Strategic partnerships are beneficial to businesses at any stage of the growth cycle. Today’s economic climate and the fast-paced business world have changed the way enterprises tackle growth challenges requiring them to seek out new partners to ensure they stay competitive.
Ed Kless, the host of the Sage Advice podcast, recently spoke with Tom Miller the head of partner alliance at Net@Work about the changing partner landscape for businesses and what to look for when establishing a relationship with a new partner.
After an extensive career in the mid-market business applications segment as a business partner and an executive at Great Plains, Microsoft, and Sage, Tom has been actively involved in driving the business strategy and expansion of the Partner Alliance Program at Net@Work in New York City.
Ed Kless: Tell me a little bit about what you are doing at Net@Work
Tom Miller: When I retired from Sage in 2013, I developed a fair amount of admiration for Alex and Eddie Solomon, the founders of Net@Work. I understood the challenges that partners like Net@Work face, and their need to organize their business and fuel it for growth while always minding the customer. I always knew them to be collaborative, and their feeling was to take that collaboration a step further and create an alliance program that really had meat in it in terms of the way it was organized and structured and defined so that partners who were part of the community could have access to the very broad and deep and continues to expand portfolio products and services that Net@Work offers.
Ed Kless: What is your assessment of the state of the partnership in mid-market accounting software?
Tom Miller: I would say that the publishers obviously face a considerable challenge. You have this monumental shift occurring from a traditional, as we know it, license model, to a pay as you go, service model. That has its own complications from a business model standpoint. That has a direct impact on the partner channel.
An additional dilemma that publishers face, and they are trying to respond to (some more quickly than others) is the demand in the marketplace for the cloud-based accounting solutions. It is clear, it is there. It’s not a myth that people talk about.
Ed Kless: How can partners adjust to a changing landscape?
Tom Miller: Think about what is the leverage that you have that you can sustain your business model and continue to grow it while maintaining profitability and be able to provide high levels of service that your customers expect from you. Then from the publisher’s standpoint, there’s just an array of competition in the marketplace, so it is challenging from their standpoint to be able to if they already have channels to be able to protect that channel. In the case of people who are trying to build that channel, their ability to mobilize that channel, meaning that they recruit the right partners into the mix and then enable them in a timeframe that allows everything to work. And ultimately with the customer as the focus point.
So, the overall state is one that is becoming to be or is coming to be more stable, from a product strategy standpoint, as far as the publishers are concerned. Based upon my interaction with partners across the wide spectrum, the partners, stable partners, the ones who have customer bases and have been at this for some time, and they’re really good at providing service to customers, they’re beginning to stabilize in terms of their own product mixes and product strategies.
Remember, for a partner to switch or to add a significant ERP software to their offering requires a pretty significant investment, not just in the terms of out-of-pocket cost, but in the time away from the business for people to get up to speed and also the disruption cost in terms of how you generate revenue in the meantime to keep everything afloat.
Ed Kless: What progress has been made in the past few years?
Tom Miller: We’ve made huge progress over the past year. Things are becoming more stable, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. The good news is that many of the publishers who are kind of feeling their way, if you will, and getting better in terms of direction, are the ones who have the biggest bases of partners and they need to make sure they take those partners along.
Want to hear more from the interview with Tom Miller and Ed Kless? Listen to the full podcast interview below.