon which you are measured, are based on areas you don’t actually own.
In sales, for instance, it’s your job to close every deal. You live and die by your own success. In alliances, you live and die by your colleague’s success and your partner’s success.
Not 1, but multiple alliance partners.
Today, you aren’t simply working with 2 partners. Often times, it’s 3, 4, or even 5 partners who create an alliance within an ecosystem.
Robert noted a solution Bluefin created recently. On a quick deadline, they wanted to create an accelerator for a niche industry. They were working within an SAP relationship, and the intellectual property best suited for the job was owned by another organization, called RSI. So, Bluefin developed a solution in less than 3 months built on the intellectual property of RSI, using SAP’s platform.
Hence, a three-way alliance within an ecosystem.
Best part about managing alliances? The relationships.
While talking of the challenges, the one thing consistent with Robert wasthe giant smile on his face. He said he loves it.
Robert noted how he gets to eat lunch at executive dining halls with top-level SAP people, while at the same time working hands-on with the developers creating the actual solutions.
When you extend that same fun-loving, people-centric attitude toward your alliance partner, you can see fantastic results in Robert’s strategy.
“The most useful thing for me is the people side,” he said. Ultimately, you have to truly understand each other so you can understand the differing organizational goals. “You put in the time, make sure they understand that you understand their KPIs, how they’re measured, how they feel successful.”
Once that trust is built, the alliance will really succeed, but you can’t “run before you walk”; the trust comes first.
SAP Leonardo Medallion program:
Bluefin was also selected by SAP as one of their initial Leonardo Medallion partners. This elite group of companies are SAP partners who build specific customer solutions, tailored to individual industries.
In SAP’s maturity, they’ve realized they can’t come up with every solution — so they’ve partnered with other tech companies who are creating powerful solutions built on SAP’s technology.
Out of the nearly 17,000 partner organizations, Bluefin was selected as one of only 13 to participate. Already, they’ve created a CPG inventory accelerator, on an accelerated timeline. Part of the vision of the program, is to create viable solutions within 12 weeks, with the first proof of concept at only six weeks into the project.
Last piece of truth:
Robert left us with one last piece of truth for alliance professionals:When you get in the day-to-day of building pipeline, dealing with QBRs, and escalations:
Don’t lose sight of the big picture.
Check out other Alliance Podcasts here.
To contact the host, Chip Rodgers, with topic ideas, suggest a guest, or join the conversation about alliances, he can be reached by: