I Have seen One Future, and It Works – Pasticceria Besuschio and a Future for Retail   Leave a comment

A few days ago, during our Easter break, we drove some 14 miles (21 kilometers) to visit one specific retailer: the bakery and confectionery shop Pasticceria Besuschio.
What in Lombardy could entice anyone to drive away from Milan, a much larger, more diverse town, and go into the small, if wealthy-looking, former country market town of Abbiategrasso, for the single purpose of buying sweets?

Indeed, Pasticceria Besuschio is rated among the top 10 in Italy by the reputed Gambero Rosso guidebook of Italian bakeries. While this got us there, on a leisurely and sunny morning, we like to think we are smart enough with Italian food to tell substance from hype; our real purpose was to see for ourselves how good this place could ever be.
We looked at a number of preparations on display, from small “mignon” pastries to curiously-shaped iced cakes, from peculiar-looking Easter eggs to an impressive range of leavened cakes. Some fancy-named cakes were invented there, such as “Crakelé” (“craquelé” being the French word for a pattern of cracks on a surface, often obtained on purpose on an art work) and “porfido” (a cube-shaped cake named after porphyry, the rock once used around Milan for small cubic paving stones). Others were renditions of known traditional specialties, such as cornmeal “pan meino”, or self-proclaimed rediscovered traditions such as “pagnotta di fràa” (the friars’ bread loaf).
Finally, we listened to Mr. Besuschio’s explanations and tried a couple of pastries with our cappuccino and tea.

What was our conclusion? We walked away fully confident that this is going to be the place where we will bring international friends to show them what can sweets be in Lombardy. This is where we are going to get our sweets and cakes for special occasions at home, as well as gifts for our friends in Milan. This combination of flavour, taste and design feels better than any we have found in some of the most famous bakeries in Milan, and the less famous ones we have long liked. Almost as important, we found prices very reasonable, only slightly higher than those of mass-produced cakes at supermarkets.

On our drive home, we caught ourselves wondering about what lessons may this local, almost remote boutique shop hold for a much broader audience.
What can we glean from shops like this about the future of physical retail shops, as they struggle in many countries to keep up against both large-scale sales chains and online providers?

While walking the ancient streets of central Abbiategrasso, we had seen a few other shops that impressed us: a fashion shop, a pharmacy and L’altra libreria (“The other bookshop”). Each of their windows conveyed a conscious effort to display a very thoughtful selection of goods, chosen with specific purposes and criteria. What each window really is about is the shop itself, and reasons to enter and ask for advice, much more than any specific merchandise you may want to buy there. For example, the bookshop’s window promotes È tutta colpa di Ipazia (“It’s all Hypatia’s fault”), a public reading and discussion forum named after none less than the ancient Greek female philosopher and astronomer).
Both Pasticceria Besuschio and L’altra libreria articulate an engaging, sophisticated message in their web sites; what struck us is how much of the same message manages to come across loud and clear through a physical window.

These shops clearly show, and implicitly tell, that they can be your specialty adviser on their wares, and on the whole cultural niche that surrounds those goods, be they books or garments, sweets or health products. In their windows, this offer for advice is based on choosing very few items among the enormous number of options available; it’s the choice itself that comes across as valuable as soon as you look at the window – clearer, you will feel as you look at it, than I can articulate in words here, and the owners themselves on their web site.
Their next challenge is probably to leverage physical and virtual social networks to get their adviser message across over virtual channels, to people beyond those who happen to walk in front of their windows, then to turn that attention they fully deserve into paid sales – either of goods or of those very advice services.
This sounds difficult, for sure. Still, what they already managed to do has likely been difficult for them, and surely impossible for so many others: finding for themselves something special to do, or even to be, different from commodity, mass-market suppliers.

What may be your Pasticceria Besuschio?
What shop is so special that you are prepared to drive, walk or browse to it beyond more popular ones?
What do they offer that makes you want to do so?  

Milano, 05/05/2014. Gianluca Marcellino

Alcuni diritti riservatiSome Rights Reserved: CC – BY

I wish to thank Fiona Talbot, TQI for her advice on making this post clearer and better.


Posted May 5, 2014 by Gianluca Marcellino in Retail

Tagged with , ,

A Big Step For Microsoft and Cloud Ecosystems, a New Step In My Own Collaboration on Alliances   1 comment

Yesterday I published a new post on the impact of the new Outlook.com service on Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.
I believe this service is much more than a revamping of Hotmail; it is a key development in the impact of cloud business models on partner ecosystems for Microsoft and other platform vendors. It affects the whole partner ecosystem from OEM to distributors and resellers, to systems integrators and ISVs.

This post also marks a new development for me: I have published it as guest on the blog of a fellow alliances professional, Peter Simoons.

I look forward to exploring this collaboration and others among alliances practitioners. It will be interesting to see how alliances develop among alliance managers.

Measuring Alliances: Quantitative Metrics for Influenced Business   Leave a comment

Martin Fifield, in his comment on my first post on alliance metrics, asks a key question about measuring the full impact of an alliance: how to measure “influenced revenue”?   

