Solving the ecosystem management dilemma
I am Howard Epstein. I recently joined the Pronto marketing team to help partner ecosystem decision makers, buyers, and influencers get to know the company, the leadership, and understand how Pronto can help them achieve the full value of their ecosystem initiatives. When I start a new gig, I try to get an understanding of what makes a company tick. As a starting point I wondered why Pronto got started?
I had the opportunity to sit down with Swaroop Kolli, the Founder and CEO of Pronto, to ask my question. Pronto develops and sells an Ecosystem Management platform—a full featured, extensible, and easy-to-use solution for managing a large number of-, complex, and varied ecosystem initiatives.
Howard: Swaroop, Thanks for taking time and doing this interview with me.
Swaroop: Thanks Howard. The pleasure is mine.
Howard: To help me tell the Pronto story, I like to go back to the beginning to understand the motivation leading to starting your company. Swaroop, why did you start Pronto?
Swaroop: Howard, most of everyone who works in Pronto has in one shape or form either worked on Partnerships or touched partnerships. In my previous company, our team had a lot of experience managing and running large partner ecosystems. We were very frustrated by missing capabilities and tools that made it hard to fully leverage and unlock the full potential of our partner ecosystem initiatives. Let me provide some examples of challenges—
There was no system of record where we could document joint strategy and shared objectives that we had with partners. Ecosystem information constantly grew and changed. And this information existed in siloed systems and in different formats separated by organizational boundaries, making it difficult to capture and communicate a shared view. This challenge increased significantly when we had to also enforce business rules and ensure security and data privacy.
Relationship Collaboration was difficult. There was a lack of shared systems. A lot of the data was being typically captured in spreadsheets, PowerPoints, E-Mail, and other document formats. So much time and people resources were wasted reconciling spreadsheets, finding E-mails, and trying to understand the context of information across the entire partner ecosystem, it slowed progress on important priorities.
Moreover, different partners reported progress and performance differently leading to reporting discrepancies. Partners had different metrics or defined the same metrics differently. Even if there was consistency, it was not always accurate, comprehensive, or up to date. As a result, partner organizations, ecosystem managers, teams, and business executives were unable to achieve the full value of their business-to-business relationships. In our old company, we were preparing our CEO for an annual business review with one of our major ecosystem partners. We reviewed our metrics with him. When he met with his counterpart, the other CEO had a completely different set of metrics. It was embarrassing for us and for our CEO.
There was not a single shared performance dashboard. We did not have metrics to track on whether the ecosystem was performing well or not. Lack of tracking would impact how the team's performance is measured at the end of each quarter. More importantly there was no early warning system to identify potential problems.
Also, Go-to-market planning was challenging because it was tough to identify common customers who we could upsell or cross-sell. There was not a collaborative exchange of opportunities for the ecosystem to identify how to best allocate program resources. We worked on a joint go-to-market with a partner to identify a set of up-sell and cross-sell customers. It took us 6 months to identify common customers to target. We wasted time and resources and it delayed our ability to rapidly to capitalize on this opportunity.
Howard: I understand your frustration, and the need for action. As I have started to research the market, I find hundreds of products and tools to help manage partnerships, don’t products and tools already exist to address these challenges?
Swaroop: When we searched for tools or products to help manage ecosystems, we found most supported aspects of sales and distribution such as opportunity tracking, incentive management, and training. Also, they did not cover the range of activities where ecosystems run today. Ecosystems now also include manufacturing, development, co-market, and various other initiatives in addition to sales and distribution programs. Finally, current products were not designed to manage the total ecosystem, its lifecycle, and variety of relationships. There had to be a better way.
Howard – So, what did you do about it?
Swaroop: We started Pronto. We took our collective experience to create a SaaS Ecosystem Management platform that would help businesses manage complex partner ecosystems and multiple relationship in a single secure collaborative platform. Virtually every other function in an organization has a powerful management tool: Productboard for Product Managers; JIRA for Engineering; and Salesforce for Sales. We created Pronto for Ecosystem leaders, Partner managers, and personas who fall into the business development and partnership functional areas.
Our ecosystem management platform solves most of the challenges we experienced. It is an intuitive and easy-to-use, yet powerful system that creates a shared system of record providing timely insights at the ecosystem and relationship level. The platform automates ecosystem business processes and workflows while maintaining distinct business rules. It connects people through identifying ecosystem team members inside the platform. The platform helps reduce communication misunderstandings and breakdowns by allowing partners to set up a common taxonomy or create a “Rosetta stone” that translates different organizations terms and metrics. It allows ecosystem partners to create strategies and budgets for initiatives whether for R & D, manufacturing, co-sell, co-market, or other programs. Authorized users can integrate information and data stored in siloed systems separated by organizational boundaries without compromising data security or privacy. Integration is achieved and automated through direct linkage to enterprises’ CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and other systems inside a partner’s firewalls. It eliminates the productivity drain of needing to reconcile spreadsheets, find E-mails or documents. Collaboration is accelerated via a shared, data-driven view of key activities and metrics, and we provide a reporting dashboard that reveals trends which track productivity and provides early warning on potential problems.
An underlying assumption for our platform is—all members of the ecosystem should succeed in both their organizational and shared goals. This requires building and nurturing a trusting relationship across members.
We released our commercial product in April. A large enterprise customer deployed our Ecosystem Management platform to do a proof-of-concept. Within one month, they generated a more than $15 million pipeline. That is pretty compelling.
Ultimately, we are on a mission to enable companies to fully leverage and unlock the cumulative and collaborative value of their ecosystem relationship.
Howard: That’s impressive Swaroop. After seeing a demo of the platform, I am so impressed that something so simple to use and so straight forward, can be so powerful. But I am sure you are not just resting on your laurels, what is next?
Swaroop: We are expanding our selling motion. Some large enterprises have adopted the platform and have demonstrated good ROI’s. And we are actively working with others on proofs-of-concept and demonstrating our value.
Product development is still evolving. We are working with customers to identify, prioritize, and add high value features.
Inside the company, we are bolstering our go-to-market motions including building partnerships to market and sell our platform. We are also hiring for various roles in the company.
Howard: This is an extremely exciting time for the company, and I feel the enthusiasm. Thank you for your time.
Swaroop: You’re welcome, Howard. We are super pumped about the opportunity in front of us.