Thriving In The Age Of The Ecosystem

The IT channel has seen some far-reaching changes in recent years, but perhaps the most significant has been its evolution to a partner ecosystem. The channel today comprises a huge range of different partner types and business models – there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to delivering outcomes to customers.

This was the topic under discussion at the recent ‘The Age of the Ecosystem’ panel at Canalys Forum in Barcelona. We heard that more organizations than ever are reliant on partnering to realise their transformation goals – 82% of companies are investing more in partnerships in 2023.

But those customers are on new buying journeys – and they’re not just looking to work with just one partner. According to Canalys, the average medium-sized company today works with seven partners on their transformation projects, who all have different specializations and offer their own value to the customer.

For example, as IT systems become more sophisticated, including the growth of hybrid and edge environments, and the convergence of IT and OT, it is increasingly likely that no one company can address all the customer’s requirements end-to-end. As such, partners are coming together to form ecosystems to deliver the outcomes demanded by the customer.

Today, only 16% of partners surveyed by Canalys globally never work with another partner in customer deals, and more than 40% almost always or regularly work with at least one other partner.

Establishing rules of engagement

The emergence of the partner ecosystem has caused the relationship between IT vendor and partner to evolve, too. This is most notable in the partner-led ecosystem instead of the traditional vendor-driven model. The reason? Not only is the vendor landscape a competitive one when it comes to securing partner mindshare, but vendors better recognize that they win more customer business when both parties are better aligned.

So, instead of attempting to own the customer relationship, the new model places the buyer and the partner at the heart of the relationship. Trust becomes the foundation of the relationship between vendor and partner.

At Schneider Electric, we believe in a competency-based approach because it’s critical everyone understands what is required from the partner. Key questions we ask are: what is the value that the partners need to bring to the ecosystem? What is the partner delivering, in which application, in which segments?

We need to clarify competencies, capabilities, commercial policies and governance to find the right partners. So, when it comes to partner selection, all parties are clear on their roles and responsibilities the need to work in a peer-to-peer relationship.

Bringing partners and customers together

With customers now understanding that they need multiple partners to deliver their systems, vendors like Schneider Electric are working with partners to bridge any skills gap and to create a complete package of solutions and services.

It’s important to remember that a partner ecosystem is not something that is fixed; it’s fluid. So, being agile has never been more important, particularly with the skills shortage creating fragmentation in the market.

Alongside establishing technology integration alliances, we’re also taking steps to bring different partners and customers together through the SE Exchange – an open forum for customers, partners and consultants to help exchange information, collaborate, and partner based on applications, segments and environments.

We’ve also created Partner Locators, which are freely available on our website and enable customers and partners to connect and find one another and to leverage different capabilities based on their geographical location.

OurNeo Network, also known as the Zeigo Network, is another first for the channel and brings sustainability to the centre of the ecosystem by establishing forums and meeting points to help collaboration and ecosystem-building platforms. It is designed for customers, consultants, utilities, advisory firms, and technology vendors alike to benefit.

Ultimately, IT is becoming more complicated. We must, therefore, remember we all have a role to play, and transparency is key. I believe it’s vital to focus on the value we can deliver together and on trust.

We are all partners in this journey – if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

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