Forming human relationships is one of the most basic and important skills we need to survive. We need relationships just like we need air to breathe. In fact, when we’re born, we need skin contact immediately. That’s a pretty strong message from Mother Nature, don’t you think?
It doesn’t stop there. From the beginning stages of our lives, we establish intricate relationships in school with our classmates, as well as at home with our families. We learn and grow a lot through these personal relationships and later in life, we can choose to create more of these relationships by starting families of our own. This has been repeating for thousands of years all over the world regardless of nationality, religion, or economic situation.
Why is this? Why do we need others to be able to perform better in this life?
Yuval Noa Arari, Professor of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, touches on the subject in his book, Sapiens. He says “… Sapiens rule the world because we are the only animal that can cooperate with flexibility, in large numbers … “.
In business, the rules are no different. At the end of the day, we do business with people we trust and create relationships to ensure success. You can try to make your business succeed on its own, but if you establish relationships with other companies your chances of succeeding improve.
The tips below are relevant for any software company thinking about tech partnerships but also for any organization considering embedding analytics into their product or service.
When is the Right Time to Partner?
A company can do three things to expand the capabilities of its products: build a feature, buy a company who can deliver this feature, or partner with a company that will benefit from a partnership and who has the feature you’re after. Companies need to choose between these options strategically since each one of them will serve their needs at specific times.
The “Build, Partner, or Buy” decision is based on time availability and what is core to the current business (and its product team). The following image is high-level view of this:
What we understand from the image is that when a feature is not core to your business and the time to market is urgent, you should partner. The only difference between “Partner” and “Buy” is the “core to business” matrix, which can be changed by the company leadership at any time. And the time to build? When a feature is core to your business but not urgent.
More is More
In a super competitive market, only the companies that deliver will stay alive. You can’t afford to not bring what’s expected of you to the market…and fast. So, you need to decide if the cost of building a feature and the time spent on it is worth the value it will provide. If it’s not worth it or you lack the proper resources to build it, it may be time to partner with another company that already provides what you need.
These types of technology partners, also known as product or platform partners, have a best-in-class solution that you decide to build an integration to and launch a new feature with to extend the value/capabilities of your product. It’s okay if these products provide very different capabilities because that is what allows an integration/partnership to complement each other.
Take, for example, Spotify’s integration with Waze. These applications are very different, one is a streaming music service and the other provides location and GPS maps in real time. However, they have a mutual interest in keeping their users engaged while driving (without looking at your phone, of course!). Each company understood their objectives and the value of the other and decided that the best way to approach the challenge was with a partnership.
I Want a Partner. What Now?
So, your company decided that the best route to keep your roadmap fresh is to partner with another company to serve the needs of your customers. What do you do now? Companies that understand their product roadmap and customer needs will make the time to learn about the ecosystem of potential partnerships and strategic alliances.
The first step is to learn about the products at the companies you’re targeting, as well as if your user persona and company objectives are aligned. This job is usually done by a Partnerships Development Manager whose role, among other things, is to find new companies to partner with and build the business case to invest in the partnership.
After that, a technical member of your team evaluates the partner’s product and technical capabilities. For example, it’s important to check if the partnering company has an SDK or a REST API (basic tools to build integrations). This job is typically done by a Partnership Solutions Engineer, which is my role here at Sisense. It’s best if this evaluation is performed as soon as possible so you don’t waste precious time.
If everything goes well, and there’s no guarantee that it will, the Partnerships Solutions Engineer and an Engineer from the partner will start to build a proof of concept (POC) to show the minimal capabilities of the integration. After that, they will show the POC to their product teams and review it with customers to receive their feedback. If all teams agree to move forward, including but not limited to product, marketing, sales, and executive sponsors, then development begins with one or both of the R&D teams of the partnership.
It’s important that your product team is aware of the whole process from the beginning and works alongside the partnerships team to validate the product and business fit of the partnership. Both teams have a mutual interest – to enhance the capabilities of the product.
I Have a Partner. How Do I Keep the Relationship Healthy?
The fact that you have a partnership and you have built an integration together doesn’t mean that the job is done. Like in life, a good partnership needs attention and constant work to stay healthy. For this, communication is the key. To keep partnerships going we need to have an open channel with the company we are partnering with. Phone calls and regular check-ins are a great way of keeping things going. This is essential and often overlooked once a partnership is launched. The role that is usually in charge of this task is a Partnerships Account (aka Success) Manager. As the partner’s primary point of contact, this person is responsible for the adoption of the integration, creating go-to-market opportunities, and supporting joint sales.
A great partnership example is the one between Google and Mozilla. In 2018 the two partnered together in a deal that helped Mozilla (a nonprofit that tries to make the Internet a better place) grow 8% in their annual revenue. The partnership between Apple and Intel in 2006 is another good example. It helped Apple to increase the power of their machines and conquer the market while allowing Intel to get their hands in a market that was closed for them.
That’s a Wrap!
Partnerships are not perfect. Companies can change their objectives and ideas and this can reflect in their relations with partners in a negative way. However, if companies find a mutual interest and work to achieve their goal, including adjusting their strategy as they learn more, they will have better possibilities of success.
Whether you’re looking to embed analytics or integrate your software offering in a different way, if your company builds a partnerships team to understand and align the objectives with their partners, achieve and serve important customers needs, and meet the needs of their business, then you’ll be set up for success. After all, it’s human relationships, professional and personal, that help us win.