In early 2018, my colleague Laura Powers, an Agilest Icon, and I held a workshop on Agile Partnering. One of our attendees was Kristina Scott, Sr. Director Partner Enablement, Marketing, Operations at Seclore. Seclore is an emerging security software startup with a broad ecosystem of channels, technology alliances and OEMs. A year after the workshop, Kristina remarked “Thinking back to the workshop, I’ve come to appreciate that “we need all of our alliances to be agile.”

“We have a focus by major customer accounts. We think ‘what partnerships do we need for this account?’

Increasingly partnerships are assembled around major market opportunities.  In Marketing, Account-Based Marketing or ABM has been a practice for some time. Now in Strategic Alliances or Partner Management, we’re seeing the shift towards ABA or Account-Based Alliances.  Vendors who can quickly assemble and deliver ecosystem solutions to address a specialized customer need, will get their foot in the door first, and in the most relevant way to that opportunity.

Then, when we’ve been successful at an ABA, we ask ourselves “Where else can we take this? What other accounts have these and similar needs?” Major accounts drive the ecosystem.

“We don’t have the luxury of 12-18 months to set up an alliance.  In the old model, we could incubate an alliance for months, but today the expectation cycle and delivery cycle are so much more aggressive.  We experience this every day.  We have to get there first or we leave openings for competitors.

Many of our bid opportunities are multi-partner, and in recognition of this we’ve launched an industry-first platform for Data-Centric Security, that delivers broad interoperability and quick-turn integrations and solution design for holistic security.  The ecosystem becomes the differentiator.

As the ecosystem growths the importance of working together becomes exponentially more important.

So how do we operationalize agile partnering?

1.       Focus on customer through account based alliances

2.       Create small empowered teams to pursue the opportunity with the ecosystem

3.       Strong partner advocate.  Alliances tend to be cross functional, so an advocate that can bridge those silos …in each partner organization, is critical.

Buyers are increasingly setting the agenda. Forrester writes of the Age of the Customer. To flourish in this age, we need to be able to work with our partners in a fast and interactive way, ‘Go-to-Market, adjust, repeat’. This is crucial to keep pace with the market and our customers.  If our partnerships are not agile, they may not last to the next business year.  Agility is not just a nice-to-have or a driver for us, it’s the new imperative.”