In my experience this has been quite easy and extremely valuable.
It’s easy, because it is a quantitative metric and a subset of standard ones such as sales or revenue, so tracking it becomes a matter of keeping simple the definition of what subset it is, then asking the right person a simple question at the right time.
It is valuable, well worth the effort to define, manage and track it, as it truly helps an alliance perceive its full impact on the business of each partner, and so achieve it.

First, what is it?
In my opinion, “influenced” business is different from the new or “incremental” business for one or both alliance partners that comes from exclusive joint solutions, and additional to it. It is further new business, generated with an organization’s standard sales processes and offerings rather than the alliance’s special joint solutions, and still becoming easier to sell or deliver because the two organizations cooperate in selling their complementary business together, or endorse each other, or gain a positive market perception because of their alliance’s success.
So, first and foremost, influenced business is a broad metric that captures business where the alliance we consider is one among many factors, and the most important factor remains clearly the capability of a direct sales field team.

Since influenced business is closer to direct business than alliance-specific incremental business, capturing it drives cultural considerations about how each allied organization, and especially their sales and delivery teams, view the other and the alliance itself. For this reason, influenced business can be an ideal bridge between quantitative, business-focused alliance metrics and qualitative metrics such as I describe in my second post on alliance metrics.

How to measure influenced business? Here is what I have seen work.

Wherever alliances professionals are directly involved and help sales and delivery teams work with alliance partners, just ask them: what alliances have influenced a core direct business success?
Telling what alliance partners have helped achieving what sales will be straightforward: alliance professionals have been there and know, and capturing this component is fully consistent with their objectives and culture.

Each organization will want to tailor this metric with few specifications.
The first is its own specific definition of what subset of total business to consider “influenced”. Another one can be applying an independent check on what alliance professionals report about this metric. This does add some effort to the tracking process, and still can boost trust in the metric and awareness of the alliance in the teams that work with the alliance partner directly.

How do these approaches compare with yours?

What challenges may you have encountered?

I have encountered one main objection and one tangible obstacle to this approach, both important and still well worth overcoming.

The objection: this metric is an overlay or double-accounting metric; it really counts again business results that the sales and delivery teams themselves have achieved already, would mostly have achieved even without the alliance’s influence, and so have been rewarded for. In other words, when rewarding both the alliance teams and the field teams on the same results, an organization is really paying twice to achieve the same business objective. This is true, and still I believe the second rewarding achieves a distinct, complementary and worthy objective. Rewarding the alliance team for influenced business gives an organization a better idea of alliances’ impact on the broader direct business, and their performance.

The true, hard obstacle to applying this influenced business metric to all of an organization’s direct business is scalability. Direct support of alliance professionals can reach only a small share of an organization’s direct business; beyond their reach, sales and delivery teams of the two organizations are on their own. How to track alliance influence there?
This is really a scalability challenge of the alliance itself, rather than of the metric measurement. I believe this challenge is worth taking for the most impactful alliances, those that aspire to influencing a significant share of an organization’s overall business.

How to make an alliance work beyond the reach of alliance professionals, wherever sales and delivery teams rub shoulders with an alliance partner on the field?
This is well beyond the scope of this discussion – ASAP for instance devoted to this the best part of its first 2012 issue

Let’s assume we  get there. Then, measuring this broader influenced business becomes straightforward again: ask those very sales and delivery teams. Since they will have worked together we can then ask them what alliances – in addition to their own capability – have helped close that business.  Influenced business as understood, measured and reported by field teams themselves can then become the most meaningful quantitative metric of broad impact for the farthest-reaching alliances an organization has.

Learning a Lesson in Alliance Metrics – More Simple if Less Easy With Qualitative Relationship Metrics   4 comments

My earlier post on alliance metrics has drawn many valuable comments, and helped me evolve my perspective significantly.

Some colleagues have provided special advice. I strongly recommend any readers of this to follow their valuable contributions to online discussion forums.

  • Joe Kittel – driving Spiritual Principles in Business Relationships  –  and Eric Moss  engaged generously in deep, in-person discussions.
  • Peter Simoons – leading Simoons & Company  –  also raised a very relevant point in his quick overview of alliance metrics.
    Peter distinguishes between metrics internal to one organization and metrics agreed between two alliance partners, and points to scorecards as a comprehensive if complex approach.
    Finally, and most importantly in my opinion, Peter leverages contributions by other commenters to my original post to highlight *relationship metrics* as a key tool to focus on.
  • Both Peter  and I are grateful to Tara Mylenski for her comments.

The key lesson I have been able to gather from this wealth of insight is: measuring alliances is more simple than it is easy.
It takes a specific effort to go beyond an initial level of simplicity to a higher level that is, as Joe helpfully articulated, beyond complexity.  

Commenters helped me get there by considering and comparing quantitative metrics and qualitative metrics, especially relationship metrics.

For quantitative metrics we can argue, and hopefully agree, that they are easy.
Quantitative metrics are easy because they ultimately measure the economics of each alliance partner’s business (say revenue, or sales) Since we all measure our business, measuring an alliance is really about agreeing which part of one organization’s business is associated to one specific alliance.
If this is difficult, then something in the specific objectives of that alliance needs more clarity. This is a helpful result in itself, and it can drive either a clarification, or a conscious choice to focus on other alliances, or even the discovery that what makes this alliance special is really qualitative in nature and is best managed with qualitative metrics.

