Admin2Consultant – The Partner Ecosystem

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Salesforce is much more than just a software company. Right now, it’s helping to define a whole new era of how we think about IT, software and services. Salesforce is both an innovator and a disruptor, and it’s these qualities (amongst many others) that has helped Salesforce to create it’s own ecosystem.

Today, I wanted take an hour of my time away from configuring a solution in Process Builder and write a little about this ecosystem so that as part of the Admin2Consultant series, those considering a move into Consulting space understand more about the world consultants operate in. In this first part, I want to try and paint a picture about why Salesforce has a partner ecosystem, before moving on to how Salesforce drives and incentivizes partners to help Salesforce innovate and expand this ecosystem across the world.

What is the Salesforce partner ecosystem?

In short, the Salesforce partner ecosystem is every single strategic global systems integrator (think Accenture), consulting firm (think Bluewolf *cough, cough IBM*), consulting partner (think Cloudreach or EMPAUA) or contractor (think one man Salesforce band), anywhere in the world which provides professional services for the advisory, configuration, development and implementation of Salesforce or Salesforce related products (such as apps).

That wasn’t really short was it? That’s because the Salesforce partner ecosystem is so vast, it’s hard to encapsulate it.

Why does Salesforce have a partner ecosystem?

When you’re a behemoth like Salesforce, it’s hard to be everywhere at once.

Consider this analogy.

Like around 9 million others, I live in London. While I enjoy London life, I know that I might not be here forever, so while I am, I want to see as much as London as possible. One of the best ways that I can get around London is the tube, and at each tube stop is a discrete place with it’s own architecture, culture, vibe and feel.

Now, if I were to go around all 270(ish) tube stations and try to explore everything in each location, that would take me a hell of a long time (although at least it would keep me occupied). If I were intelligent, I’d expand my footprint in London far more quickly by making friends in strategic locations around London and experiencing London with them. By having friends in strategic locations, I can use their knowledge of each location to find the best sightseeing spots, things to do, restaurants, bars, clubs etc, without actually having to visit all these places myself. That is, I can use their knowledge of these areas and become part of their friendship groups (hopefully) to create a special all encompassing experience for myself in London.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

For those that don’t, going back to a point I made earlier, Salesforce simply cannot be everywhere at once. It would require an enormous workforce to try and cover the amount of ‘space’ (i.e. Total Available Market [TAM]) to match its ambition. Therefore, one of the best ways to try and expand in a strategic manner is to choose certain areas (geographies/markets, of which Salesforce are primarily focussed on 9) and then expand in these areas using a partner network. This allows Salesforce to expand far more quickly, allowing it to grab more TAM.

N.B. There are many reasons Salesforce have taken this approach, I have simply presented one.

One of the many positive repercussions of creating a partner network in multiple areas, is that you can quickly exploit the local knowledge, connections and community that those partners have in each area. Think about those long running HSBC ads about the importance of having local knowledge; with a partner network, Salesforce gets that all around the world.

There are many returns on this, but a few are that it allows Salesforce to soak up this knowledge like a sponge to help it drive innovation (by consuming customer stories), it allows it to expand its footprint further to help it drive revenue (top line) and perhaps most importantly of all, the partner network allows Salesforce to create a sense of community with both its partners and customers. Having recently listened to Erica Kuhl at London’s Calling, I feel it’s the creation of this community which Salesforce strives to attain to distinguish it from its competitors. With a successful community, Salesforce can create an ecosystem of support for both its customers and partners to self-serve and self-support each other, it can create an environment where it soaks up far more information at a lower-level to drive innovation and it creates a ‘stickiness’ with both its partners and its customers who are brought into the Salesforce ecosystem.


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