At this point, we’re hopefully on the same page about the potential for Partner Operations to play a significant role in the ongoing development of Partner Experience conceptually and professionally.
I’ve been doing the ‘thought leadership’ thing for a bit now, so it’s high time we get back to tactical guidance. You’ve been patiently waiting while I grandstand on this topic, and it’s much appreciated.
This week is a guide for developing stewardship of Partner Experience within your organization.
Getting started with Partner Experience
The following is a practical guide of activities for developing a better understanding of the Partner Experience in your company. Take this advice and use it however you see fit - it's just a guide.
You'll find more to add, and things to ignore, but hopefully have a jumping-off point to at least get started in your journey.
Document the tech stack
The tech stack is clearly a biased starting point for me, but it's also relatively innocuous. You can find this information easily, setting a foundation for what is a large part of the experience.
You'll start to uncover headaches and opinions of stakeholders without specifically calling any attention to your larger driver until you're ready to start that conversation more intentionally. At a minimum, you should be documenting the following:
- Name of the Platform
- Primary Use Case
- Annual Cost (if accessible)
- Internal Owner/Group
- Non-utilized Features
- Feature Overlap
- User Management Practices
- Technical Issues
Map the stakeholder journey
There are three primary stakeholder groups when evaluating Partner Experience: Customers, Colleagues, and Partners. You'll want to understand the experience each group has when it comes to your ecosystem.
- By Partner Type
- Through Phases, such as these
- High Points
- Low PointsCustomers
- Throughout Customer Lifecycle
- Touch-points: Marketplace, Support, Services, Integrations
- Which partners do they love?
- Which do they... love less?
- What stories are repeating, i.e., the themes you uncover?
- By Department/Role
- By Engagement Points
- By Program Type
- Enablement/Training - Content Access
Cast the vision & get buy-in
- Paint a Picture of the Future: Include the thoughts and ideas of stakeholders and give credit wherever possible to enhance buy-in.
- Outline Specific Objectives: Include notes on key enhancement areas, the high-level roadmap, and impact analysis for the various groups involved.
- Presentation for Stakeholders: Tell everyone what you're thinking, collect feedback, adjust, and refine as you go.
- Secure Explicit Buy-In: Once you've got the agreement, go for explicit buy-in and ask for stakeholder representatives to help maintain commitment and provide accountability for realization.
Coordinate the roadmap
- Identify the Early / Easy Wins: Where can you quickly make minor enhancements to add value and show impact toward your goals?
- Technology: Make a note of plans to consolidate, deprecate, and acquire new solutions in light of the enhanced experience you're targeting. This is where Ops can shine, and a detailed tech map makes a difference.
- Program: Highlight the adjustments, expansion, consolidation plans, and termination plans on a program-by-program basis. Some may not need much, but if there are major changes, you'll want those clearly communicated with as much lead time as you can reasonably secure.
- Overall roadmap: This should include the high-level timelines, primary challenges and obstacles, major milestones, and any necessary impact analysis to help justify the plan.
The daily grind
- Share the vision and get incorporate Experience checkpoints on key projects to gauge impact (i.e. 'So how does this impact our Partner Experience for our stakeholder groups?').
- Explicitly secure buy-in and identify stakeholders within different groups for cross-functional feedback on how to improve ecosystem engagement and visibility.
- Incorporate recurring meetings to represent Partner / Ecosystem needs with these stakeholders.
- Make all of your notes publicly accessible, and consider using a mind-map tool to draft out all the processes and touchpoints you uncover.
- Carry the banner of Partner Experience and get on calls, make presentations, and be the central figure driving the ideas and enhancements.
The past three weeks have all been dedicated to exploring the concept of partner experience, understanding where ownership might, could, and should live, and now drawing out some definitive actions for establishing a deeper understanding of Partner Experience within your organization.
The really big idea I want to leave with everyone is this: A truly excellent partner experience is rooted in an org-wide commitment to the ecosystem. Partner Ops can make it sing from a technology and process standpoint, but bad programs and poor management will still send Partners running.
Programs might be strong and offer great incentives but a lack of understanding within CS and ProfServe orgs about how Partners support and expand their roles will limit their willingness to engage and leave partners in a competitive position.
Partner managers might be absolutely crushing the referral game, but no conviction on the value of those referrals within Direct will leave that business dying on the vine.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating again as we close things out on this series: Everyone is in Partnerships; they just might not realize it yet.
If you’re excited about Partner Experience, it’s your job to clue them in regardless of your role.