For qualitative metrics I now believe that they are difficult, and make measuring alliances more difficult.
Still, various examples from comments and discussions have convinced me that some of the most valuable features that make one alliance special are qualitative. So it is important that we define them so well as to make them, finally, simple.

A very concrete, specific instance: on the one alliance I focus on, I have begun discussing with my colleagues and correspondents how some key limits to growth may be easier to address if we start measuring and managing few qualitative parameters that address relationship in the field.
One such parameter could be mutual satisfaction at selected touch points in the field – just how happy are key account managers and solution sales managers with their work together?

This example suggests how more difficult and still so much promising and insightful alliance metrics may become when we add a qualitative, relationship-focused component to a solid foundation of quantitative, business-based metrics.

Getting there may help us to make an alliance, and measuring it, truly simple – if more difficult than using quantitative metrics only.

Posted July 9, 2012 by Gianluca Marcellino in Alliances, Computer e Internet

Tagged with , ,

Better Sales for Italian ICT SMBs – a Promising IAMCP Italy Meeting   Leave a comment

Italian translation – here – traduzione italiana.

On 15th  June 2012 IAMCP Italy – the Italian chapter of International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners – organized a meeting on “Improving Sales Processes” for Italian Small and Medium Businesses in the Information and Communications Technology sector.

The audience included IAMCP Italy members, other Microsoft partners based in North-West Italy, and members of the ICT branch of the Genoa chapter of Confindustria, the association of Italy’s industrial enterprises.

Many attendants enjoyed the combination of keynotes from IAMCP members and external experts, and the choice to combine classic subjects such as solution selling with more unusual subjects such as neuromarketing and the role of social networks in communicating the brand and value of Small and Medium Businesses.

Two highlights I found especially relevant:

  • An inside story of a social network communication accident that a medium enterprise customer of an IAMCP member incurred; it was an especially impactful example for this particular audience.
  • The importance for a small enterprise of social network relations that employees and partners build individually, over and above those that the company itself develops through its corporate social network presence. The resulting opportunity may require special enterprise relationship skills in Italy, where the relation between an enterprise and people working for it often stops at confrontation.

Among external speeches, I found especially interesting:

  • An overview of roles and ideas around the general notion of sales, developed by Fabrizio De Maria, founder and general manager of White Dove.
  • A portfolio of real life sales cases with large and medium ICT enterprises by Gianmaria Odello, co-founder and executive partner at TBK Consult.

The presentation by Veeam, the sponsor, was especially remarkable. Beyond contributing to the event’s success by allowing IAMCP to make it accessible for free,  Veeam delivered a relevant, effective sales presentation, especially tuned to the audience and better than the average of similar presentations I have attended, even more so in this market segment.

The best and most significant surprise for me has been how IAMCP has been able to generate and propose through its own members contents that meet or beat in quality those provided by external speakers.

I take this as evidence that IAMCP has a significant opportunity to contribute to developing and sharing best practices for Italian ICT SMBs, together with many other organizations active in this domain.

What may be IAMCP’s specific role here?

In Italy, the ICT channel is especially rich in very small businesses – and its Microsoft-specialized component even more so, both on average and among excellent solution providers.

IAMCP does focus on Microsoft’s platform. For this reason, it may well be better equipped than many organizations to propose best practices that are relevant for this market segment, whatever the platform.

I look forward to IAMCP Italy producing and communicating insights that help such smaller ICT companies to find sustainable growth mechanisms in a consolidating market.

Vendere meglio per le PMI ICT italiane – un incontro promettente di IAMCP Italia   2 comments

This post describes a successful and promising meeting by the Italian chapter of IAMCP.  An English version is here.

Il 15 giugno 2012 IAMCP Italia – International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners – ha organizzato un incontro su “Come migliorare i processi di vendita” rivolto alle piccole e medie imprese del settore Information and Communication Technology.

Hanno partecipato i soci IAMCP, altri partner Microsoft soprattutto delle regioni del nordovest, e membri della sezione Informatica della associazione Confindustria di Genova.

Molti partecipanti hanno apprezzato la combinazione di interventi di membri dell’associazione con interventi di esperti esterni, e la scelta di affiancare temi classici come il solution selling a temi meno convenzionali come il neuromarketing o il ruolo delle reti sociali nella comunicazione del marchio e del valore di piccole e medie imprese.

Due spunti che ho trovato particolarmente interessanti:

  • la storia vista dall’interno di un incidente nella comunicazione sulle reti sociali occorso a una media azienda cliente di un membro IAMCP: un esempio efficace per tutti i presenti, attivi proprio in questo settore.
  • l’importanza per una piccola azienda delle relazioni su reti sociali che sono i dipendenti e i collaboratori a sviluppare: almeno pari a quella dell’immagine online che l’azienda stessa stabilisce. Un’opportunità promettente soprattutto nella cultura d’impresa italiana, dove spesso la relazione tra imprenditori e collaboratori si ferma al confronto.

