Why you need a Partnership Framework

Large and small organisations, in both the public and private sector, are increasingly viewing partnerships as the way to grow their businesses. To be successful, organisations need to develop appropriate internal capabilities and adopt a planned approach to partnerships. Many find this step a challenge. As an example, for start-ups, this article on the Fallacy of Channels gives a great summary of the issues that can arise.

A shortage of appropriate partnering skills, along with a transactional sales culture and processes, makes it difficult for many organisations to develop and get value from their business relationships. An unplanned approach often results in partners becoming disaffected, and all the parties involved wasting resources.

So, working with colleagues, partners and clients, Expertek has developed a Partnership Framework that captures and illustrates the steps and activities required to build and maintain successful partnerships.

Why did we develop it?

During the past 10 years, Expertek has managed and supported 50+ projects that have focused on proposition development and sales enablement. Cumulatively these projects have covered most aspects of partner sales and marketing.

Through this work we identified the activities needed to make partnerships successful. We wanted to share our findings in a clear, well-presented, consistent and coherent format that would get buy-in from across different organisations.

Expertek’s approach

To address this requirement we developed our Partnership Framework – available as a free resource – to support partnership development and improvement. There’s a lot of good research available on partnerships (and alliances), but we’ve taken a pragmatic approach; most of the Framework aims to address real-world issues common to business partnerships.

In the Framework, we’ve broken the activities into discrete blocks that are recognisable and readily understood. The Framework doesn’t cover the complementary marketing and operational processes, but these can easily be overlaid. The overall objective is to improve organisations’ partnering processes and documentation, enabling you to guide the development and management of partnerships and take corrective action if necessary.

Partnership Framework Diagram


The Framework:

  • Flows from left to right in terms of timeline, although it can be entered at any point
  • Clusters relevant activities together based on when they should occur, not when they normally occur!
  • Is granular enough to provide specific activities that you need to take without ‘boiling the ocean’
  • Reflects commonly used terms and business partnering tasks
  • Was designed around an approach that works well in the tech sector, but is equally applicable to many other sectors

It was primarily designed from the perspective of an outgoing sales partnership, where a partner is going to market with your product or services. However, we’ve found that most of the activities can support a ‘double-ended’ relationship. It works for technology partnerships, where you are bringing technology into the company, and many types of alliance partnerships, where the relationship is reciprocal.

The Framework has a 1:n perspective; from the vendor to (potentially) many partners. It includes the activities you need to undertake to develop partnering capabilities and a portfolio of partners, rather than just being focused on a 1:1 alliance relationship. Alliance capabilities are similar to those required for a partnership and although not covered by our Framework, they are covered by other approaches such as Alliance Best Practice.

I’m indebted to many companies and clients that have thrown up partnering challenges for us to address and have thereby indirectly helped us to develop the Partnership Framework They include: Verum, Costain, Logica (now CGI), Detica (now BAE Systems Applied Intelligence) and Aruba (now HP Aruba) .

In future posts I’ll delve into the Partnership Framework in more detail.