Under the old model, many developments were proprietary, bespoke, and focused as much on competitors as customers. New ideas were jealously guarded. Developments occurred in bunkers, then customers were convinced that this was indeed exactly what they needed to solve their problems.
That no longer works, for two reasons:
1) Electronic communications and the resulting free flow of information means that keeping your development under wraps is increasingly difficult. In fact, to quote one senior Project Manager, “The difference between confidential and public information can be measured in weeks.”
2) Every business inventing their own version of the wheel means that customers pay more, wait longer, and will most likely end up with a wheel that only fits some of their wagons.
Technology partnering is not exactly new, but it does demand some new thinking from traditional businesses. Luckily, a greater commitment to open standards in many industries sits nicely alongside the partnering model – at least from an ideological perspective. Standards mean that traditionally-minded businesses have come to accept that not every development needs to be built from the ground up.
Gary Stidham, VP of Product Management at Zetron says, “Zetron’s partnership with Tait has been a key factor in the timely testing and delivery of a number of our open-standards-based solutions, including our fully integrated CSSI and DMR radio dispatch systems. Every business inventing their own version of the wheel means that customers pay more, wait longer, and will most likely end up with a wheel that only fits some of their wagons.”
Chances are, tech partnerships are with businesses who are marketing their products in the same sector. However, no matter how closely you are aligned in your thinking, there will still be differences in perspective and context. Managed well, these represent golden learning opportunities for both partners. In fact, one partner might be able to suggest a solution that the other partner has not yet recognized or developed, for the benefit of their mutual customers.
If you are marketing to the same sector, you now have access to your partner’s contacts and customers as well. And if you are marketing to a slightly different sector currently, you have direct exposure to the new opportunities your partner brings. This is increasingly the case as organizations partner with non-traditional sector players.
Working alongside another business is likely to streamline efforts, and avoid duplication, as you will, of necessity, have greater clarity of your direct outcome. For instance, when Tait partnered with console manufacturers, the partnerships initially focused on the interfaces between the two technologies. Once that had been developed, they could focus on innovations that provided greater value. Gary Stidham from Zetron confirms, “… partnerships have improved our ability to provide features and functionality that are important to customers, such as the DMR Location Services feature that allows dispatchers to view and interact directly with resources on a map.”
When businesses align, their customers can perceive them as a single entity. Technology partners must become thoroughly familiar with each other’s products, so customers benefit from the combined support of both tech teams.
It is also important that partners recognize and accept that each partner organization has the right to expect specific benefits from the partnership, provided that they are not in conflict with the shared goals.
Of course, partnering with another business is not without its risks and complexities, and is unlikely to prove either low cost or a quick fix. It takes time. For example, the costs of supporting a wider range of technology and products may be unequal between partners and this needs to be acknowledged. The partners will need to arrive at an equitable arrangement. Other risks to successful relationships include:
- the challenge of shared decision-making processes and loss of autonomy,
- the time and energy commitment of key staff in partnership building and project development,
- the additional overheads involved in tracking, reporting and evaluation requirements.
An organisation that recognizes the benefits of partnering can overcome these risks by following the relationship principles of equity, transparency and mutual benefit.
Like any other relationship, good technology partnerships don’t happen overnight. It takes time – and senior management commitment – to establish trust and commitment, and to be confident of shared values. Here’s how John Florenca, CEO of Omnitronics, describes his organization’s partnering strategy: “Omnitronics has always had a philosophy of building long-term relationships. A key part of our business strategy is to not only establish partnerships but to foster these partnerships for the long run. Good partnerships enable us to focus on what we do best while still providing a full solution to our customers.
“By sharing our knowledge and our technologies, we can better understand the needs of the marketplace and find superior solutions to meet those needs.”
This article is taken from Connection Magazine, Issue 7. Connection is a collection of educational and thought-leading articles focusing on critical communications, wireless and radio technology.
Share your views, comments and suggestions in the Tait Connection Magazine LinkedIn group.