Tra gli interventi esterni ho apprezzato in particolare:

  • una panoramica di ruoli e concetti legati all’idea generale di vendita, sviluppata da Fabrizio De Maria, fondatore e amministratore di White Dove
  • una rassegna di storie concrete di vendita con aziende ICT grandi e medie di Gianmaria Odello, cofondatore e executive partner di TBK Consult.

Notevole il contributo dello sponsor, Veeam: oltre a contribuire al successo dell’incontro, permettendo ad IAMCP di offrire l’appuntamento gratuitamente agli interessati, ha proposto una presentazione dei propri prodotti efficace e ben mirata al pubblico della giornata, commerciali e responsabili di aziende ICT piccole e medie. Mi è parsa ben superiore alla media delle presentazioni commerciali di fornitori ICT, specie in questo segmento.

La sorpresa più bella per me è stata la capacità che IAMCP ha dimostrato di generare e proporre con i suoi stessi membri contenuti e presentazioni efficaci, pienamente confrontabili con quelli dei relatori esterni.

Secondo me questo indica che IAMCP ha una opportunità significativa: contribuire allo sviluppo di buone pratiche per le piccole e medie aziende ICT italiane, insieme alle numerose altre organizzazioni attive in questo ambito.

Quale può essere qui il ruolo specifico di IAMCP?

In Italia il canale ICT è particolarmente ricco di imprese molto piccole. La componente di questo canale specializzata sulla piattaforma Microsoft è probabilmente ancor più ricca di imprese piccole, sia nella media sia tra quelle che offrono soluzioni eccellenti.

IAMCP si concentra proprio sulla piattaforma Microsoft. È possibile quindi che sia in grado di elaborare e proporre contributi particolarmente rilevanti per questo segmento del mercato, anche al di là della specifica piattaforma, in particolare contributi che aiutino queste piccole aziende ICT a trovare meccanismi di crescita sostenibile in un mercato che si consolida.

Measuring Alliances in ICT Systems Integration and Other Industries: How Easy?   16 comments

Update: this post has driven valuable discussion with many colleagues – thank you!
I have captured the main conclusion in a later post on qualitative alliance metrics focused on the quality of relationship.

My company is reviewing how we manage alliances as part of our region’s systems integration business.
This has given me a great opportunity: look hard at alliance metrics again, in the field, with very individual stakeholders looking personally after a business. 

At the same time, two recent ASAP events have discussed alliance metrics.

Both ASAP events describe alliance measurement as difficult, while my experience indicates measuring alliances is actually quite easy.

My experience focuses on a specific industry and business model: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) alliances between global systems integrators, platform partners and their ecosystem.
This focus may well make measuring easier than in broader contexts, still I believe simple guidelines such as those I propose below can make alliance measurement easy anywhere.

Let’s look at the two ASAP events, and their thesis:

Quintile’s webinar focused on managing the execution of an alliance’s joint strategy map:
First, draw a map of the alliance’s strategic objectives.
Then, define metrics based on the objectives, to track progress towards each.
Finally, as a governance committee, define and execute work streams that pursue these objectives, and so advance these metrics.
A steering committee will then manage strategy execution by assessing progress of the work streams through tracking of corresponding metrics.
This webinar focused on the process, deferring to specifics of each partner and alliance to identify strategic objectives and so metrics.

The Benelux round table, according to reports above, also highlighted how complex and specific defining alliance metrics is, and how complexity grows with the scope of the alliance, or portfolio of alliances. The consensus at the table was that each alliance needs its own metrics, depending on its own objectives.

The lesson of the two events is clear and consistent.

How may alliance measurement become easier?

I believe the choice of metrics is in fact easier than described above, and that choosing the right metrics makes easier both tracking them and measuring the alliance or portfolio.
To keep alliance measurement simple, I believe we can use two guidelines:

  • Base alliance metrics on each partner’s business metrics.
    Choose very few of them, among those business metrics that the alliance aims to impact most, such as sales, margins, innovation of solutions.
  • Tune each alliance metric to the specifics of each alliance, and keep it consistent with metrics for other alliances, by answering one simple question: how will we decide that any one contribution to a company’s business metric is associated to one specific alliance?
    For instance: how can we tell that a given alliance has indeed driven a given new sale? 

Following these two guidelines helps keeping alliance metric results consistent and comparable with the partners’ overall business results, and minimizes tracking effort. This in turn is especially relevant for ambitious, high impact alliances that aim – and claim – to influence a significant share of each partner’s business.  

The second guideline also helps meet a key requirement for an alliance’s success within each partner: that the alliance matches both partners’ cultures.
Each company has strong beliefs, powerful stories, about who wins business, and how. The more consistent we can make the rules measuring alliances with these stories, the more executives and field teams will be prepared to appreciate a contribution from a specific alliance, and so to embrace that alliance.  

What do you think can make measuring alliances easier, in ICT and other industries?

Update: three LinkedIn alliances discussion groups are providing valuable comments in addition to those below:

  1. Alliance & Channels / IT & Telecom – requires admission; members will find the discussion here
  2. Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals – also requiring admission; members find the discussion here
  3. Alliance & Channels Friends – an open group, the discussion is here

I look forward to taking stock of all these suggestions in a following post and in daily alliances practice.

