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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 94

March 30, 2020

#94 Shubhra Sinha: The Simple Recipe for a Successful Alliance Program

Shubhra Sinha, principal at The Value Exponent, onto the #EcosystemsAces podcast, and she shared her expertise in building alliance programs from the ground up.

Managing ecosystems and alliances comes with a lot of moving parts and a diverse set of talents and skills is required to make it work.

This is especially true when building the program from the ground up.

We invited Shubhra Sinha, principal at The Value Exponent, onto the #EcosystemsAces podcast, and she shared her expertise in building alliance programs from the ground up.

Discussing her experience and success in this space, Shubhra conveys a few key components everyone looking to build an alliance program from scratch should know. 

A strategic start

The first step in getting an alliance program successfully off the ground is asking strategic questions. You need to fully understand corporate objectives in order to align the program with them. 

So, what exactly do you want to achieve? 

These days, alliances can be described in many different ways, so defining your alliance ecosystem is key. They could be solutions partners, channel partners, ISVs — the list goes on. 

“Do you want to focus on all of them? Some of them? Do you want to have a program that prioritizes a few partnerships over others? How do you take advantage of some of the opportunities and benefits that are available to companies from each other?” - Shubhra Sinha

Identify the alliances you need, the groupings within those alliances and the leveling within those various groups. Decide ahead of time how joint sales, marketing, business development or content — anything that will make the relationship fruitful —will be managed. 

If you start at this strategic level, it makes everything else seamlessly tie into that goal. 

Believe in the program

Often alliance programs are seen as low priorities, something laudable only insofar as other members bring something valuable to your company — but, of course, rarely the other way around. 

Alliance programs sometimes garner no more than tepid support from executives — and, if that happens to your program, it could doom it from the outset.

Yet, when an alliance program enjoys c-level enthusiasm across the board, the likelihood it will succeed increases exponentially.  

Still, executive support for alliance programs will hinge on the prestige and resources of other alliance members — partnering with a company that can open doors, lend credibility and, ultimately, drive the business forward is obviously something a CEO is more likely to get behind. 

“We did have a situation which is rare — but that helped us — because both major partners that I'm talking about were investors in the company. So it was also their prerogative to make sure that the investment was a success.” - Shubhra Sinha

Provided, of course, that these benefits are apparent. 

Long-term thinking

One of the reasons the benefits may not be immediately apparent is because the benefits of an alliance program may, themselves, not be immediate. 

Your alliance program should have patience woven into its fabric from the very beginning. This is often a challenge for smaller companies, where long-term thinking is not yet the norm.

“Those two things really, really helped. We knew why we were doing the partner program, and 

we had the patience to really see that we had to invest for a long-term impact.” -Shubhra Sinha

Yet such thinking is vital, knowing that time will be needed to get the program off the ground. An alliance program should not be written off before it has a chance to show results. 

Measuring success

Of course, giving the alliance program time to build towards positive results doesn’t matter much those results cannot be adequately measured. 

As the alliance program grows and you add more members or experiment with new strategies, you need to be able to assess the impact each change has. Investing in a solid PRM platform that can comprehensively track results allows you to see what does and doesn’t work at every stage.

Along with close collaboration with partners, useful, actionable data on your results allows your program to grow from its strategic beginnings into systematic approaches that can be applied whenever a new opportunity arises. 

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Ecosystem Aces Podcast, or visit our dedicated Ecosystem Aces page.

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