The Death of Partner Business Planning – And the Birth of a New Approach

By Jason Watkins

Partner business planning as we know it is dead… and understandably so.

The partner ecosystem is alive and well in a multi-distribution model environment. Partners are pivoting their businesses to ensure technology is delivered the way customers want to buy, expanding their functional skills and competencies, and diving deep in technical or industry areas. These organizations are driving varied revenue streams through new IP, enhancing their services capabilities, offering more dynamic training, and building applications on behalf of their customers. Even in this time of COVID-19, they are innovating! Woo-hah!

Buzz Kill: Enter the old business planning process

Annual business planning, quarterly business reviews with the same focus on “assess, discuss, plan, document, blah, blah, blah” then sign off on the actions to be reviewed in three months…three months!  It’s 2020 people – anyone not in a coma knows that a lot can change in three months. Article after article – good and accurate articles by the way – provide advice on how to manage the process, collaborate for commitment, and how to execute. Oh, and agile! Make it agile! To name a few:

Agile? Stick to the script until the next QBR…right?

The problem is that partner business planning by definition is not agile. It’s linear. It’s annual. It’s quarterly. It’s too focused on the vendor versus the partner’s dynamic business. Three months can be a year in “technology partner time” (as in stick to business as usual for too long and you may not have a business to plan at all). The truth in the modern environment is that by the time the annual business plan has been completed, it’s defunct. Can’t we do better on behalf of thriving and evolving partner organizations?

Let’s let this process go…please…pretty please? There is a higher value approach.

big arrow one way and many small arrows going opposite way

An evolved…er agile approach

Partner businesses are moving fast, transforming to meet customer needs and enhance revenue streams. Their focus is on daily execution. Daily. The “strategy, execution, success” cycle between partners and vendors should not be annual. Nor quarterly. It needs to be daily – that kind of agile.

The new approach must be digital, fluid, and transparent. Leaders in vendor organizations must take a new approach and partner owners should demand as much.

Recast the Business Planning process into a business execution engine – Woo-hah!

  • Go Digital: Source or build partner relationship management (PRM) modules that manage partner business planning. Work the project, buy or build and ensure the right information and data integration for partner management execs and partners alike. Paper, spreadsheets, documentation, and frankly meetings, must go.  Let them die. No love lost. The result is more current information and collaboration used to drive alignment on objectives and execution, daily.
  • Go Dynamic: Ensure access for both partner management and partners. Core elements that so many articles emphasize across the major elements of planning are still addressed such as revenue, enablement, personnel and marketing but with accurate and timely information for a deeper business conversation about goals, objectives and tasks. The difference is that it’s live and moves from planning meetings to a daily execution focus. Both vendor and partner remain connected, daily, as new objectives emerge, as goals transform, and as tasks are completed, changed or added.
  • Go Value: The focus is on the daily steps to achieve objectives and becomes agile, for mutual benefit. The new approach provides transparency to the partner’s business and aligns the right resources at the right time to execute — in real time (read Go Dynamic above). The two entities become one unit working to transform and grow. The value is in the equitability and balance in the daily transparency not in what the partner needs to do to meet revenue expectations set by the vendor.

Evolve or die – cliché but still true

There is much more to discuss.  In the meantime, consider this: The current business environment allows for change, for new ideas and new approaches. Instead of “improving the process,” advocate to change the approach altogether.

metal cogs with word execution engraved

Whatever method is used for business planning in your organization today consider tossing it all out. Think about the ecosystem and what partners are going through. What’s the approach that will drive their growth in the future? You will find it’s more about daily execution with a relentless focus on business transformation and changing customer needs. Start there and create something new.

At Siemens Digital Industries Software, we work with our partner management team on key business drivers and hone skills, competencies and processes based on contemporary partner, customer and market demands. Working with our professionals and partners led us to embrace and invest in this new business planning approach.

Jason Watkins, Vice President of Global Solution Partner Enablement and Productivity, has over 20 years of experience in sales management and consulting. At Siemens Digital Industries Software, his primary focus is on multi-channel profitable revenue growth and the professional development and growth of the global Solution Partner ecosystem.


6 thoughts about “The Death of Partner Business Planning – And the Birth of a New Approach
  • This is a timely and provocative article that is worth your investment of 4 minutes to read . . . net net – By Siemens and our partners being able to focus and execute business planning more timely, with up-to-the minute data, we can take steps to achieve objectives and align the right resources at the right time, making us more agile, for mutual success.

  • Excellent message … especially now. There are so many exciting opportunities to pursue in the industrial software market that Siemens and its partners have the unique opportunity to thrive even in a difficult economic period. But no matter how significant the market needs are or how advanced the solutions may be, if we can’t put an agile plan on paper — today — and execute that plan with urgency, the market will pass us by. For the past few years we’ve been pounding on the messages of transformation … alignment … agility … and collaboration. Now is the time to actually do those things. And with a focus on accelerating business performance, the last thing anyone needs is another old-fashioned, complicated form to fill out. But having access to real-time data about progress and performance enables you to shift out of planning / concept mode and into implementation / action mode. Very timely resource and a powerful new way to accelerate our business transformation.

  • Right on point! Digital, dynamic and value oriented are all what we need especially right now. An additional benefit I see is analysis, in several areas.
    Analysis of a partners plan: Analyze what we are collectively doing, and what we are monitoring/measuring to see if it is actually helping our partners. Like you said, get rid of many of the old things we have been doing by analyzing what works and what doesn’t work.
    Partner to partner analysis: Having this in a digital system gives us the opportunity to analyze where need to focus not just on a partner, but on groups of partners, locations of partners, types of partners, or even all partners. What are partners doing that is working and what is not working? What can we leverage across all partners or groups of partners? How can we help any or all of them become more efficient and effective?
    Partner versus direct, or partner and direct: Being able to analyze what we are doing on the partner side and compare with what we are doing on the direct side. We already have this system on the direct selling side. Are there things we are doing on either side that could help the other. Are there things that could help both? One thing we have already found is the heatmap can be used for both and this streamlines a lot of other work that used to take months, but now is automated. I look forward to many more of these situations.

    Going further faster!

  • “The problem is that partner business planning by definition is not agile. It’s linear. It’s annual. It’s quarterly. It’s too focused on the vendor versus the partner’s dynamic business.”

    A little more specificity is in order, “It’s too focused on the vendor versus the partner’s dynamic business.”!

    The exclamation point is my own.


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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at