What to consider when providers talk about alliances and partnerships

We discussed earlier this week the new alliances formed by CombineNet in order to develop and extend the range of capabilities they can offer to clients. The links are with Upside Software on the contract management side, and Spend Radar on spend analytics. Now in this case, CombineNet appear to have built the technology from these partners into their own product suite, which should ensure solid integration. And I’m assuming that CombineNet clients will be working with and through their normal CombineNet sales channels to access their new products – so it should all be straightforward from a customer perspective.

But it got me think about issues that customers do need to consider when supplies start promoting alliances, joint ventures and similar. (This applies beyond purely the software world, we should stress). What should the customer look out for? The benefits are clear - and will of course be promoted by the firms. Wider capability, the chance to pick and choose what you need, and sharing of costs between partners, which can lead to better value for clients.  But there are a few points to be aware of - here are three of the most important:

-  If the alliance is offering products or services that originate from different firms within the alliance, do they actually integrate?  Are they easy to use together, or will it feel like separate technologies, products, or services from separate firms? If it does, then are you really getting any benefit?

- Does the alliance actually make your life easier, for example in terms of a single point of contact, consolidated billing or account management, or will it still feel like dealing with separate firms?  Who do you call when there’s a problem? Or is the driver cost-cutting, so a “sharing of resources” really means there’s less being invested in customer care?

- Have the partners worked out their own business model in terms of costs and revenues? Is that all clear and agreed up front? That may not seem important to you as the client, but I guarantee, if they’re going to end up squabbling amongst themselves about revenue or cost sharing, finder’s fees and so on, then it will rebound on you in some way!

So we’d suggest you test this when you are presented with the idea of alliances and partnerships. They can work very well for everyone, including the client, but it’s worth checking out a few of these key questions before you get too far.

First Voice

  1. Jennifer Sikora:

    Very well stated, Peter: developing partnerships that benefit the customer, rather than just provide a corporate marketing benefit for the partners involved, is the key here, and a focus for what we’ve done with Spend Radar and Upside Software. We’ve worked with Spend Radar and Upside Software to define and deliver CombineNet solutions based on their underlying technology, but the user experience is entirely within the CombineNet universe, meaning that customers benefit from the focus of CombineNet’s account management, training and support organizations on their success. We see the integration points between the products as particularly beneficial as well. Thanks for raising such an important point as it relates to industry partnerships.

    Cheers,
    Jennifer Sikora
    VP of Marketing
    CombineNet

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