Your development team can play an important role in helping management and sales build business alliances to open up beneficial avenues for new sales and technology projects. Building an alliance means your team must also act as business developers. While business development and company executives identify and drive business alliances, technical staff must do a fair share of analysis work during the alliance-building process.

Supporting alliance development has many benefits for your development team, including professional development, personal development, and access to new and emerging technologies. These tips outline the role your team can play in helping your organization build business and technical alliances.

Tip 1: Understand the alliance and its value to your company
Business alliances help technology companies gain access to complementary products, technologies, and services, while professional services companies use alliances to gain access to vendor technologies that are in demand in their markets. To support the development of business alliances, you must first understand the purpose of the alliance and its value.

Kevin Hoisington, chief marketing officer of Mobellium, a wireless applications startup, states, “Technical team members should first understand the goal of an alliance relationship. Some are pretty straightforward and tactical—an example could be that your company is a value added reseller (VAR) for a hardware vendor, and your company’s role is to help the alliance partner sell, implement, and support their products. Other relationships are more complex and strategic in nature; an example could be that your company is integrating its software technology with the alliance partner’s products to create a ’best of breed’ solution which may give the alliance partner an advantage in their particular market.”

Tip 2: Verify how the third-party product and partner fit into your current product road map
Complementary technology is the name of the game with technology alliances. Complementary technologies can be technologies you integrate into your product suite, or new technologies introduced as part of your professional services offering. The key is to verify how partner technologies complement your products and processes.

Nancyfaye Autenzio, president of Mobellium, offers the following advice to technical staff working on an alliance:

  • Verify that the third-party product has adequate development tools, APIs, and integration processes and documentation. This will make it easier to integrate the product, and it will help you to be more self-sufficient.
  • Verify that the technology partner’s technical road map and vision complement your company’s goals. This will increase the likelihood of adding features of value and interest to your customer base in the future.
  • Establish a mutual nondisclosure agreement before you disclose confidential information. This helps protect each other’s intellectual property rights.

Tip 3: Take a holistic view of your technology within the alliance
Consider the following:

  • It’s not enough to understand your own product and technology area. Customers never deploy your product in a vacuum—they buy products that work within their existing IT environment, workflow, and business practices.
  • You’ll benefit from learning how your own software will work with a complementary application. This will ease the process of defining what integration hooks need to be developed, as well as help you understand where your software fits in the customer’s workflow.
  • New functionality and added-value features often surface as you gain a deeper understanding of the larger context of how your product complements the alliance partners’ products.
  • Knowing what other products are in your customer’s environment will also make you a more knowledgeable and credible person when speaking to clients and peers.

Tip 4: Document your findings
When you examine a potential partner’s technologies, it’s important to document your positive and negative findings. These findings have business and technical implications, especially when you must present them to business development and executives, who may lack a technical background.

Tip 5: People are another valuable alliance asset
People can be an important asset to your alliance in many ways:

  • A third-party services offering can bypass vendor politics on client sites to offer solutions that encompass multiple vendor technologies via their alliances.
  • Alliance partners can draw upon technology expertise and insight that they may not have in their own organizations.
  • Alliances can offer “extra reach” via new contacts, and another voice to spread the word about the solutions available from the alliance partners.

Bud Michels, president/CEO and principal consultant of Client-Server-Professionals in College Park, MD, emphasizes the value of technical people in alliances: “Depending on the vendor, we can leverage these ’people’ assets in obtaining new revenue opportunities, such as solutions services packages, using our people (as the technical team) and the vendor’s products. Therefore, the vendor can line-item a new service offering around their product, which gives their sales and other VARs a new tool to sell.”

Michels further states, “Many times, we are asked to integrate vendor products that are in direct competition with each other. We play in that area very well, so that there is little or no finger pointing. At the end of the day, each of the vendors had a successful sale and its implementation went well. Therefore, we have all parties happy—especially the customer.”

As an alliance partner to some major vendors, Michels and his firm can exercise their alliance relationships with some major technology players to escape some of the politics that can come with implementing mixed-vendor technical solutions.

Allies in business
Helping to build alliances gives your development team a better understanding of the products they develop, as well as how your products complement partners’ products in real-world situations. You’ll gain a better understanding of your company’s strategies and goals, and a greater ability to help fulfill them. In addition, helping business leaders build alliances will build alliances within your organization.