Certainly in this economy doing more with less is an imperative we all face. It is also the fundamental premise of partnering and in these times Partner Managers are pressed even harder to do even more with even less. A few weeks ago I was asked to moderate a gathering of senior alliance executives by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals to discuss this very challenge but with a perspective of what changes had they made in their partnering practices.

How were they managing their portfolios, targeting market initiatives, stretching what’s left of their budgets and headcount? The event was comprised of Silicon Valley notables: Cisco, Apple, Citrix, Symantec, eBay/PayPal, Intel and IBM, the host. Some key takeaways from this illustrious group of Silicon Valleys tech leaders:

  • Alliance activity is increasing but with a “ruthless focus on sales”.
  • Scarce resources was forcing more internal collaboration, more internal alignment on the big plays, and more pooling of resources.
  • Placing bets to incubate new business opportunities – stimulating the stimulus
  • Unusual partner combinations due to M&A activities that were disrupting partner ecosystems, an example is the Oracle acquisition of Sun. Long time partner HP is now a competitor.
  • Convergence of technologies were also causing new alignments. Cisco going into the server business straining the relationship with longtime partner HP who is now aligning more closely than ever with Microsoft on Unified Communications.

Alliance executives also voiced a sense cautious optimism that maybe the worst was behind us, but there was also a recognition that recovery was not linear and not evenly spread across sectors. They were reacting to this by tuning their portfolios to follow the money.

  • Cost take out was a major opportunity for industries that have been consolidating through mergers and acquisitions. Large data centers needed to be consolidated and management systems integrated.These were critical spends for the companies involved since they were counting on the consolidations to liberate operational costs that could be used to restructure.
  • Alignment with Stimulus spending was a frequent refrain and recruiting partners that could enable them to better pursue those funds and the opportunities they were expected to spawn. Many mentioned healthcare and green/clean technologies such as the green grid.

There was a recognition that disruptive innovation and disruptive business models often take root or take off during times of crisis. The event closed with a discussion of some these technologies and business models i.e. SAAS, Mobile applications, Web 2.0 that offered opportunities for continued growth and new partners. Innovation lights the way to prosperity.