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The 7 Golden Rules for Choosing Ecosystem Partners

BY Bob Layton

July 27, 2022 | 3 MINS READ

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Channel winners will be those who create partner ecosystem founded on advocacy, not traditional IT solutions.

The channel is in a historic market inflection as it evolves into “the ecosystem.” Multiple converging developments are driving this inflection, from transient supply-chain woes to a permanent, generational shift in buyers and companies demanding different kinds of value be delivered in new ways. The pandemic accelerated the inflection. Now it’s being driven faster and deeper as the SaaS software industry enters the dreaded Valley of Uncertainty.

That’s the good news: We are in a crisis . . . of opportunity.

Four years ago, 76% of global business leaders told Accenture their then-current business model would be unrecognizable in five years. The pandemic and its aftermath made 2018’s prophecy come true early. The channel business model of 2018 is certainly unrecognizable.

The visual metaphor of “channels” — inflexible, geometric lines connecting a company to a few other companies that resell its products — has been replaced by a sprawling, brawling, open-air souk where companies combine opportunistically with ecosystem partners to imbue each other’s products and services with greater business value, creating stronger solutions, consistent value and deeper satisfaction for customers, and more revenue for themselves.

As long ago as his channel predictions for 2021 (written in 2020), the former Forrester analyst Jay McBain (now of Canalys) reported such market giants as Microsoft/Azure, Google Cloud, and Salesforce were luring ecosystem partners by stressing the potential additive value – $4.65 to $9 – available to partners for every $1 of cloud project spend. Ecosystem partners would realize this revenue by wrapping additional hardware, software and services around those central cloud dollars.

The 7 Golden Rules of Choosing Ecosystem Partners

With the inflection’s evolution from channel to ecosystem accelerating, the core question becomes: with so many companies seeking partnerships to build optimal ecosystems, how should a smart organization choose winning partners?

Somewhat counterintuitively in this free-wheeling, open-air marketplace, strategic discipline plays a central role.

Here are seven rules to evaluate partners for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company:

As we enter uncertain times, I encourage my team — and every team in the marketplace — to take advantage of this crisis of opportunity and go on the offensive. Disrupt yourself radically, all at once. Rip off the Band-Aid. What better time than now for a bold new direction?

Originally published on channelfutures.com

Bob Layton
Bob Layton Chief Channel Officer

As the Chief Channel Officer, Bob Layton leads eSentire’s channel sales organization and partner strategy, with a focus on growing and expanding eSentire’s Partner Program globally. Bob comes to eSentire with 25 years of experience in the technology industry, specifically in B2B and B2C sales, channels, and marketing. Across the last decade, he has driven transformation and international expansion through channel-leveraged strategies and has successfully created new strategy and execution models that have led to MRR growth and new routes to market in security, services and SaaS platforms. Bob has also held senior leadership positions where he was responsible for sales, channel and marketing at Alert Logic, Pluribus Networks, Lumenate, and Cisco. He has been recognized four times as Channel Chief by CRN magazine and has been published extensively in security and channel publications.

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