In the Eight Secrets webcast, we reviewed some research data indicating that higher performing companies were extensive collaborators.

Here I’d like to share some thoughts behind a fundamental change in attitude towards collaboration and partnering that I’ve seen in past few years. Some years ago, companies would express their reason for partnering in terms of “we can’t do everything ourselves” , We can’t do it alone”. This implied that partnerships were needed to fill gaps in expertise, in capabilities or capacity – a need for a partner strategy.

These days I’m hearing a different refrain. “We’re better together”. As partnering professionals, we have always promoted the idea of creating greater value or synergy in working with partners. Basic partner math 1 + 1 > 3. While we preached the mantra, I’m not sure how much value creation was truely recognized either in reality or in perception.

But what I have found in practice is the most successful partnerships are those where clear metrics for value creation are defined. This harkens back to the management truism “you manage what you measure”. When you’ve gone through the discipline of defining how you are creating value, how you measure it and how you optimize it, you are creating a template for success. Easier said than done, I realize. Quite often we come up with the great idea for value creation, but don’t have the tracking systems or organizational discipline to measure it. Influence revenue comes to mind.

For those not in the computer industry, influence revenue results when customers respond to the partner value proposition by buying the joint bundle of products and services. But because each partner is managing its own sales process independently and taking the order for their component of the sale, it is very difficult to gage how much of the customer’s buying decision was attributed to the partnership or to the salemanship of one partner. I could enumerate the different versions of how companies attempt to measure influence, but it all boils down to reporting discipline. Our corporate tracking sytems are garbage-in, garbage-out systems and often the cost of noncontestable data is just too high.

However, there are still many aspects of value creation that are important to measure and manage. Customer value is one I highly advocate. If your partner value proposition is supposed to decrease cost, accelerate time to market, create differentiation, or increase quality of service for you customer, then measure that! Nothing like creating solid proof points for value to demonstrate the worth of the partnership – at least to the customer!