When IT Consumerization Meets Cloud – Of Large Software Enterprises and Their Customers   Leave a comment

A great post at Pandodaily I meant to reblog here. http://pandodaily.com/2012/02/11/why-oracle-may-really-be-doomed-this-time/

Aimed at Oracle, relevant for many or all large software enterprises and their enterprise customers.

Cosa sta succedendo nelle alleanze e nel canale ICT italiano – primi risultati   1 comment

This is an Italian translation of the previous post.

Sto raccogliendo informazioni e idee sull’evoluzione delle alleanze e del canale nel mercato Information and Communication Technology (ICT) per le imprese in Italia.
Le fonti sono alcuni analisti di mercato locali e globali, piccoli e grandi system integrator, rivenditori e distributori, Independent Software Vendor (ISV) e fornitori di piattaforma software. (Come fornitori di piattaforma intendo operatori globali come HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP e diversi altri.)

Anche se per arrivare a conclusioni significative serviranno altri elementi e altro lavoro, i primi risultati mi sembrano interessanti e utili per il nostro lavoro quotidiano, sia a livello individuale sia nella mia organizzazione, che a livello mondiale si sta evolvendo per sviluppare le nostre capacità di collaborazione per alleanze e di rivendita ad altissimo valore aggiunto.

Ecco quel che secondo me si può già dire: la gestione dei partner ICT, tanto nella forma di relazioni di canale asimmetriche, uno-a-molti, quanto in quella delle relazioni di alleanza simmetriche, uno-a-uno, sostanzialmente alla pari, sta vivendo un’evoluzione profonda. Credo che questa evoluzione sia più forte di quanto possano spiegare la normale ricerca di maggior disciplina delle vendite e persino le pressioni di un ambiente economico più difficile. Secondo me stanno emergendo nuove categorie di partner ICT in concorrenza con quelli tradizionali, che a loro volta introducono nuovi comportamenti in risposta a questa concorrenza.

In Italia, questo sta offrendo a tutti gli operatori del mercato ICT nuove occasioni per superare la frammentazione storica del settore. Col tempo, si potrebbe riuscire a definire nuovi modelli di business tra partner; modelli che valorizzino le caratteristiche del mercato locale in modo originale, un po’ come le reti di piccole imprese nei distretti regionali avevano innovato il settore manifatturiero negli anni Ottanta.

Per chiarire innanzitutto il contesto italiano di questa valutazione, vedo due tratti distintivi nell’ecosistema locale dei partner ICT:

  • è altamente frammentato, proprio come il nostro mercato ICT aziendale (gli analisti tengono sotto controllo più di diecimila fornitori e intermediari, e un numero di aziende cliente finale che è nello stesso ordine di grandezza).
  • l’accesso al credito è relativamente complesso per le grandi e medie imprese, quindi rivenditori e distributori investono risorse significative per creare un ponte tra le esigenze dei fornitori e quelle dei clienti in materia di termini di pagamento.

Questa combinazione di fattori influenza profondamente sia gli operatori del canale, sia i fornitori di piattaforma a monte del canale.
I rivenditori e i distributori devono concentrarsi su ampiezza di copertura ed efficienza operativa, riducendo le risorse disponibili per l’innovazione dell’offerta e quindi per la differenziazione tra operatori e lo sviluppo di vere alleanze.
I fornitori di piattaforma, dall’altra parte, trovano difficile distinguere tra tanti partner che si somigliano tanto, per riconoscere, premiare e guidare i comportamenti più efficaci, e quindi innovazione ed efficienza nel proprio canale.

In questo contesto, vedo due tendenze globali principali responsabili di un cambiamento profondo, che può avere risultati particolari nel nostro paese.
La prima è la globalizzazione abilitata dal cloud: le architetture e i modelli di business cloud nell’ICT per le aziende e i consumatori stanno aiutando a rendere finalmente possibile anche per gli operatori del mercato delle piccole e medie imprese erogare servizi in tutto il mondo in maniera davvero indipendente dalla posizione geografica. Un fornitore di software indipendente in qualsiasi paese può unire le proprie soluzioni innovative con le innovazioni rilevanti che altri offrono altrove, poi erogare i risultati ai clienti di entrambi, e a nuovi clienti in altri paesi ancora. Questo ha permesso il successo dei fornitori di Software as a Service, e permette ai fornitori di software tradizionale, da installare, di raggiungere mercati molto più lontani.
La seconda in effetti è l’equivalente per la gestione partner della consumerizzazione dell’offerta ICT alle aziende: nuovi fornitori di piattaforma ICT, provenienti dal mercato consumer, con i loro modelli di business molto specifici, diretti e tramite canale, stanno ormai entrando con gran forza nel mercato delle imprese. In pochi anni li stiamo vedendo adattare significativamente i loro modelli di gestione partner a questo nuovo ambiente. I fornitori di piattaforme maturi e i loro partner di alleanza e di canale tradizionali si stanno adattando, a volte con fatica, e per far questo stanno sia applicando con maggior rigore i propri modelli di partnership, sia innovandoli.  

