THE PATH TO MARKET PROCESS
Stakeholder Engagement Approval Gates Source: SAS Alliance | Path to Market
“Now, specific partner initiatives—PTMs—are aligned with our overall SAS business objectives through a formal performance management process. Because of that, partner initiatives are much more likely to reach their intended scale and revenue impact,” said Cobb. Fortunately for the alliance management team, the corporate culture at SAS provided plenty of potential upside for the new PTM-based alliance approach. The company makes a significant annual investment in R&D—last year, SAS reinvested almost a quarter of its top-line revenue into R&D—so the company had no shortage of innovative software solutions to fuel collaboration with partners. More important, it was not beholden to public shareholders, putting the company in a unique position to maintain the requisite patience for fulfilling partner program goals. “I don’t think there’s a universally understood recognition of the amount of effort it takes to extract value from strategic alliance relationships,” said Peek. “SAS is privately held so we had the luxury of taking the longterm view and not having to make tactical tradeoffs to please investors.”
The Discomfort of Change However, those built-in advantages did not make implementation any easier. To make PTMs work, every department outside of alliance management—product marketing, sales, professional services, global practices, PR, and analyst relations—needed not only to be onboard philosophically, but also to adopt the everyday practices required of the PTM process. Most importantly, of course, alliance managers had to get on board. “The biggest part of the hurdle was convincing people to Quarter 2, 2011
change, showing them better ways to operate, and demonstrating that this change would allow them to be more effective and credible as alliance managers,” said Peek. So, SAS used existing processes—such as the product launch process—as input for the design of the PTM process, in conjunction with an outside-in view and a lot of great thinking from a talented group of people. They then used the similarities to adjust the ways that other functional groups thought about working with partners. For example, the approval/funding/performance management process for PTMs fits perfectly with the New Offering Council and related processes.
At the heart of the new SAS PTM process was a “portfolio” approach to its alliances. Alliance managers began by enlisting an executive sponsor and the sales team whenever pursuing an idea for a new partner initiative. Once their support was secured, that initiative entered the SAS PTM portfolio. Peek added that she and her team can relate to a refrain touted by marketing author and public speaker Seth Godin that says, “It’s a lot easier for an organization to adopt new words than it is to actually change anything. Real change is uncomfortable.” SAS has also found synergy with Godin regarding the approach to business development with new partners—that companies should think “process first, ideas second. If you’re going to be bringing new 29
The magazine of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals