The Battle Of Partner Eco-Systems

On the need to analyze, compare and rate partner eco-systems – please vote.

The world is becoming more and more complex and so are the business challenges and their related IT solutions. Today no single vendor can provide complete end-to-end solutions from physical assets to business process optimization. Some large vendors like IBM, Oracle or HP, have extended their solution footprint to cover more and more of the four IT core markets hardware, middleware software, business applications and services but still require complementary partner solutions to cover end-to-end processes. Two examples of emerging complex IT solutions include:

  • Smart Computing integrates the physical world with business process optimization via four steps: Awareness (sensors, tags etc.), Analysis (analytic solutions), Alternatives (business applications with decision support) and Action (feedback loop into the physical world). A few specialized vendors such as Savi Technology can cover the whole portfolio from sensors to business applications for selected scenarios. However, in general a complete solution requires many partners working closely together to enable an end-to-end process.
  • Cloud Computing includes different IT resources (typically infrastructure, middleware and applications) which are offered in pay-by-use, self-service models via the internet. The seamless consumption of these resources for the end user anytime and anywhere however requires multiple technologies, processes and a challenging governance model often with many different stakeholder involved, behind the scene.

 

These are just two examples of fast growing IT markets where the need for strong partnerships between multiple vendors is predominantly visible. Of course partnerships are a key success factor in more traditional IT markets too, to complement existing solutions e.g. for specific industries, geographies, deployment options or additional value adding functionality and services.

Today large IT companies have built huge partner eco-systems around their solutions with hundreds and thousands of partners for different needs. The growing importance of partners, including technology-, solution-, channel- or service partners, brings new opportunities and challenges for everyone:

  • Large IT vendors need to build and run partner eco-systems with efficient, scaling processes. As their partner eco-systems are competing with each other large vendors need to understand partners like ‘customers’ they need to ‘win’ with superior value proposition. ‘How can I attract and retain the right partners to sign up for my partner eco-system?’ ‘How can I segment my partners and scale my processes?‘ are business critical questions. Whoever runs the more successful partner eco-system will be more successful in the market.
  • Smaller IT vendors need to make difficult choices between large partner eco-systems. Entering into a partnership means significant investments of time and money. Smaller vendors cannot effort to be in several partner eco-systems at once. ‘Which is the right partner eco-system for me to join?’ ‘How much effort and how much additional business can I expect from joining a specific partner community?’ are business critical questions. Joining the right partner system can make or break a smaller IT vendor.
  • End users do not want point solutions that need to get integrated with huge additional effort. IT users expect vendors to work closely together in order to provide better integrated technologies and services. But customers need to understand what they can expect from the partnerships between the vendors. ‘What level of support and commitment does a large vendor provide for his smaller partners?’ ‘How do the partners work together, who can I call when I have a problem?’ are important questions companies need answers for, before investing into partner solutions.

 

With the increasing importance to successfully build, join or buy into partner eco-systems I think there is a high need for a methodology that analyzes, compares and rates partner eco-systems. A tool that will highlight the differences between existing partner eco-systems, their strengths and weaknesses will help both, large vendors to further improve their partner strategy and processes and smaller vendors to make the right partner decisions. Process transparency from partner on-boarding through contract negotiations, technical integration and joint go-to-market activities will help to set expectations and help all involved parties to make the right decisions.

Forget about features & functions, the IT battle today is between partner eco-systems!

To help us bundle our research focus, please participate in the poll on this blog page: ‘Are you interested in a methodology and tool that analyzes, compares and rates partner eco-systems?’

Please leave a comment or contact me directly.

Kind regards,

Holger Kisker

Comments

BI implications

Holger, this is a very important topic for BI market specifically. In my opinion BI partner ecosystem is slowly but surely disappearing. One prime example is BPS (Business Performance Solutions) where there are no independent players left to partner with - all have been absorbed by SAP, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft. This has huge implications to all other BI vendors that do not offer a full BI stack and are forced to partner. They are finding these opportunities get slimmer and slimmer every day.

Boris, thank you for the

Boris, thank you for the comment. Yes it is interesting to see how partner ecosystems are following maturity cycles and while some are growing strongly, others might dissapear over time. In the BPS market the number of potential solution partners might have become smaller recently, however I believe there is still plenty of partnering opportunities in this fastest growing BI market in many directions. For example, as compared to most other BI solutions, BPS requires deep industry expertise that can be completented with industry content e.g. by service partners, sold by channel partners or integrated into end-to-end 'smart solutions' by technology partners. So you are probably right regarding the pure BPS products/tools market, partner opportunities might be limited. As a total BPS market I still think partnerships are critically important.