Lavorando soprattutto con i fornitori di piattaforma per le grandi aziende, i loro partner e il loro canale, ho visto diversi risultati di queste due tendenze, alcuni in sostanziale continuità e alcuni più dirompenti.

Tra gli sviluppi in continuità, i fornitori di piattaforma hanno aumentato i loro investimenti nella gestione strutturata e rigorosa dei partner, per identificare e far crescere i partner che forniscono il massimo valore. Hanno introdotto, o rafforzato in modo significativo, strumenti standard di gestione dei partner come la certificazione delle competenze; hanno aumentato i requisiti di certificazione, e reso le competenze più specifiche e differenziate. Hanno migliorato la registrazione dei lead e i programmi di compensazione, e quei pochi che potevano permettersi di ignorarli li stanno adottando. Quelli che avevano sempre preferito rapporti asimmetrici, di canale, con partner piccoli e obbedienti, si sono ormai aperti a una gestione di alcune relazioni ben scelte come alleanze più simmetriche, ciascuna con un proprio insieme specifico di valori, obiettivi e pratiche di gestione, che risponda alle peculiarità del modello di business di entrambi i partner. Alcuni fornitori di piattaforma oggi stanno segmentando il proprio portafoglio partner con la stessa attenzione del loro portafoglio clienti, e associano con maggiore attenzione certi segmenti di partner con segmenti di clienti specifici. Molti prestano attenzione molto maggiore alla separazione, o alla collaborazione, tra vendite dirette e canale.
Molti di questi sviluppi derivano da buone pratiche a livello mondiale. Applicarle al contesto particolare dell’Italia è stato complesso, con uno sforzo significativo di gestione del cambiamento, anche se è possibile che si arrivi a medio termine a miglioramenti più significativi che in altri paesi. Alcuni fornitori, per esempio, stanno ancora lavorando per ottenere, dal maggior investimento e dalla maggior disciplina nella gestione partner, la capacità di trovare più facilmente i partner più bravi a veicolare fatturato per loro, in modo da concentrare su questi attenzione e incentivi.

Altri risultati delle stesse tendenze mi sembrano più dirompenti e innovativi.

Uno importante è stato portare al centro del modo in cui i fornitori di piattaforma e i loro partner erogano valore ai clienti le soluzioni ripetibili, definite nel modo più chiaro e documentato possibile.
Oltre a migliorare l’efficienza di erogazione dei risultati, questa impostazione aiuta i partner a differenziarsi gli uni dagli altri, e i fornitori di piattaforma a rendersi conto di questa differenziazione. Le soluzioni rappresentano un oggetto di collaborazione più tangibile, comprensibile e gratificante, sia in fase di vendita congiunta sia al momento di valutare il successo, rispetto ai modelli di collaborazione tradizionali, basati su protocolli e regole.

Questo vale sia per relazioni asimmetriche di canale con piccoli partner, sia per alleanze simmetriche tra operatori di peso analogo.
Per i partner più piccoli, le soluzioni di cui si tratta sono in realtà modelli di soluzione proposti dal fornitore di piattaforma, che sfida e incoraggia i tutti i partner ad adottarli, arricchirli e offrire al mercato la soluzione risultante.
Per i partner con modelli di business più complessi, è il partner che propone soluzioni al fornitore della piattaforma, sulle quali collaborare.
Nelle alleanze, l’approccio è più vicino allo sviluppo di una soluzione congiunta tra i due partner, che poi collaborano nella vendita e nella erogazione ai clienti, insieme e in parallelo.
Per tutti i tipi di partner, le soluzioni diventano il catalizzatore della collaborazione: le soluzioni diventano il vero oggetto tangibile della collaborazione, ciò che rende una certa partnership diversa da altre simili.

Lo sviluppo forse più interessante che vedo oggi in Italia nella gestione dei partner nel mercato ICT riguarda i fornitori di software indipendenti. Gli ISV beneficiano delle tendenze attive oggi in molti modi, ad esempio:

  • Quando i fornitori di piattaforma cercano di capire il valore di ciascun partner e scegliere i migliori, trovano gli ISV e le loro soluzioni più chiare e definite, e quindi facili da valutare, confrontare e gestire, di quelle dei tradizionali partner di canale: distributori, rivenditori e system integrator.
    Nelle soluzioni degli ISV come in quelle dei grandi fornitori di piattaforma, il valore è in gran parte incorporato nelle caratteristiche di un prodotto software. Risulta quindi molto più facile per entrambi i partner misurare, e quindi ricompensare, il contributo al successo reciproco, rispetto a quando l’uno o l’altro collaborano con un distributore, rivenditore o system integrator tradizionale.
  • Gli ISV, soprattutto quelli più piccoli con prodotti di nicchia molto specializzati, sono in una posizione ideale per sfruttare le opportunità di erogazione del valore indipendentemente dalla posizione geografica che le piattaforme cloud e i canali internet stanno offrendo. Gli ISV veramente innovativi, con soluzioni di valore, possono raggiungere i mercati globali con uno sforzo molto limitato.

Nella mia esperienza, questo è successo finora soprattutto con ISV internazionali – basati in un singolo paese estero o multinazionali – attivi o in ingresso nel mercato italiano. Personalmente, devo ancora vedere esempi significativi di ISV basati in Italia che seguano questa impostazione nel rapporto con i fornitori di piattaforma.

