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Managing ecosystems, alliances, and partnerships brings a unique set of challenges and demands a wide array of skills. Sometimes, it’s nice for those of us who are managing these partnerships to hear exactly how the biggest players are doing it and doing it well.
Justin Silvia is the Worldwide Global Strategic Partner Program Executive at IBM.
1: Alliances should trust each other’s expertise
The word comes up in every interview we have. But here, Justin used it slightly differently — at IBM, Justin ensures he trusts the expertise of his partners and his customers. When the focus is consistently oriented toward the end-user, we should rely heavily on the expertise of our ecosystem to provide the solution which pulls the best from each partnership.
2: Create a unified experience for the customer
The true test of a great partnership is a seamless purchasing and delivery experience for the customer.
Even at a giant organization like IBM, Justin knows the importance of creating a unified experience for the customer. To the customer, they should feel as if they are purchasing one solution with a unified entity.
3: Ensure solutions provide value to every level of the customer’s organization
If you’re in charge of the delivery or implementation of a joint solution, part of your role will require the product or service is usable by every layer of the customers’ organization, and the value is clearly demonstrated to each stakeholder within the context of their position in the company.
Perhaps the purchasing of a solution was approved by mid or senior-level management, while the c-level executives believe the primary purpose of the solution is to cut costs. Finally, maybe the actual users of the solution are data scientists, who are trying to run a specific report. Your job is to create something that delivers on all these expectations.
4: Allow no partner pricing competition
While IBM has licenses and resells solutions, Justin has a simple rule: No competition in pricing. The price to purchase directly from the partner or through IBM must always remain equal.
5: You're the internal roadmap of your org. for your partner
One of the main roles of an alliance manager is to help your partner navigate through your organization. Every company has its own culture and organizational structure, and, to an outsider, this can be intimidating.
At IBM, there's 8 to 10 different functions of the business that a partner will likely have to interact with for a joint solution, so much of Justin’s role is connecting them with the various layers.
When you see yourself as that internal roadmap, you are creating value for your partnership that will encourage a long term relationship.
6: It’s a relationship business
A simple but profound statement: It doesn’t matter if you’re serving hamburgers or managing a complex alliance — you’re in the relationship business. As such, make sure you’re focused on managing the people involved and inspiring cohesion throughout the partnerships and with the client.