partners and new ideas into your organization, you need a process to do it. Professionals don’t ‘know it when I see it.’ Instead professionals think about the abilities of their company and strategies necessary to bring ideas in, refine them, and launch them,” read a Godin quote Peek had circulated widely among her internal stakeholders.
Bad Produce and “Going Ugly Early” 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. The next challenge was to validate the new initiative, either by securing a customer win or closing a proof of concept with a customer. “That shows the PTM is ‘a dog that will hunt,’” Peek said. Each initiative is entered into the SAS PTM SharePoint portal with metadata such as revenue, pipeline, industries, business units, solution areas, targeted geographies, and other examples that can be retrieved in various forms, including PTM pipeline and revenue reports, as well as reports on retired initiatives,
A solid alliance initiative will eventually flourish once customers see value and validate the program. To earn that customer endorsement, Peek recommends narrowing in on specific customer challenges rather than pursuing bigger-picture, global issues. initiative status, initiative by product area or industry, etc. The reports, which are reviewed by upper management, illustrate which PTM initiatives are healthy and which are stalled. “[There are] a number of good and valid reasons to retire initiatives,” said Peek. “PTMs are like produce, they go bad if they’re left lying around. You have to keep them moving through the process.” The nitty-gritty execution and management of each initiative in the portfolio begins with internal and partner stakeholders answering nine pages’ worth of tough and sometimes uncomfortable questions pertaining to all facets of the alliance initiative. “What’s the market? Who is the decision maker? Who are 30
our competitors? What is the three-way value proposition? What is our solutions profile? What kind of buy-in and traction do we have from sales? Are there IP issues or concerns? How will we deliver this? How will we sell this?” said Peek, reciting a cross-section of questions that illustrate the qualification document’s broad nature. What might seem like a laborious and tedious task from the outside—Peek refers to it as “going ugly early”—is actually appreciated both within SAS and across its partners. “Experienced, high-performing alliance managers never complained,” said Peek. “Over time, as they started using the document, it started helping them avoid major problems. Sometimes we find out [through the process] that one or both parties may be making assumptions that are not correct. Stopping something from moving forward can be just as valuable as getting everything lined up because you end up not wasting nine months of effort to find out something is not going to work.”
Putting Alliances on the Path to Market With the initial landscaping out of the way, the PTM process goes deeper into execution mode, which predictably involves the sales teams heavily as SAS and its partners march a product or service to market. Alliance managers do most of the heavy lifting during the qualification phase. Once the PTM is in launch mode, the sales and marketing teams are heavily involved, with coordination from the alliance managers. The sales and marketing teams are charged with preparing sales decks, specific to their alliance initiatives, that provide basic selling points, competitive differentiators, breakdowns of roles and responsibilities between SAS and each respective partner, customer references, partners’ reputation among SAS sales reps, and general messaging. By the time the alliance team brings its product or service to market, the PTM process has put it in good position to succeed—at least that is what the numerical and anecdotal evidence suggests after two full years of practicing it. The PTM portfolio is a dynamic one, with that number changing as PTMs are retired and new ones enter. Currently, SAS counts more than 65 initiatives. Moreover, PTM initiatives drive in excess of 50 percent of partner revenues with SAS Institute’s largest alliance partners, including Teradata, Accenture and IBM. SAS employs approximately 120 alliance management professionals worldwide, roughly equal to the number of staff memStrategic Alliance Magazine
The magazine of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals