Understand the partner ecosystem through the eyes of two “women of the channel”
If you don’t work for an implementation or technology partner or don't work with one directly, it’s easy to be confused by how to choose a partner and what a “partner” really does in the first place. Luckily, there are people who have dedicated their entire careers to this channel and have some awards to show for it.
Recently Episerver Director of Partner Development Diane Schmidt and Episerver Senior Director of Global Alliances Karen Chastain were named to the annual CRN Women of the Channel list, which recognizes top women influencing the partner channel. What’s the channel? As Schmidt describes it, “The channel is simply one path for a company to go to market.” What’s interesting about their wins, is how different their roles are and how their work ultimately impacts you, our customers. Hear from them directly in this video below with our CEO Alex Atzberger and continue reading to learn more.
Episerver has hundreds of valuable partners and managing those relationships within the partner ecosystem is a dynamic practice as there’s give (like ensuring partners are supported by us so they can support our mutual customers) and there’s take (like ensuring partners are continuously investing in their Episerver education).
From there, multiple partner types exist within the partner ecosystem – solution partners (like those that help you launch your new Epi digital experience), technology partners (like those that help you extend your Epi solution) and platform partners (like those who support our platform such as Microsoft Azure).
“Episerver has a very comprehensive partner program, from onboarding, training, certification and ongoing communication,” said Schmidt. “We treat our partners like an extension of our team. I think it is also useful to customers that Episerver identifies partners specializations such as CMS and commerce, so it is easy to find a partner that fits their business needs.”
Put in another way the different Episerver partner types include:
- Solution partners – include digital agencies and system integrators such as our Premier Platinum Partner Rightpoint and Platinum Partners Yaksa, Luminos Labs and Verndale – implement Episerver technologies to help your ideas come to life. In other words, if you’re worried about having enough staff to implement a new solution, this is where a solution partner comes in with their resources and deep industry and product expertise.
- Technology partners – like Hubspot or Marketo – extend your Episerver solution so integrating the technologies you are already using to Episerver or vice versa is seamless. In other words, if you’re worried about how a new solution will integrate into your existing tech stack, you’d want to see what technology partners already exist since those integrations are tried and true and often don’t require customer work.
- Platform Partners – like our partnership with Microsoft – these partnerships sometimes share resources and offer early looks at each other’s strategy in order to work toward common goals. For example, Episerver has a deep relationship with Microsoft engineering teams that enables us to take full advantage of Microsoft Azure, resulting in ease of use, reduced complexity and cost-effective technology consumption for our customers.
“What’s great about Diane and I both being recognized as CRN Women of the Channel in 2020 is that we manage very different types of Episerver partners,” said Chastain. “While I work with our technology partners and global alliances, Diane’s team manages the day-to-day relationships with agency partners. There’s a common misconception that one size fits all for partner programs, which is just not true. Diversity in a partner program ultimately provides values for our customers.”
Other misconceptions about the partner ecosystem exist which might pollute the waters for customers trying to see what works best for them.
“I’ve been managing partnerships for over 20 years and one of the most common misperceptions is the motivation behind partnerships,” said Schmidt. “At the end of the day as a software vendor, our primary goal is a happy customer. Our focus is on building great software. That is why delivery partners are so important to our success. Outside of technical ability, our agencies and system integrator partners also bring industry knowledge, integration experience and design skills to their Episerver projects.”
The good news is it’s never been easier to do business together as an Episerver partner.
“Partners are collaborating more and more thanks to the very technology we’re delivering to customers,” said Chastain. “We all know the impact that the Covid-19 crisis brought on for companies not used to managing relationships online. While we love getting to be face to face with our customers and partners, we didn’t skip a beat in terms of engaging with one another since technology brings us together so business continuity isn’t threatened.”
Schmidt also sees barriers to success within the partner ecosystem broken down.
“There has been a big shift to digital enablement of partners,” said Schmidt. “It used to be that you would have to take a billable consultant out of the field and put them in a classroom for a week to get certified on a software platform. Today that enablement is available online. At Episerver, partner enablement e-learning courses are available at no cost through June 30, 2020. I also think the level of access to product development has improved greatly for partners due to advancements in tech support technologies and programs like Episerver MVP.”
Individually, the contributions of Schmidt and Chastain reach customers and partners every day. Chastain’s team was responsible for launching the Episerver App Marketplace, which is a single source for pre-vetted apps that seamlessly integrate into Episerver technologies. This launch has earned analyst and press accolades with IDC Research Manager Jordan Jewell indicating that, “Applications such as the one Episerver has launched, provide value for all parties involved by acting as an infrastructure to connect Episerver’s partners and customers while also ensuring a higher standard for those apps.” This is one of the many reasons Chastain earned the CRN Women of the Channel distinction.
Some of the reason Schmidt was recognized was for implementing a scorecard to help identify the best partner fit for customers based on experience and skill sets, expanding the partner team, helping implement our new partner program with enhanced levels and benefits, and working closely with sales on aligning our partners to new vertical markets. Her team also introduced a new partner specialization for B2B commerce after Episerver's acquisition of Insite Software in December 2019.
Both Chastain and Schmidt inspire and influence the partner ecosystem so that customers get the best fit and the best functionality from their Episerver partner. Like most careers, their work is not without personal reward. Chastain’s most rewarding part of her career is the relationships which she’s built over many years and how full circle many of those relationships can become as people cross paths in different roles. For Schmidt, it’s about participating in growth.
“I am most proud when I see a partner truly succeed with their business and Episerver,” said Schmidt. “I have seen agencies start a new practice and build a services team leveraging our software platform, for me that is really satisfying. I walked into one partner office earlier this year and was humbled to see an entire wall of their certified Episerver developer certificates. It hit home that Episerver is a career choice not only for our employees but also for our certified partners.”
When it comes to partnerships – be it a vendor or an implementor – there’s always choice and with women like Schmidt and Chastain supporting the partner ecosystem, we hope you can choose your Episerver partner with confidence.