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The Myth of the Tech Partnership January 15, 2010

Posted by Peter Varhol in Strategy.
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The lead on the second section of Wall Street Journal yesterday was H-P, Microsoft Partner Against Rivals (teaser online, full text requires subscription).  The subscription doesn’t matter, because it’s the same story many of us have read any number of times.  In 99 percent of the cases, a partnership between technology companies is little more than an empty announcement.

This “partnership” is particularly egregious.  After reading the WSJ article, I had no clue as to what the partnership entailed.  The clearest explanation was: “Among other things, H-P and Microsoft will join forces to sell H-P server hardware with networking equipment, as well as storage and common Microsoft business applications . . .”

Okay, the companies’ respective sales teams are going to sell one another’s stuff into accounts.  I wanted to know more, so I went to the press release.  Lo and behold, there actually seems to be some working together on technology advances:

“- Be built on a next-generation infrastructure-to-application model

– Advance cloud computing by speeding application implementation

– Eliminate complexities of IT management and automate existing manual processes to lower the overall costs”

Still, those are statements of direction, or high-level strategies.  These capsule descriptions don’t tell what is being done, or give an indication of how the results will benefit their customers.

In general, it’s good for tech companies to engage in business partnerships.  However, such partnerships are not particularly important to the audience these companies are attempting to reach, unless they can easily explain how they benefit that audience.

Many tech partnerships focus on the advantages to the respective partner, not to their customers.  When you are trying to negotiate to please your partners, you do your customers a disservice.  Tech companies can start improving the focus, explanation, and ultimate success of their partnerships by continually asking the questions “Why will my customers care about this?” and “How can I explain this clearly and succinctly to my customers?”

Many do not.  This one does not appear to do so.  I suspect that this partnership will ultimately disappear and be forgotten, with little to show for the announcement.

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