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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 104

May 6, 2020

#104: Vinodh Raghunathan: The Current Crisis May Shape the Future of Alliances

Vinodh Raghunathan, PhD, spent over 3 years as Director of Global Strategic Partners Operations at Intel, joins Chip Rodgers on this Ecosystem Aces episode.

We call it social distancing, but that’s a misnomer. It should be physical distancing.

In reality, we’re using every digital tool available to make sure the social world keeps going strong.

And these same tools are poised to shape the future of alliance ecosystems.

Though he’s recently moved into a new role, my guest today, Vinodh Raghunathan, PhD, spent over 3 years as Director of Global Strategic Partners Operations at Intel, where he successfully oversaw a sprawling alliance program with a rich diversity of partners.

He came on the podcast today to explain how to track success within such a complex ecosystem and share how the current crisis is shining a light on the future of alliance programs.

Creating a framework to track success across diverse partnerships

In his previous role, Vinodh was primarily focused on creating frameworks to measure and track the success of the different relationships and partnerships in Intel’s ecosystem.

And, as you might imagine, Intel has a diverse array of partners — SIs, large resellers and ISVs — which all require a different approach to measuring success.

The system integrators are heavily focused and go for really large deals. They wield a lot of power and influence over the client when it comes to exactly which configuration needs to be deployed. With that size, there is some idea of what is getting deployed at the end-customer and can create a system to track that.

When it comes to resellers, it’s a little easier to create systems to track sales because they end up actually procuring systems for their clients. Intel knows exactly what they’re buying and what they’re selling.

Vinodh says it was easy to get reports from them, which Intel would set up a system for from the outset of the relationship.

Software vendors are where Vinodh says the biggest challenges came into play.

Getting the chip out there, ready to be consumed, requires a lot of legwork. So much of the relationship is predicated on Intel ensuring the ISV partner knows exactly what they are thinking.

The ISVs need to make sure their software is created or rewritten for the latest, greatest features Intel has put into their chips, allowing these vendors to fully leverage the advancements.

In the end, the relationship is heavily technology-focused, but Intel also go — jointly — to market with them — creating collaterals, going to events and making investments in the go-to-market motion.

The challenge comes with tracking how this is actually impacting sales. Intel tackles this by creating models to look at partner total influence and asking the vendors for reports containing leads, deals closed and licenses.

They can combine these data publicly available data or data from analysts like Forrester to get a more comprehensive picture of the industry and to correlate their models.

Maintaining alliances through the COVID-19 crisis

In the 3 years Vinodh worked as Director of Global Partnerships, he watched the rapid shifts in the landscape, including the fragmentation caused by various companies operating different systems, programs and go-to-market programs.

This has led him to the realization that the industry needs some consolidation in the system, while still maintaining flexibility.

To do this, he says we need to be able to connect to different partners in different ways and the need for digital tools to facilitate this is increasing rapidly.

And, every day, the current COVID-19 crisis is further demonstrating how valuable the digital communication tools we rely on in a socially-distanced world can be.  

Since the need for cross-partner collaboration and communication is only ever going to go up, many of the ways we are working to accommodate stay-at-home orders will continue to apply long after the crisis has passed.

What the future will bring

Every remote meeting Vinodh has had with partners since the crisis gripped the world that replaced a traditional face-to-face interaction has led him to notice how some of these technologies will ramp up in the future.

For instance, video meetings with automatic transcription may actually be preferable in the long run, because they capture data. You can potentially use these meeting notes and send them to a partner relationship management system or use the data to guide future products.

It’s an exciting time for technology. And Vinodh also sees partnerships increasing in complexity in the future. A future where multiple partners design products and solutions together.

The advancements in technology like communications, joint tracking investments and funds and training systems will eventually unlock these capabilities.

But no matter how complex partnerships become, one thing Vinodh is certain of is that trust will remain the cornerstone of successful alliances.

When work gets done by an alliance, it’s done through relationships. Digital tools augment these relationships, but underlying everything is — and will always be — humanity.

To contact the host, Chip Rodgers, with topic ideas, suggest a guest, or join the conversation about alliances, he can be reached by: