"Partner-to-partner", in theory, sounds like a great idea. If you run a reseller that is a specialist in a certain technology or a certain vertical market, then teaming up with another complementary specialist on certain customer deals seems to some like a no-brainer, and one which certainly takes less time and money than developing your own expert practice in that area.
The theory has been touted for a number of years by vendors, which have often acted as matchmakers for their partners, owing to their unique and extensive view of their own partner channel. It's in a vendor's interest for their partners to team up - a customer working with two of their partners is preferable to the customer looking elsewhere at another company's offering. Some vendors had even gone so far as to suggest that these partnerships could develop into M&A activity.
And in recent months, it seems that these predictions are finally coming to fruition. Just this week, New Signature snapped up fellow Microsoft partner Paradigm Solutions, after a two-year period of working together on customer deals. Elsewhere in the Microsoft channel, RedPixie acquired Cloudamour at the start of last year, again following a period of working together in a partner-to-partner model. Mitchell Feldman, RedPixie's chief digital officer (and CEO of the former Cloudamour business) said that the whole thing has been Microsoft's idea, with the firm introducing them and suggesting they work together. Dan Scarfe, New Signature's boss, said although Microsoft hadn't directly put him in touch with Paradigm, he met its CEO at a partner advisory session for the vendor.
Both examples of Microsoft partners merging did so to accentuate their cloud services offering, and this perhaps demonstrates that in an increasingly complex cloudy world, teaming up with other specialists seems to be a good plan. But it's not just solving complexity that can bring partners together, it could be a product of vendors themselves getting in on M&A activity.
Dell EMC formally merged last autumn, and this month launched their combined Dell EMC Partner Programme. In discussions with the vendor in the build-up, and launch, of the new scheme, suggestions were made that the union of the vendors could be echoed within its new-look channel.
The newly combined vendor is looking to best incentivise partners that sell a wide range of Dell EMC products. So partners who are specialists in legacy EMC or legacy Dell technology could face the prospect of having less earning power, owing only to the fact that they simply are not experts on both firms' technology. If the success the partner-to-partner model seems to have had in the Microsoft space is anything to go by, it could make sense among Dell EMC's partners too.
But while the theory of working together on a shared customer may seem simple, in practice, many have cited it as being something of a challenge. The model requires partners to share sensitive business data - trade secrets, customer details, pipeline information, and so on - and in order to do this, it is crucial that the partners in question can trust each other, despite the fact that on other deals, they are still competing.
But if recent examples of partner-to-partner advocates taking the big step of making it official with an acquisition is anything to go by, the risks and challenges could be outweighed by opportunity and the prospect of success.
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