I ran two polls last week on how important it is to automate partner operations - aka EcoOps - and what is getting in the way of succeeding. The results were pretty compelling:
- How big is this problem: 75% of respondents said lack of partner process automation is a top 3 issue, and 19% said it was the top issue getting in the way of scaling partner programs.
- What are the barriers to automating partner processes? ⅔ of respondents said the problem was lack of resources or poor RevOps alignment, and ⅓ said we lacked planning or had no business case.
See Poll Results Here:
How can we explain this conundrum, where automation of processes is critical and yet we can’t find the resources, drive the required executive alignment and focus properly to solve the problem? Saying that partnering is complex and ecosystem orchestration is still early in its maturation cycle doesn’t cut it. Let’s explore what’s really going on and how to fix this problem.
First, there are three imperatives for EcoOps and the future of Partner Ecosystems:
- Partner ecosystem success is dependent on automating and systematizing the five elements of EcoOps which we covered in our EcoOps column a few weeks back: Enablement, Workflows, Data Sharing and Integration, Analysis and Reporting, & Automation and Tooling.
- We cannot scale partner ecosystem orchestration without automation that frees up front-line partner managers to be value creators, rather than administrators. Without automation, we can neither scale the growth in partner performance, nor the efficiency of our partnership teams. We simply won’t be permitted to add headcount measured on a linear basis with partner performance.
- We need to demand more from our EcoTech tools providers and EcoOps consultants to deliver best practices, integrated processes, and field-tested playbooks. There is too much experimentation and not enough practitioner-based expertise to go around. Nevertheless, thank you to the Partnership Leaders community and its slack channel for making a go of it.
To address these gaps and challenges, I’ve decided to dedicate a bunch of my and my team’s energy to advocating for EcoOps functions and automation outcomes for B2BSaaS companies. We have some recommendations for Partnership Leaders to start attending to the challenges of automating partner ecosystem orchestration. Here are our three best practices:
- Build an EcoOps Roadmap that aligns with your stage of maturity on the GoToEcosystem maturity model. Understand the big picture, but focus 90% of your energy mapping out the data flows, workflows, reporting, and enablement for the next 6 months, including the EcoTechstack tools that help you succeed.
- Use the EcoOps Roadmap to Drive Alignment with Other Ops & to Resource the EcoOps Tasks with the Other Ops teams. There are three groups of ops that you need to think about: RevOps, which includes sales, marketing, and CS, ProductOps, and OtherOps. You need their support to gain resourcing and headcount to drive the EcoOps tasks and outcomes.
- Build your EcoOps Muscles and Execute the EcoOps Tasks. It’s great to get advice from other practitioners. Hats off to folks like Chris Lavoie, Mike Stocker, and Cory Snyder who share so generously their expertise and know-how. However, to truly succeed, you have to build tooling, and you can’t do that by borrowing everything from volunteers or over-relying on RevOps. Get help from consultants you trust and start hiring for EcoOps now. Get to work to execute on the roadmap by building out the EcoOps outcomes with the Other Ops.
Let’s dig into each recommendation.
Build an EcoOps Roadmap
Earlier in the year, we developed the GoToEcosystem Maturity model which we presented at our SaaS Connect Keynote. Check out the four minutes starting at 14:30 to hear more. The Maturity Model lays out the pathway to building toward an Ecosystem Business. Now, we are suggesting a process of aligning your EcoOps roadmap to each of the four stages viewed through the lens of tech partners as your starting point. The stages are as follows:
- L. Launch - where we prioritize, create and validate tech partner integrations.
- P. Prove - where we begin to sell and market these integrated solutions focusing on referrals and sourced revenues.
- S. Scale - where we expand to co-sell, co-market, and co-retain with these integrated solutions focused on partner-assisted and influenced revenues.
- E. Embed - where we fully embed the Ecosystem across the organization, become mostly partner-attached across our pipeline, go deeper into Rev and Product Ops, and drive network effects.
Partner Leaders should look to build an EcoOps roadmap for the relevant stage in the following the diagram below, starting with the roadmap for Partner Process and Data and expanding as is relevant to the other 5 Ops groups - SalesOps, MarketingOps, CSOps, PartnerOps, and OtherOps (mostly legal and finance). Not all of the processes will be automated, and not all of the processes will include a new EcoTech stack tool, but in all cases, you should think through the 5 dimensions of Enablement, Workflows, Data Sharing and Integration, Analysis and Reporting, & Automation and Tooling and how they apply to each maturity stage.
Let’s consider an example. Let’s assume that you are in the Prove or early in the Scale stage of the GoToEcosystem Maturity Model. You have several validated tech partner integrations and you are beginning the process of using Automated Account Mapping to identify overlaps that drive referrals. In this instance, you should be focusing mostly on Partner, Sales and possibly Marketing Process and Data and include a roadmap that includes the following EcoOps tasks and outcomes:
- An automated or semi-automated partner nurture process to drive partner engagement, including their Sales and CS teams, and build your relationships to progress across a partner lifecycle. The desired outcome is to keep partners interested, excited, and responsive to the opportunity to share and receive referrals. The metric is the number of Partners at each lifecycle stage.
- Analytics support to set up and make use of Crossbeam and Reveal populations, leading to conversations to have and outcomes to achieve with micro population overlaps with key tech partners. The desired outcome is to focus on the customer list to drive referrals with sales and with your partners’ sales teams and both CS teams. The metric is #/$ EQL pre-pipeline.
- How to connect Crossbeam or Reveal data in order to orchestrate cross-channel communications such as slack updates and relevant automated emails to partners, PAMs, SC teams to deliver referrals to partners, and internal Sales teams to leverage partner referrals to sales conversions. The desired outcome is scalable collaboration on deal activity, flow, velocity, & results. The metric is #/$ EQL pipeline.
- How to connect Crossbeam data and processes with SF or Hubspot CRM & measure sourced revenue impacts. The desired outcome is the ability to drive CRM engagement and tracking and attribution results that prove ROI and align with SalesOps reporting. The metric is #/$ SQL pipeline, EQL/SQL conversion rate, and #/$ closed/won
- How to drive better together content creation and sales enablement. The desired outcome is Standardized Bills of Material (BOMs), a flexible and scalable content repository to drive enablement linked to workflow steps #2-4. The metric is content utilization by Sales on referrals in CS on referrals out from partners.
- Playbooks for partners on how #1-5 work. The desired outcome is coordination of activities that lead to validated revenue and other financial outcomes.
Use the EcoOps Roadmap to Drive Other Ops Alignment & to Resource the EcoOps Tasks
Once you have your roadmap, you should have greater confidence and credibility that you can achieve your GoToEcosystem Maturity Stage outcomes. For example, if you are again in the Prove stage, your #1 outcome is to show a hard ROI for investing in your Tech Partnerships.
Within eight months of executing most of the steps 1-6 above, Chris Lavoie helped Gorgias gain 30% of Gorgias’ revenue growth from tech partnerships and grow its partnerships headcount from 8 people to 18 in less than a year. You can do the same thing, and with data points like this, talk to RevOps, most likely SalesOps, about supporting you to execute steps 1-6. Be sure you go into the discussion aligning the EcoOps roadmap to your maturity model outcomes and tell a compelling story.
In the Prove Stage, 9 times out of 10 if you don’t have an EcoOps headcount, you are going to get the resourcing and whatever IT support you need from SalesOps, so your job is to convince SalesOps and Sales leadership to support you. Take note of the following:
- You know what needs to be done from an enablement, data, workflow, reporting, and automation POV. You get there by mapping each of these 5 dimensions on each of the 6 steps, at a high level, to arrive at a game plan to build out the EcoOps steps.
- Make sure you have mapped out the Jobs to Be Done, at a high level, to execute the processes for each of the 6 steps - what are the flows, who does what, what role does the partner team play, what role does sales play, what role does EcoOps and SalesOps play.
- Connect that to your sourced revenue forecast from referrals built from having done enough of step 2 to arrive at a justified TAM. We have a template to drive this analysis.
Build your EcoOps Muscles and Execute the Tasks
Once you have an aligned roadmap of EcoOps tasks pertaining to your Maturity Stage and have buy-in from the right ‘other’ Ops, you are ready to execute the tasks. Hopefully, you have a business analyst or a third-party consultant who can help you map out each of these 5 dimensions on each of the steps at a granular level to arrive at a project plan to build out the EcoOps tasks. You are digging into the details here, so you will also need ‘hands on keyboards’ to execute the tasks, such as activating integrations between EcoTech vendors, such as Crossbeam, and SalesTech vendors, such as SalesForce.
The same business analyst can create the details of Jobs to Be Done, at a granular level, to align with the project planning process.
This way once the EcoOps tasks are in place, the Jobs to be Done process guides the organization as to how to operate the EcoOps meets Other Ops machinery.
Because the systems you build will allow you to ingest referrals, and positively leverage other relevant data, your success will serve as an archetype for your partners to invest more time and resources into EcoOps.
The GoToEcosystem process is all about building bridges outside (to your partners) and inside to your organization. The carrying capacity and stability of these bridges depend on a strong underlying EcoOps foundation.
DM me on LinkedIn if you’d like to talk about your EcoOps challenges, roadmaps, priorities, or how to execute. And be sure to come to my EcoOps panel at Catalyst!