In brief

In brief

  • There has been a power-shift from provider to partner due to a rise in customer expectations and partners now have more choices of providers.
  • To win partner mindshare and for future growth, companies must co-innovate, co-invest and collaborate across the ecosystem.
  • Driven by greater customer pressure to provide customized technology driven solutions, 89% of partners are looking for new sources of growth.

A changing relationship

We are in uncharted waters today: a pandemic and economic upheaval, coupled with rapid technology change, rising customer expectations and more. These developments have impacted the world of commerce, including business relationships. One notable relationship change is between large technology providers and the strategic partners, with the latter having more options today. The reason for this powershift is:

Customers’ expectations for end-to-end, integrated, tailored experiences based on a deep understanding of their needs—a strategic strength of traditional partners—have increased.

Partners can now select from a broad set of providers. The ascent of cloud providers like Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services has been a change in the mix that now makes up a partner’s revenue.

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Customer has a need. Technology vendors offer a platform. Ecosystem of Partners offer value-add on top of vendor’s offering.

In this battle for partner mindshare, to win, providers must differentiate themselves to be the default choice that partners will recommend in their customer discussions. Accenture believes that they should focus their leadership and resources in these three areas:

Co-innovating for growth

Jointly innovating to address critical and emerging customers’ needs and achieving the growth goals of both partners and providers.

Collaborating at scale

Enabling collaboration with and across their partners and the larger ecosystem, acting as a catalyst when providing a differentiated solution.

Co-investing for the future

Coordinating their investments with their partners to ensure alignment on how to meet customer expectations and maximize business outcomes.

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Creating frictionless experiences

Providers need to support partners to deliver on their customers’ needs and unlocking their growth potential. It also means leveraging advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and automation to enable collaboration and innovation for the ecosystem.

Accenture’s research shares that 77 percent of partners stated that they have more choices of providers than they had three years ago.

Rising expectations

Though united in their pursuit of profitable growth, now providers are asking partners to step up to deliver on customer expectations. Three ways the higher customer demands are affecting a partner’s operational costs and investments are:

  • Use of technology to bring value to their own end-customers
  • High-quality interactions and conveniences, in-person or online, with 24 x 7 availability
  • Tailored, end-to-end solutions fitting their needs.
Giving partners the support they need
It’s crucial for providers to move beyond transactional partnering models and, focus on the capability areas and moments that matter to the partner to drive growth for both parties.
Partners are being asked to do more


report supporting their customers’ digital transformations.


report delivering solutions to new customers such as new geographies and small and medium businesses.


report developing more solutions on top of provider platforms or products.

Co-innovating for growth

It’s time for a change. The ability to innovate is the top criterion for partners on choosing a particular provider, followed by brand reputation and technology compatibility. But innovation is not a solo performance. Accenture believes that companies should:

Identify compatible offerings

The second most important criterion for wanting to work with providers is compatibility with partner offerings (33 percent).

Target investments for co-innovation

More than 80 percent of partners with top-tier provider status prioritize providers based on their investments that explicitly help drive innovation.

Collaborate to create joint offerings

Companies and their partners can overcome barriers with products, services and solutions that can result in more profitable customer experiences.

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Accelerating innovation

Providers should start exploring co-innovation capabilities with members of their ecosystem. In parallel, companies must ensure mutually beneficial value for partners and providers to monetize, commercialize and protect intellectual property in parallel. The enablers for the solution development lifecycle for the partners are the same- solution funds, developer toolkits, solution marketplaces and innovation labs.

Co-investing for the future

The ability to innovate is the #1 criterion when partners are choosing a provider to work with. In this light, companies need to rethink their co-investment model and how partner and provider contributions are evaluated and measured. Hence a shift in the co-investment methods, from traditional Market Development Funding to the emerging Innovation Development Funding.

Providers must ensure that their co-investments are offered beyond the reseller community and made available to other partner types that influence the customer journey. They should incent their independent software vendors (ISVs) for generating leads and referrals with

  • Joint business planning for alignment on goals, funding and timeline to meet sales targets
  • Prioritization of funds on key areas of the customer journey that drive the most revenue
  • New incentives and measurements to maximize the value of the partner ecosystem

Currently, most enterprises evaluate partners according to the volume of sales rather than an innovation ecosystem. In response, some companies are beginning to structure partner programs that are linked to a more holistic set of behaviors ranging from initial solution development, to actions that increase customer awareness, to understanding, buy-in and ultimately commitment to the solution purchase and follow-on renewal.

With the shift to as-a-service models and the importance of the post-sales customer experience, providers should measure and incent partners’ impact to customer adoption and customers’ total lifetime value.

Collaborating at scale

In order to achieve and sustain value over time, collaboration across different models is key—moving from fragmented partners working in silos to cooperative relationships across multiple channels and at scale.

Collaborative ecosystems

In this model, providers and partners must shift from traditional resellers to supporting collaboration on platform deals for better results.

Blurring boundaries of provider-partner ecosystems

Future enterprise systems will blur/ are already blurring the boundaries of the organization and its ecosystem of partners, suppliers and customers.

Orchestrating the ecosystem

As an orchestrator of the ecosystem, providers can help partners find other partners to co-create solutions, leveraging a collaborative platform.

Reducing friction

Providers should look at providing experiences that fit partners’ desires to grow, reduce operational spend and gain opportunities with customers.

Choosing a technology provider

Partners are interested in a holistic package of skills, capabilities and experiences, technology being only one aspect of it all.

The importance of analytics capabilities

Partners have pointed to the maturity of providers’ analytics capabilities as an important factor in choosing to work with them.

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Artificial intelligence is another key enabler—an opportunity for providers to deepen relationships with partners and scale their capabilities.

AI provides three advantages:

Enables scale

Eighty percent of partners agree that, without AI, they will be unable to scale.

Enables collaboration

Sellers and providers can provide a tailored solution by sharing customer insights to improve wins and enable deals at a faster.

Enables growth

AI and analytics can provide the insights to support growth for both partners and vendors.

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How to be the provider of choice?

Providers must orchestrate an ecosystem of co-innovation, co-investment and collaboration to create the conditions that increase partner mindshare. They must offer their partners a path for growth and help develop the capabilities needed to achieve that growth, helping create a meaningful partner strategy with partner and customer experiences at the core, supported by the provider’s capabilities, data and support.

About the Authors

Dawn Anderson

Senior Managing Director – Enterprise Functions Networks Lead, North America

Nicole Truesdale

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Customer, Sales, & Service

Karla Gallardo

Principal Director – Strategy & Consulting, Customer Sales & Services

Mike Heald

Senior Managing Director – Enterprise Functions Networks Lead, North America

Ron Ref

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Ecosystem & Growth Strategy

Olivier Jankelovics

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Ecosystem & Growth Strategy

Samir Mohan

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting


Business of experience | The future of CX
How ecosystems create value for their members

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