John Guido is the founder and CEO of P2P Global, a marketplace for IT solution providers to partner with other solution providers. Tech companies can sponsor their solution provider partners' presence in the marketplace.
John shared why he founded a provider-to-provider marketplace, how he sees the IT channel ecosystem evolving, the growing importance of provider- to-provider partnerships, and best practices for finding and managing partnerships.
I am very fortunate for a career that provided me the opportunity to work with many IT solution providers. My roles spanned from territory and brand sales, marketing, strategy, to general management – and the IT channel was always part of my success.
Information Technology has clearly entered the era of specialization.
I’ve learned that vendors cannot be experts in every sector and solution providers fill this gap. Channel partners are often well-positioned to develop deep expertise to meet customers’ needs. But as I looked across the marketplace, I didn’t see an approach that was holistically addressing the IT Solution Providers.
At the same time, various skills are needed to design, implement, and support cross-brand and multiple IT vendor solutions. These solutions need to address challenges such as security threats and the proliferation of mobile devices, hybrid cloud hosting, and software as-a-service platforms. Some vendors address this with programs specific to their ecosystem but it doesn't extend beyond their particular solutions, so it’s not open to the industry.
We’ve started hearing a lot more about the need for trustworthy partner-to-partner (P2P) collaboration – the solution to filling skill gaps and presenting a more comprehensive front to customers.
The old way of forming partnerships ad hoc has not always delivered the needed flexibility, scale, and repeatable growth for solution providers. It has also been inefficient and sometimes costly.
P2P Global is a new marketplace platform for an ecosystem of trusted partners. P2P Global provides a simple and clear approach to posting project opportunities, reviewing and selecting proposals from a set of curated candidates, and facilitating partnerships.
Members of P2P Global are able to expand their business opportunities and find providers to fill narrow skill gaps, especially in new and emerging technology segments.
Now is the time for renewed optimism about partnerships, and P2P marketplaces are a key part of that for IT.
The ecosystem includes any firm who has specialized skills in the IT space. These skill sets and various vendor certifications can be leveraged for various needs - ongoing or single project partnerships, business development and relationship building so that you’re prepared when a need arises, complementary services to help grow your business, and more.
The goal for P2P is to be a destination where you can find the right partner for what you’re looking for that you can trust and to be able to help you plan for future needs.
Adoption of an ecosystem has increased immensely in the last few years and is still becoming more and more popular. Jay McBain from Forrester recently noted that 50% of companies are now using channel ecosystems, and IDC predicts that companies who don’t have one in place by 2022 will fail.
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything last year, making adjustments on the fly as more businesses operate remotely and having an efficient way to find these partners so that you can scale your projects and focus on other valuable initiatives is critical.
Interesting point related to our membership profiles -- we are gaining traction with non-traditional IT solution providers too. These non-traditional solution providers could be considered “influencers'' -- but are still very engaged in IT projects. As an example, digital marketing agencies are partnering with other P2P members to implement end-to-end marketing projects that include web design, infrastructure, or even data insights.
P2P partnerships can be a lot like a dating relationship. How do you ensure you have a match- across skills, culture, engagement models and business ethics?
Vetting well-defined skills is often the first step, but true success requires a much deeper analysis. Do the firms have similar approaches to working with clients? Can they truly deliver on the skills and solutions they advertise?
This is where our proprietary matching process and marketplace ecosystem can make a big impact by providing credible and vetted solution providers.
We like to talk about using our platform to “find and be found.” Partnerships are a two-way street, so what’s useful to understand about a potential partner when looking to fill a skill gap is a good way to project yourself when showcasing your own skills and resources.
Solution providers in our marketplace find it very effective when partners include referenceable customer success stories, whitepapers, and solution collateral. Vendor and ISV specific certifications are also a great way to share relevant experience and skills, which we encourage including by providing specific areas in P2P Global to highlight those assets. The more detail you can provide about your firm, the better.
Usually, a failure isn’t about one big problem. It’s often a combination of small issues that, when stacked together, impact the relationship.
As simple as it seems, setting detailed expectations for a project upfront and having a mutually agreed upon set of roles, responsibilities, timelines, and goals goes a long way.
