The Partner Experience Weekly: Who Owns Partner Experience?

The Partner Experience Weekly: Who Owns Partner Experience?

Aaron Howerton 6 min

Last week I tried very hard to establish some groundwork around why you need a vision for Partner Experience. In summary:

  • Partner are Customers
  • Partners are Foundational
  • A Vision Creates a Foundation for Decisions

If you didn’t have time to read about it, you’re also welcome to listen instead.

Creator’s Note: It was supposed to be a single week, and then I ran the podcast through Descript to get a transcript, then fed that through ChatGPT for an edit, and then broke THAT into three separate weeks worth of content. This article is a heavily edited version of the ChatGPT results.

Anyone see the new one yet?

This week: Who owns partner experience?

Some companies are now hiring partner experience managers. Atlassian just appointed one, and I couldn’t be more excited to partner up internally and work on enhancements. Other companies are also starting to see this role as a unique function, but for the most part, it’s still rolled into other functions.

Partner Experience, much like Partner Operations, suffers from buzzword-itis.

It’s being used frequently, in a lot of concepts, and people just assume everyone agrees on the meaning. That ultimately confuses the concept for everyone in the industry.

It’s being used liberally to describe a variety of functions and ultimately still sounds a lot like existing roles. And there’s good reason for that - virtually every role in Partnerships has some kind of tie to Partner Experience.

So if you don’t have a dedicated role in place for this function, who should ’own’ it from a vision and accountability standpoint?

Experience within enablement

This is a really logical place for Partner Experience to live. After all, crafting an experience is basically the summation of what it means to deliver good enablement.

You simply can’t train and enable without crafting a good experience for the learner. The downside is that enablement is really focused on a small portion of the business or goal in most cases.

Examples include enabling a new product, a new process, a new system or a new campaign. And for my enablement-driven friends - I see you! It’s where I got my start in Partnerships!

I don’t mean to trivialize what you do in ANY shape or form here, only recognize that enablement is typically a strategically focused effort toward specific goals. This somewhat minimizes the broader implications of what ’Partner Experience’ means.

Experience within Partner Success/Partner Managers

Much of this argument is true for Partner Success as well, which can vary from one company to another as to whether these roles are focused on support and/or sales efforts. They have a mandate toward their goals with the Partner and often have the challenge of managing direct relationships with the Partner Accounts, helping drive performance, answering questions, maintaining commitment, and a variety of other responsibilities highly tailored to their assigned accounts.

Clearly, they are tied to and impact the overall Partner Experience in a significant way. BUT.... they are not well positioned to OWN the concept organizationally because of their narrower, specific focus.

Experience within program management

This is another somewhat murky concept that varies with the company. It could mean developing specific programmatic policies for specific aspects of the business, like ‘Lead and Opportunity Program Manager’ or ‘Referrals Program Manager’ or ‘Campaign Program Manager.’

This could also mean full program leadership for top-level partner programs like Affiliates, Resellers, Service Delivery, Technology, ISV, etc. It’s really up to the company, but in any breakdown, we’re once again looking at a variety of fairly specific boundaries and working lanes. The story is just repeating itself from role to role.

The Head of Partnerships/Partnership Leader

Okay, hear me out on this one. This person, especially in a smaller organization, is already inundated with priority needs to build the program. 

The pressure to perform, to drive revenue, and to ’get started’ will necessarily outweigh concerns about a long-term roadmap for something as nebulous as ’Partner Experience.’

They’re working on the larger roadmap for the entire concept of Partnerships for crying out loud! Literally, everything they DO is about Partner Experience, and it’s all highly aligned to their own personality, and however they reflect the company culture.

As the team expands, Partner Experience is still not a top priority because there are so few partners, so few team members, and so few processes it’s all manageable.

Somewhere down the line, maybe 18-24 months into the effort, when results start showing up consistently, and the pain of daily management is starting to be felt more keenly, that’s when Partner Experience starts to show up in concepts invariably tied to the need for.... you guessed it... Partner Operations.

Experience within PartnerOps

Now, I’m clearly biased here, but I believe PartnerOps is a natural place for Experience Management to live for 3 (three) main reasons.

  1. The first is the critical need for a solid underlying architecture to build from. A poor central architecture will inherently limit scalable operational growth and delivery time for future projects, all of which impact Partner Experience.
  2. The second is the tendency for PartnerOps to sit at a crossroads of nearly every other department in the company. People in this role tend to have an overview of the different tech and architecture, what’s happening in what groups and with who, and what the real pain points are for the ecosystem at large. They are talking to every role already listed and almost every other group in the company. Over time they collect an internal Rolodex of allies and not-allies for the Partnership banner and figure out how to leverage those relationships for mutual success.
  3. The timeline for entry for most PartnerOps professionals is somewhere between 12-24 months into the program growth. They hit the ground running, trying to understand the situation, the priorities, and the needs. More experienced hires come with a game plan, and junior hires scramble to learn what matters. They come in precisely because the EXPERIENCE is starting to suffer for customers, colleagues, partners, or a combination of them all.

The wrap up

At the end of the day, Partner Experience is really owned by everyone, all the time. If you’re working in a group that doesn’t ever bring this up or uses this language, Congratulations!

I’ve got great news for you!

You own it. Take it, run with it, write it up, and make it interesting.

It doesn’t really matter what your role is - you have a tie to Partner Experience, and figuring that out is your inroad to driving a conversation.

Who Owns Partner Experience? - PartnerOps Partner

Give a listen instead of reading everything... feedback welcome!

Aaron Howerton 6 min

The Partner Experience Weekly: Who Owns Partner Experience?

Partner Experience is all the rage, but where does ownership really need to live?

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