The SpotOn executive team recently had breakfast with a senior software executive. What a great morning. First off, I love breakfast! But the dialog has had me thinking for several days now. I'm hoping to be able to relate aspects of the discussion in these blog posting.
The purpose of the breakfast was to catch up with this individual, let him know a little bit about what SpotOn is up to, solicit some advice in the area of Customer Advisory Boards and Board of Advisors, and to establish an ongoing dialog. We also had a fantastic discussion on the role of partners to large software vendors, and the future of business intelligence - both technology and the licensing models to support the deployments of the future. What do you want to hear about?
One analogy that was particularly apt to the partner reality was that of the "streak in the windshield". Picture if you will a set of windshield wipers as the pass over the glass on a rainy day. Sometime a streak gets left on the glass. However there is a good chance that the streak will be removed on the next pass, and if not quite probably it will be gone on the subsequent pass. Huh? Stay with me...
Now picture a sharp partner company in, let's say, the Cognos space. They go about their business drumming up services and doing good work for their clients. The partner recognizes that they have, in short order, solved the same problem with three successive clients. The "aha" moment; we can solve this for all clients by developing a product. Time, effort, and money go into the development; hopefully the partner is able to get the offering to market and effectively promote the solution.
But look out, here comes the wiper blade! Cognos announces new administrative feature in the next release eliminates the originating issue. The Partner's market has just been dead-ended, current sales cycles screech to a halt. Partner screams bloody murder. But is Cognos not supposed to fix the obvious issues?
Interesting scenario; who's right and who's wrong? Is there a right and wrong? Couple of thoughts that I've been chewing on:
- As a Partner, you had better know if an opportunity has long-lasting potential, or is a streak on the window.
- Identified streaks likely can be profitable, have legs, and earn a decent return - but don't forget that it is a streak.
- Is there any value to the Wiper in the equation (say Cognos) to not addressing the issue and promoting the partner solution? Does this promote a thriving partner ecosystem? Is this outweighed by customer frustration?
- What are the options for "steak" partner offerings? Let them continue to exist independently? License the technology for distribution of core product integration?
- What is the true cost of swapping out partner technologies for core software technologies when customer switching costs are considered?
At SpotOn are goal is to identify greenfield opportunities with Cognos customers where we can rapidly deliver high impact technology solutions with staying power. The reality is that somewhere in the walls at Riverside, smart people are thinking about the same opportunities. We believe that the SpotOn secret weapons in the equation is speed and agility. Not only in bringing technologies to light and to market, but also to keep moving when our own "streaks in the windshield" disapear.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.