Anytime you are sharing potentially confidential and proprietary client information there is a certain level of sensitivity that needs to be addressed so that the foundation of the partnership is built on trust and transparency.
We provide a Partnering Agreement for both parties to sign when they enter a partnership through us that aims to protect both parties should something go awry as they are finalizing the terms of their partnership.
A transparent and detailed onboarding process will set a solid foundation for any partnership. This includes setting detailed expectations for the project upfront and having a mutually agreed upon set of roles, responsibilities, timeline, and goals. Keeping the lines of communication open is also critical. We also encourage our partners to treat each other as they would a client, with periodic reviews, detailed reports on engagements and robust communication from the C-suite down to the field.
We don’t think there is an absolute right number for partnerships, but channel research tells us that 5-7 is the average, and that number is only growing.
It is all about finding partners with complementary skills that help deliver higher value to clients by addressing their needs across an IT project.
Partnerships can emerge from a number of different angles; around certifications, focused on particular geographies, or addressing specific industries, so a half dozen partnerships can develop very quickly.
The magic number is being able to treat each partnership uniquely and like it’s the only one. As soon as you can’t dedicate the necessary resources to make the partnership successful, you’ve gone too far.
Joining an ecosystem like P2P Global can be critical in scaling your business. It makes it so easy to keep track of partners, find new ones that you can trust, and even find new business for your firm.
Doing so ad hoc takes up valuable resources like time and money and has the risk of failing if your partner turns out to be less than they advertised. In a word, be selective. Make sure the partnerships meet a well-defined need and can be nurtured in a meaningful way for sustained success.
There are certainly cases for both high and low touch relationships, depending on the frequency of the need plus the complexity of the skills and solutions.
We encourage our members to stay in contact once they’ve established a working relationship, but we’ve designed P2P to help them quickly re-engage and leverage new and emerging skills. We also suggest partners keep their profiles up to date with new skills, vendor relationships, and customer success stories.
We want to provide flexibility depending on the needs of our customer. There are several ways to join P2P Global and become an active member by creating and responding to opportunities:
Solution Providers (channel partners) can register their firms with P2P Global and their employees become active members that can create/respond to opportunities.
For the P2P Global marketplace, Technology Partners are the creators of technologies and services that serve the IT industry. Typically, these are Vendors/OEMs, SaaS Solution Providers and/or ISVs that leverage channel partners as part of their go-to-market strategy.
The Technology Partner Program allows for sponsorship of their channel partners. The Technology Partner Program value proposition includes:
For those Technology Partners that want to offer their own version of an ecosystem platform to their channel partners, a P2P Global private label licensing model is available. Our intent is to be flexible to accommodate the unique needs inclusive of branding, customization and integration.
We believe that it starts with two firms to create a partnership -- but clearly with more complex IT projects, more than two speciality skills may be required that will drive the needs for potential multi-party relationships. One classic example that typically required multiple firms to deliver on an end-to-end solution is with IoT projects.
Our members that create opportunities, in search of solving for skill gaps, really play the quarterback role. As such, they can create multiple opportunities for one IT project -- solving for each skill gap across the project. Then, all of the parties come together to deliver an end-to-end solution.
There is no doubt that end user buyers are taking advantage of digital discovery, comparing/contrasting brands and solutions. So, end user clients are getting smarter on what they want and why.
In a way, this now places even more demand on channel partners to become very skilled and specialized in order to provide a compelling value proposition. In addition, as a trusted advisor, the channel partners that leverage an ecosystem approach become more valuable as they solve their customers' needs across a wide spectrum of specialized needs.
Almost every vendor is considering development of an ecosystem platform to facilitate channel growth, partner-to-partner interaction, and services orchestration. The reasons are varied, but mainly they can be summarized by a few key points:
Clearly, ecosystem platforms are becoming more in demand with recognition that a P2P approach can deliver value and competitive advantage.
While leveraging a platform like P2P Global is an efficient means to partner, in the end, it is just a tool. When implementing these types of tools, organizations need to also consider their culture, leadership, ownership, and how their P2P approach will become the new norm for strategic growth.