The rise of the partner ecosystem

We’ve noticed lately that vendors are increasingly referring to their ‘partner ecosystem’ rather than their channel.

It may the latest buzzy channel catchphrase (‘trusted advisor’, anyone?) but it actually does a better job of describing the current state of partner landscape. There are now many different types of partner and business model, and this is driving a change in traditional go-to-market strategies, and how the channel is viewed. Just last week we talked about how partners are increasingly working with one another to deliver increasingly complex solutions and services to customers.

Canalys chief analyst, Jay McBain says this need to deliver results at a new level of scale, complexity and personalisation means the decade of the ecosystem is here.

Jay shared his thoughts last week ahead of the EMEA and APAC Canalys Forums this autumn. He said we are witnessing a once-in-a-generation shift in the global economy, and partnerships play a leading role.

“Most business leaders across every industry, of all size firms, and in every corner of the world are considering significant business model shifts. They are realizing that they can’t do it alone in the decade of the ecosystem,” he explained.

For many decades, he said, channel programmes and the underlying technologies have been designed to drive the sales motion.

“Providing resellers, MSPs, distributors, retailers, dealers and agents with a frictionless way to market and sell products at scale was the goal of every channel leader. This led to a bell-curve scenario where you could be underpaying partners who are fully invested in the marketing, selling and engineering assistance to land a deal, to then overpay partners who showed up late and collected the order.

“Recognizing the partner point of value takes a new set of skills, organisational structure, processes, programs and underlying technology to accomplish,” he said.

“For example, the average customer prospect will move through many moments before making a vendor selection in a considered purchase. In a post-cookie world, vendors will need to identify and attribute (and hopefully share real-time data with) a partner who has driven that moment. Whether it be a well-placed eBook, an event, a social media engagement, some expert consulting, design, or architecture work, it doesn’t matter. Partnerships will be needed to replace elements of MarTech and AdTech that were used for this purpose in the past.”

Jay said we are already seeing the largest technology companies like Microsoft replacing its top channel executive with an ecosystem leader. AWS, Google and IBM have followed suit.

“Over 12,000 people on LinkedIn now have ecosystems in their titles (growing by 2,000 each quarter) and over 697,000 people use the term ecosystems in the description of what they do,” said Jay

You can read more about the shift towards the partner ecosystem, and what Jay thinks will spark new customer spending in 2023, here.

Channel leaders find a balance between profits and purpose

If there’s one massive trend in the channel (aside from the ‘ecosystem’) it’s sustainability. This week we’ve received an influx of sustainability-led announcements from vendors, cloud providers and channel partners.

There is a suggestion, from conversations with partners and channel leaders, that the EMEA region is slightly ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability compared to their US counterparts.

Globally however, IDC estimates that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) business services spending will grow to $158 billion in 2025 with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32.3 percent.

In the UK, new research by Agilitas shows that channel leaders are doubling down on their ESG commitments. Almost half (47 percent) of decision makers stated their organisations measures sustainability targets quarterly.

“The true value of success is no longer determined by financial gain alone, as many channel players seek to re-evaluate the way they do business to find the right balance between profits and purpose,” noted Agilitas CEO, Shaun Lynn.

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