Qual è il risultato potenziale di questa evoluzione sulla gestione dei partner ICT nel complesso?

Mi sembra che questa maggiore chiarezza di rapporto con i fornitori di piattaforma, e questo migliore accesso al mercato, stiano permettendo agli ISV, e sempre più ad ISV più piccoli con un valor aggiunto superiore, di entrare in concorrenza con i distributori e rivenditori per la massima attenzione e il massimo supporto dei fornitori di piattaforma, e per l’accesso ai clienti. In alcuni casi questo migliore accesso agli incentivi dei fornitori di piattaforma induce un ISV a fare una scelta di campo tra le piattaforme, concentrando la propria strategia di prodotto su una singola piattaforma tra quelle concorrenti, come strumento per stabilire una partnership ancora più stretta con il fornitore di quella.
Analogamente, vedo fornitori di piattaforma da sempre scettici sugli ISV, che preferivano proporre implementazioni delle proprie soluzioni tramite system integrator, aprirsi progressivamente al valore che una soluzione ISV riesce a fornire loro permettendo di portare la piattaforma in ambiti del mercato dove il canale tradizionale arriverebbe solo con progetti e integrazioni più complessi. Questi fornitori iniziano a collaborare commercialmente sempre più con gli ISV.

Questa evoluzione stimola l’evoluzione dei partner di alleanza e di canale più tradizionali, come distributori, rivenditori e system integrator generalisti, in almeno due modi diversi.

Da un lato le soluzioni ISV, magari configurate e arricchite da integratori più specializzati, rappresentano una concorrenza ulteriore per l’offerta dei system integrator generalisti. Dall’altro, emerge un incentivo più forte alla collaborazione tra ISV e system integrator che, concentrandosi su soluzioni più specifiche, possono offrire al mercato un valore maggiore e meglio riconoscibile. Perseguendo questa opportunità, gli ISV incentivano di fatto i system integrator a focalizzare la propria offerta per soluzioni, costruite sempre più intorno a quelle degli ISV stessi.

Le prime valutazioni e i primi commenti mi inducono a pensare che questo richieda un impegno significativo sia ai fornitori di piattaforma, sia ai loro partner: i nuovi partner ISV e quelli tradizionali. In particolare cambia il modo in cui i fornitori di piattaforma definiscono le proprie soluzioni rispetto a quelle dei loro partner, gestiscono la propria relazione con loro e addirittura comunicano le proprie soluzioni e il proprio modello di collaborazione ai partner vecchi e nuovi e al mercato. Nel nostro mercato italiano, così frammentato, stiamo riscontrando le prime indicazioni concrete di interesse forte da parte di alcuni fornitori di piattaforma, ISV e system integrator.

What is Happening in Enterprise ICT Alliances and Channel in Italy – Early Results   4 comments

Italian translation available – disponibile la traduzione italiana. Text revised on 30 Jan 2012.

I am gathering insight on enterprise Information and Communication Technology (ICT) alliances and channel evolution in Italy. Information comes from selected local and global market analysts, large and small systems integrators, resellers and distributors, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and software platform vendors (the category including global players such as HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and a few others).

More evidence will be required for meaningful conclusions, still I am finding early results interesting and useful for our daily work, both individually and as part of my organization, evolving to develop our alliance teaming capability as well as very high value added resale capability.

My personal understanding so far: ICT partner management, including both asymmetric, one-to-many channel relations and symmetric, one-to-one, essentially peer-to-peer alliance relations, is going through intense and disruptive evolution. I believe this evolution is stronger than standard sales discipline and even response to a challenging economic environment can explain. New categories of enterprise ICT partners are emerging to compete with existing ones, while incumbents are developing new behaviors to answer this competition.
In Italy, this is providing ICT market players with new opportunities to overcome historical fragmentation. Over time, it might even become possible to define new partner business models that leverage local specifics in original ways, somehow like networks of small enterprises in regional districts had innovated manufacturing around the 1980s.  

Let me start by setting some local context. I see two distinguishing features in the Italian ICT partner ecosystem:

  • it is highly fragmented, just as our enterprise ICT customer market (analysts monitor and report on more than a dozen thousand suppliers and intermediaries, and on a number of enterprise end customers that is in the same order of magnitude).
  • credit access is relatively complex for enterprises large and small, so resellers and distributors put significant resources to bridge  customer and supplier requirements on payment terms.

This combination impacts channel operators as well as enterprise platform vendors at the supplying end of the channel.
Resellers and distributors must focus on breadth and transactional efficiency, which reduces resources available for offering innovation, differentiation from competitors, and development of true alliances.
Platform vendors, on the other side, struggle to distinguish among so many partners so alike, to recognize, reward and drive the most effective behaviors, and with them innovation and efficiency in their channel.

In this context, I see two major global trends causing disruptive change, that can have special results in our country.

The first is cloud-enabled globalization: cloud architectures and business models for both enterprise and consumer ICT are helping fulfill the long due promise of global, fully location-independent service delivery for advanced small and medium market players. An independent software vendor from any country can combine their own innovative solutions with relevant innovations from others elsewhere, then deliver the result to customers of both, and to new customers in new locations. This has allowed success of Software as a Service vendors, and much greater market reach for more traditional on-premise software vendors.

