An ecosystem thrives because of the collective value of the brands and capabilities within it.
Companies should expect and demand innovation from partners. If you're building your own innovation center and you're not expecting your partners to help fund it, or even bring people and ideas into it, you’re not maximizing the potential that exists. Ideally, your partners will take the relationship a step further, bringing some of their top people on board and promoting the service among their network.
Key question to ask: When will we be ready to migrate into that next level of trust relationship? And how do we manage that effectively?
Not all suppliers are partner material
As companies move from supplier relationships to strategic alliances, they take on brand and reputational risk, because they’re tying their brand to a counterparty’s. They might be taking on forecast risk if they base their forecast on a certain amount of sales and marketing support from the partner. They could also take on the risk of execution, such as go-to-market execution and marketing support from the counterparty.
In a business ecosystem, companies build trust through joint risk taking and brand sharing. However, this level of sharing comes with risks that must be weighed carefully. Some relationships that are served by the supplier model won’t warrant the additional overhead.
Companies will still have IT suppliers, for example. The key is to find the brand associations and services that can help you deliver what your customers need, including matching “purpose” commitments to sustainability, security and privacy posture and the ability to integrate with more “open” technologies.
Key question to ask: Where are my potential partners headed and at what levels are they investing in new technologies?
Reimagine your alliance relationships for sustainable revenue growth
In a post-COVID-19 business environment, trust and brand values can make or break a business deal more than ever before. Recent consumer sentiment surveys show that many customers consider these intangible qualities second only to price when it comes to buying a new brand and becoming a loyal customer, and the same feelings carry over to business-to-business relationships.
While some of these new imperatives may show up in annual reports, savvy business people are performing their own evaluations and gut checks. Technology plays a big role in trust and transparency. Data should be easily shared, easily discovered and, at the same time, closely protected to the extent necessary. Along with secure systems, flawless user experiences have come to be expected, so investing in these resources is essential.
When teaming with another organization, take the extra steps to get the sense that what they say is congruent with their actions – and keep in mind that others are looking at your company through the same lens.
Your business can be so much more than the sum of what goes on inside your four walls. Indeed, with cloud enablement, the sky’s the limit, and you can expand your ecosystem to welcome new alliance partners who will help you innovate and create more value for your customers. Ecosystem development requires thoughtful planning and careful integration but offers the opportunity to deliver wide-ranging benefits.