Sharing success

In such a competitive market, choosing the right integrator partners and extracting maximum benefit from them can be a difficult game. The consequences of getting this wrong will be costly, both financially and time wise.

Customers have always demanded the latest and greatest in IT solutions and technology, but the competition has never been greater between providers. Integrating with partners that have expertise, knowledge, resources and large client bases can be the winning touch in business.

The Middle East is a strong, emerging market and many global companies are beginning to set up shop in the region. Integrating with larger partners can be critical for their success – success which is built upon common goals, interests and trust.

But how do the benefits of such a partnership weigh up against the pitfalls of the operation?

Graham Owen, Regional Sales Director, MEA&Turkey, Cambium Networks, believes that the benefits of integration partnerships are relevant for the entire industry.

“All businesses look to build strategic partnerships to strengthen their regional presence or their market position, and if you do not focus on certain market verticals with specialised/strategic partners it becomes challenging to enter certain market areas and grow your business,” he says.

As Reyadh Ayesh, Managing Director and CEO, Smartworld, says, the merging of skills and strengths from each party can lead to a wide array of opportunity for both, so long as the goals are mutual.

“Each party will be utilising the strengths of the other party to help in achieving the main targets and goals,” he says.

It’s clear that if the interests between both parties are the same, then integration partnerships can be immediately successful. The customer base for the provider will increase, the maintenance of solutions can be guaranteed and the security of additional support when needed will install confidence.

However, in all situations, when you’re building upwards on unsteady foundations, you’re likely to topple. This is no different in business and if the integration partnership isn’t compatible from the start, issues may surface.

Niranj Sangal, CEO, OMA Emirates, points out the importance of making the correct decisions when choosing partners.

“End users are spoilt for choice of integration partners. It is critical for them to not just focus on the provision of right solutions that can be tailor made for individual needs, but more importantly to be able to continuously maintain it for successful day to day operations,” he says.

He goes on to outline the consequences of making errors in this area.

“Strategic partnerships are based on trust and working towards achieving a common goal. If either party deviates from this goal, the success of the alliance is greatly endangered. Huge projects undertaken on the basis of successful strategic partnerships may be delayed or fall apart if one party does not give 100 percent in the partnership. Some of the common yet major pitfalls include disagreements on goals and management of finances between strategic alliance partners. It is essential for concerned parties to work alongside each other and ensure a successful partnership.”

However, Mansura Ebrahim, Head of Indirect Channel Sales, Ericsson, warns that problems can arise after the partnership has begun.

“A major pitfall can be a change in vendor strategy, or a vendor re-focusing their product portfolio. A change in upper management at the partner side, who may have a different agenda, and a drop in partner performance can also cause major issues.”

Owen agrees that the companies not seeing eye-to-eye from start to finish can create problems which may not be solvable.

“You can end up locking yourself into an agreement with a company that does not want to change its business direction in line with the way your company may want to and this can cause conflict,” he says.


Steady on approach

With all these elements in mind, it is a critical time for businesses when it comes to approaching integrators for partnership talks. All concerns aside, the benefits of a successful partnership can be huge for companies of any size. What are the best ways to approach the project?

“Strategic alliances are formed after careful research and consideration. The world today is one global market and both parties may be continents apart,” says Sangal.

“The company looking forward to making an alliance researches the party under question, and analyses its productivity and market leadership in its area of expertise. Common goals are underlined and the feasibility of the partnership is studied.”

However, Ebrahim underlines the importance of accommodating the integrators properly.

“When considering approaching an integrator for a partnership, having a proper partner strategy and partner model in place is a key first step.”

With these steps in place, the partnership can have a high success rate, according to Ayesh.

“The percentage of success in the region is high due to the fact that most projects happening now require these types of partnerships in order for both parties to be successful,” he says.


Calculating success

The success rate of partnerships will differ from region to region and understanding the area can pay dividends.

“The Middle East is a growing business hub and has seen a surge in many international companies entering the market. For the success of strategic integration, it is critical for partnering companies to understand the ethos and specific requirements of the region. If companies factor in the on-ground knowledge and skills that are supplied by providers, and you have alliances that understand these requirements, they are bound to be highly successful,” says Sangal.

Owen has enjoyed much success in the Middle East.

“I can think of many success stories where strategic partnerships have worked and continue to work. The Middle East is no exception to this. Every business must look at the merits of a partnership and this would be true wherever you are in the world. In terms of the Middle East specifically, I have personally built many strategic partnerships in the region and these still continue to flourish today,” he says.

The Middle East, a region of high activity and fast moving trends, relies on innovation, forward thinking and reactive decision making in order to stay relevant.

“The success rate is quite high in this region, as integrators can target accounts that vendors at times don’t have the bandwidth to do so. In the Middle East relationships play a crucial role in business, which adds to the success factor of strategic partnerships here.”

Above all, integrator partnerships need to be built upon trust and common interest. If these factors aren’t taken into consideration or if they falter, it can lead to termination of agreement.

“In a perfect world partnerships are built on the success rate of implementation and profitability. However, in the real world sometimes there is a mismatch or lack of mutual interests this can lead to jeopardising the project and subsequently may end with a termination of the relationship,” says Sangal.

“It is important that the start of any partnership must have clearly defined goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities and financials that serve as a guideline for working together.”

Owen believes that honing in on any specific reason for partnership failure is near impossible.

“Many things can affect partnerships but if both parties can be open and honest sometimes you just have to agree to disagree and change direction. I believe signing a partnership agreement is like getting married – we meet many times, we go out for dinner, we work together and then finally we agree on a direction forward. However, in some cases either party can decide it’s not for them, for many reasons. So it is very difficult to say what can cause a termination, they just seem to happen at times.”

The success rate of integrator partnerships can come down to many factors. However, the importance of trust and communication cannot be ignored if a collaboration is going to be long-lasting. Like any element of business, success weighs on the components functioning correctly – integrators therefore need to be selected with education and thought.

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