Successful partnerships…and when they are not

When striking out on your own to establish a name for yourself, should you resist or embrace partnering with other organizations to deliver your service? The fear being that you might dilute your presence (your name) in the marketplace. There’s definite pros and cons to either answer but on the balance, and based upon our practical experience, we wholeheartedly believe in embracing partnerships.

We’ve found great success in partnering with organizations, particularly ones much larger and more established than us, to bring value to customers that we may not have otherwise had the opportunity to do business with. We have also found through practical experience that partnerships work best when all partner organizations can directly contribute to the delivery of the services. We’ve experienced less success when a partner contributes only in name, e.g. does not directly contribute in the delivery of services or provision of product.

Because we focus on developing mobile Apps for the business sector (companies, government organizations and non-profits), most Apps we build are highly integrated. They are extensions of broader company systems. Changes or modifications to back-end source systems to accommodate the App are invariably needed, something we do not generally do when developing our Apps.

Our best partnerships are therefore with organizations who have an interest in and a right to those back-end source systems. Our unified proposition to a customer is to ‘mobilize’ a particular service or offering and we look to make our impact (and money) from our respective services in accomplishing that objective, without overly relying on marking up the partner’s services in order for others in the partnership to benefit (monetarily, that is).

We have found ourselves in this latter situation (the one being marked up). It generally occurs when a partner organization has an established, and potentially exclusive, presence with a customer yet do not have an interest or right to any peripheral components or services that we are providing (i.e. developing the App for the customer). The partner organization is relegated to simply fronting the engagement (they have a “ticket to the show”) but look to monetize that position by marking up our services.

We’ve seen this make us price non-competitive in many situations and therefore lose the business (and/or damage our reputation). And in the odd case when we’ve still won the business despite not being price competitive, the overall experience was less than optimal since the fronting organization feels a need to be involved in some form (which is understandable, there’s a natural inclination to want to directly deliver value to your customers). This only serves to introduce overhead, however, (i.e. ‘getting in the way’) that those delivering the services could do without.

In short, we wholeheartedly believe in partnering as a way to deliver value to more customers than we possibly could on our own. The caveat being the partnership has to be such that all organizations in the partnership are contributing to the delivery of services or provision of product. Any thing less introduces overhead, bureaucracy and inflated prices making the partnership less sustainable over the long haul.

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