What is partner operations,
and why does it matter to your business?
“Companies that do invest in partner ops have stronger ecosystems that drive more revenue and better retain customers.”
The State of Partner Ops, Hubspot 2022
What is partner operations?
Partner operations makes your partner programs happen. It’s all about focusing on the practicalities of running and delivering successful programs and maintaining a healthy partner ecosystem for your business.
Unlike the partner-facing activities of revenue ops (such as engagement, sales and marketing), the partner ops team works behind the scenes to manage the technology, processes and workflows that are essential to your partner programs, connecting all the different elements for seamless delivery and a first-rate user experience.
The partner ops team is responsible for:
- Ensuring that success metrics are in place and tracking correctly
- Making sure that the partnership goals are aligned to the overarching organisational goals
- Setting up dashboards to be able to visualise data
- Creating and enforcing processes to maintain efficiency within the partner ecosystem
Partner ops specialists also ensure that you get the best value from your PRM tools and systems, and act as your go-to for data and insights, channel performance measurement and ROI. Their skills have become increasingly important as the pace of automation and digital transformation accelerates, and partner operations is now understood to be an important discipline in its own right (rather than simply being an administrative function within revenue ops). Having dedicated partner ops capability in place is now considered a priority for partner ecosystem success.
With partner ecosystems fast becoming the future business model, having an established and operational program in place is essential for organisations to succeed.
To do this, investment in a partner operations team is vital. They (and their reporting) are the key to unlocking the full potential of your partner program, and will be able to ensure not only its scalability, but its economic success.
What are the key skills involved in effective partner operations?
With the complexity involved in creating and running a partner ecosystem, it’s essential for organisations to have the right people in place to deliver and manage first-rate partner operations.
Partner operations is still a relatively new term in the employment market, and individual roles and responsibilities will vary between organisations. However, it’s crucial to recognise that this is a proactive business function, and no longer simply a matter of reactive platform administration and partner helpdesk support.
- Aclear understanding of partner relationships and programs: how they work and what makes them successful
- Expertise in leveraging technologies to automate workloads
- The commercial and operational skills to develop, manage and measure campaigns
- The ability to analyse partner performance metrics and deliver meaningful data reports
They need to be adept at integrating with different tech stacks and aligning with the operations and objectives of other teams within the business. And they need to be skilled at data management and analytics, so that they can share actionable insights, drive strategy and accurately report on KPIs.
While partner ops is a backroom function, team members may also occasionally need to step into a partner-facing situation to support with channel conflict management to make sure that the correct processes and protocols are in place, and are being followed properly.
The value of effective partner operations
The recently published Hubspot report, The State of Partner Ops and Programs, shows that having the right people in the right roles is just as important as choosing the right technology for your PRM. A lack of internal expertise is a significant blocker to better partner operations, with 51.8% of respondents citing it as a challenge. However, the benefits of an effective partner operations team more than justify the efforts, and include:
- Maximised efficiency, through skilfully curated processes and optimised supporting technology that reduce duplicated effort, streamline operations and reduce operational redundancy
- Srengthened partner retention, working closely with relationship managers (channel account managers) to continuously enhance the PRM and partner experience, driving loyalty and increasing lifetime partner value
- Scalable growth, by providing the consistent, reliable and effective operational practices that are the bedrock on which partner relationships can grow and diversify at scale
Trying to ‘make do’ without a dedicated partner ops team risks having a poorly-managed program and under-used technology, which can lead to reduced partner satisfaction, a loss of confidence in the program or fewer partners being effectively onboarded.
Crucially, it can also be difficult to prove the ROI of partner relationships without a specialist to pull, analyse and report on the data. If the value of partnerships is not clearly reported and shared, partner programs become less of a priority across the wider organisation. These are expensive consequences for any business.
Showing the full ROI of partners not only requires understanding how the buying journey has shifted from sales- and vendor-focused to a more self-serve, community-based, and digital experience, it requires implementing data collection and reporting across multiple internal departments and hundreds or thousands of external stakeholders.
Effective partner ops enables you to run partner programs confidently, consistently and fairly. It enables you to deliver on your service commitments to your partners. And it gives you accurate and meaningful data for maintaining buy-in, informing business decisions and driving future partner strategy.
Partner operations is undoubtedly a complex function that demands a broad skillset. Finding the right people can take time, but investing in a strong partner operations team will enable your partner program to deliver on its potential – and its promises.
Additional Reading to Strengthen Partner Operations
By now, it should be obvious that partner operations encompasses a broad range of responsibilities and skillsets. Below are articles by the Allbound team which provide additional guidance for strengthening your team and practices.
Hiring a Partnership Management All-Star – As you build your team to nurture partner relationships and operations, finding the right fit is crucial. Finding an all-star is even better. Learn what qualifications to prioritise and how to find worthy candidates.
Interview Questions for Partner Managers – The right interview questions can help the right candidate rise to the top. Find inspiration for your own queries and know what kinds of responses to regard as warnings.
Automate, Scale, Integrate – PRM System Criteria – Your choice of technology has the ability to make or break partner operations. Use this article to vet your existing PRM or evaluate new options to ensure it meets (and surpasses) industry standards.
Optimize These Parts of Your Channel Sales Operations – Now that you learned the basics of partner operations, it’s time to advance your knowledge. Dive into specific elements that deserve additional attention in order to set your partner program up for future (scalable) success.
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