The second is really the partner management side of consumerization: new ICT platform vendors coming from the consumer market, with their specific business and partner models, have entered the enterprise market with a vengeance. After few years, we see they have significantly adapted their partner models to this new environment. Established global platform vendors and their channel and alliance partners have been adapting, sometimes scrambling to adapt, applying their partner models more rigorously and innovating them in the process.

Working mostly with large enterprise platform vendors and their channel and alliance partners, I have seen some incremental results of these two trends, and some more innovative, truly disruptive.

Among incremental developments, enterprise platform vendors have increased their investment in partner management discipline, to identify and grow partners that provide the most value. They have introduced, or significantly strengthened, such standard partner management tools as competency certification; they have increased certification requirements, and made competencies more specific and differentiated. They have improved lead registration and reward programs, and the few who could afford to ignore them are adopting them. Those that had long privileged asymmetric channel relations with smaller, more complying partners have now opened up to managing selected relations as more symmetric alliances, each with its specific set of values, objectives, and management practices, tuned to the business model of both partners. Some platform vendors are now segmenting their partner portfolio just as carefully as they do their customer portfolio, and matching partner segments to customer segments more carefully. Many are now much more deliberate in how their direct sales and indirect sales separate, or cooperate.

Most of this is the result of global best practices. Applying it to Italy’s special environment has been complex, with a significant change management effort, if medium term results may well be better than in other countries. Some vendors for instance are still working to obtain from their greater partner management investment and discipline the ability to find and develop those special partners who “pull the most weight”, in terms of vendor business they embed and drive in their own.

Other results of the same trends appear to me more disruptive and innovative.

An important one has been making repeatable, formally defined solutions an essential part of how platform vendors and their partners deliver value to their customers. In addition to improving delivery efficiency, this is helping partners differentiate from each other, and platform vendors perceive this differentiation. Solutions make a more tangible, understandable and rewarding object to team around, sell together and measure success of, than prescriptive behavior models. This value of solutions applies both to asymmetric channel relations with small partners, and with more symmetric alliances among near-peers.
For smaller partners, solutions are really vendor-supplied solution blueprints; each platform vendor challenges and encourages all partners to take up these blueprints, add value to them, and sell the result.
For partners with more complex business models, it’s the partner that proposes solutions to team around to the platform vendor.
In alliances, the approach is closer to joint solution development by both partners, who then cooperate in selling and delivering it, together and in parallel.
For all kinds of partners, solutions become the catalyst of teaming: solutions are what teaming is really about, what makes a given partnership stand out from other similar relations.

Perhaps the most interesting development from innovation trends in enterprise ICT partner management I am seeing in Italy involves Independent Software Vendors. ISVs often benefit from these trends in many ways, for instance:

  • platform vendors, seeking to understand partner value and distinguish among partners, find ISVs and their solutions easier to assess, compare and manage. This helps them choose among ISV solutions, and most importantly makes it easier to measure and reward success.
    In ISV solutions as well as in those of platform vendors, much of the value is embedded in the features of a software product. Measuring and rewarding mutual contribution to success becomes much easier for both partners than when either works with a traditional partner.
  • Small, niche ISVs are in a great position to leverage the opportunity for location-independent value delivery that cloud platforms and internet channels are providing. Truly innovative, valuable ISV solutions can reach global markets with very limited effort.

In my experience, this has happened mostly with international – single-country or global – ISVs working or entering the Italian market. Personally, I have yet to see significant examples of Italy-based ISVs taking similar approaches in working with platform vendors.

What is the result for enterprise ICT partner management overall?
It seems to me that this greater mutual clarity, and better ISV access to market, are allowing more and more, smaller and higher value ISVs to compete with distributors and resellers for platform vendor support and for customer access. In some cases this better access to platform vendor rewards is encouraging ISVs to take sides and focus their product strategy on a single platform among competing ones, as a way to forge more direct connections with that platform’s vendor.
Conversely, I see platform vendors who used to be skeptical about ISVs and propose implementations of their own solutions instead of ISV solutions, now gradually opening to the value that an ISV solution can provide on top of the platform it leverages, as it reaches more easily market niches where the traditional channels would require more complex integrations. These vendors start to team more and more with ISVs for sales.

This evolution challenges more traditional channel and alliance partners, such as distributors, resellers, and general-purpose systems integrators. It happens in at least two ways. 
On the one hand ISV solutions, often configured and enriched by more specialized, solution-focuses systems integrators, add to competition for general-purpose integrators. On the other hand, ISV and systems integrators find great value in teaming with each other. In pursuing this, ISVs can provide a further stimulus for systems integrators to focus their offering in solutions, built more and more around selected ISV solutions.

Early discussions suggest this requires significant investment by platform vendors, ISV and traditional partners. Specifically, the change is about offerings and how to define, manage and even communicate partner relations to partners themselves and the market. In our fragmented Italian market, I am seeing evidence that some platform vendors, ISVs, and systems integrators are strongly interested in this.

%d bloggers like this: