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A major portion of my time at Novell in 2001-2003 as the head of GroupWise marketing was spent educating many of my smaller partners about how to successfully partner with Novell as a technology partner.
Most of this education was spent on setting realistic expectations. It was difficult for a small nimble technology company to understand the dynamics that went on inside of Novell. Oftentimes partners would become frustrated when they would present a superior (in their eyes) technology and I or Novell would not run out and immediately start shouting it from the rooftops. To them it was all about the technology, not understanding that to successfully partner meant much more than the technology.
Let me give you an example. This partner will remain unnamed as they are still a Novell partner and have improved dramatically over the years from when I was working with them directly.
This Technology partner came to meet with myself and the product management team about their very cool product for GroupWise. No other GroupWise partner was delivering a similar solution and the market was clamoring for a fix to the problem.
The partner sat down with me, and with a completely straight face and absolute sincerity insisted that their product could be added to the Novell price list and easily sold to all current Novell customers. That it would be “..like adding fries to every GroupWise order”.
This was a common theme from many GroupWise partners but I had never had one be so openly convinced that the solution to their sales and marketing would be solved by Novell by treating their product as a simple add on to every order like adding fries to a burger order.
Their argument seemed to make sense. After all, they were the only partner offering the product. The market was demanding the solution since it was a hot item at the time and their product worked exclusively with GroupWise. To them, it all made perfect sense, everyone would win.
A few days later I was in a general meeting with all of the product managers, product marketing managers, and Executive Management for all the products.
During the discussion, 3rd party vendors were mentioned. An Executive told a story about sales complaining because they had just lost an account. All Novell technology had been removed, including GroupWise, NetWare, and ZENworks. The customer had thrown everything out. The reason...?
A 3rd party add-on to GroupWise. The very same 3rd party add on that I had been discussing a few days earlier with the President of the company that owned the product. The same one that wanted to be a order of fries to every GroupWise burger sold.
The executive explained that a problem had arisen with the product. The customer attempted to contact customer support for the 3rd party product without any luck. Weeks and then months went by as the problem continued to get worse. Novell was asked to intervene with the 3rd party vendor but the product couldn’t be fixed in a fashion satisfactory to the customer. After a very long time of effort and frustration, the President of the customer company made a unilateral decision and decided that this wasn’t they type of partnership they wanted with their software vendors and threw everything out.
It brings to mind the poem:
For want of a nail
the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe
the horse was lost.
For want of a horse
the rider was lost.
For want of a rider
the battle was lost.
For want of a battle
the kingdom was lost.
All for the want of a horseshoe nail.
When Novell would choose to partner with a 3rd party vendor, the technology portion of the equation was and still is a small part. It is a critical part, the technology has to work, but it isn’t the piece that really matters.
When Novell, or any large vendor, begin the process of introducing their customers to another vendor, there is much at stake.
For this company, they lost a $600 sale, but for Novell, the cost was much much bigger. It is a relationship that is being entrusted to the 3rd party vendor. The relationship with the customer is much more important than which technology solution is chosen. In this case, the 3rd party solution was a very expensive failure.
When choosing to partner with a company like Novell, you must realize and understand that you have to act and present yourself at nearly the same level as Novell themselves.
That doesn’t mean you have to earn a billion dollars a year, but you do have to have certain things in place to be considered a serious partner.
Support - Can you support your product beyond the president of the company and chief architect ?(Often the same guy) If something goes wrong, who is the customer going to call? Who is Novell going to call.
Sales - Who is going to meet with the customer if there is questions about pricing and product and other solutions, who do they talk to? And it better not be the same guy from support.
Marketing - Who is going to pitch the product and generate the demand? Oftentimes customer feel comfortable about a solution when they know others are using it and they see it in the market. Either through advertising, through forums, through newsletters, or other means of community.
These issues all are extremely important to the decision of partnering. And the technical merits of the product/solution haven’t even been talked about.
When you want to dance with the elephant, a good rule to remember is that you need to be seen as a big enough to be on the dance floor and not get squished.
It another blog I will talk about how to grow large enough to be able to dance with the elephant.
Disclaimer: As with everything else at Cool Solutions, this content is definitely not supported by Novell (so don't even think of calling Support if you try something and it blows up).
It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test, test, test before you do anything drastic with it.