The evolution of computing, and specifically software, as an industry can be seen as having moved through three major phases: first, a period dominated by industry giants like IBM, Honeywell and Burroughs, providing fully-integrated products to fully captive customers; second, the personal computer revolution of the 1980s, a time when discreet layers, or stacks, of hardware and software emerged, available from different vendors, yet tightly coupled to create end products; and third and presently, the emergence of technology ecosystems, like those of Apple, LAMP or Microsoft — entire communities and constellations from which customers acquire solutions, in part or in whole, locally or in the cloud.
During almost two decades of business development deals and alliance formation, I’ve sat along side and across the table from word-class negotiators at companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Intel and Accenture. I’ve also made enough humbling mistakes to learn the hard, lasting way what helps and hinders successful negotiations.
With partnerships, as with much in life, what you get out is a function of what you put in. Properly equipping your partners to succeed, and to further your success in turn, is critical to a profitable partner program.
Business development is often said to be equal parts art and science, but that view can be used as cover for poor process and the unpredictable outcomes that result. It’s true that biz dev require flexibility and creativity, but planning and process are crucial to increasing the likelihood of success.
I recently met with the founders of a promising new SaaS startup. After listening to their pitch and a bit of Q&A, we began talking about growth strategies. They asked how soon we could begin helping them build a channel program. They have a promising product with a large, well defined market and a clear value proposition. Their packaging and pricing have been iterated and refined considerably. There’s just one problem: no customers.