How to prototype, and test your partnership, before launching it; Shopify-Uber

Brennan Loh of Shopify, talks about designing the prototype for their partnership with Uber.

This is the way that many successful and innovative partnerships come to be. It’s not about the big idea, and the big name involved, and then having all the rest fall in place.

It’s about performing experiments to find out if:
a) there is really a fit between partners,
b) and if the value created in a partnership will actually have enough impact to each of the partners’ business models for them to remain committed.

Brennan describes how to do it lean. Start with a small project that could reasonably generate a small win. Only after trying a couple of things, and creating a series of small (and growing) wins, a model for collaboration is revealed that has significant impact for both.

The Partnership Canvas is designed to guide you through this particular job of partnership design and experimentation. First, it challenges you to find out whether your partnership idea has a fit with your partner’s perspective. Then, you perform a Value Check, and a Cost Check on your business model to define testable hypotheses to find out whether the benefits outweigh the costs for both partners.

Find out more on the Partnership Design process here.


Join me for a Partnership Design Masterclass, which I’m hosting on September 23rd in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Book your ticket soon to get the early bird rate: Here’s the link to the event.

Field notes from user research on Partnership Design

Over the course of developing the partnership canvas, I’ve talked to partnership professionals to hear from them about how they work, and what their experience is in forging business collaborations.

In this post, I would like to share some of the insights from my research, and show how they have lead me to develop the key features for the Partnership Canvas, and the partnership design process. I’ll use the Value Proposition Canvas to visually depict how the Partnership Canvas as a product provides value to people working in the profession.

At the end of the post, I will share a special offer with you to learn more about Partnership Design, and using the Partnership Canvas tool.

The partnerships professional
Partnership managers are a unique species of people. They’re involved in company strategy, as well as in operations of the divisions. Partnership professionals help sales, marketing, product development teams to achieve their goals for growth through collaborations, rather than creating it themselves entirely. They are not formally part of any of these teams/divisions, but they do work closely with them. The partnership professional is thus a business all-rounder.

To find out what some of the key aspects of the profession are, I’ve interviewed a couple of dozen partnership professionals, who I’ve gotten to learn through this blog, and partnership workshops.

Below you will find a summary of my key findings thus far. I’ve focused the presentation of my results on describing the key outcomes partnership professionals are looking to achieve in their work (the Jobs), and their most significant experiences in the process of achieving them (Pains, and Gains). Secondly, I look at the Partnership Canvas as a solution that partnership professionals can utilize, and how it addresses their most important jobs, pains, and gains.

The partnership professional’s profile

Jobs
The higher-level goal of partnership professionals is to create new growth opportunities for their organization, through cooperating with other companies. They are looking to achieve the following outcomes to accomplish this growth goal:

  • Understanding the priorities of all the key people in the organization.
  • Getting involvement from key people in the organization, and maintaining their involvement.
  • Doing research on industries, and specific companies to partner with
  • Talking to everyone in those industries.
  • Creating collaboration opportunities, and facilitating deals.

Gains
The following gains, are the positive experiences that come from working to the desired outcomes:

  • Knowing whom to talk to within the partner’s organization
  • On-going momentum in partnership conversations
  • Face time and trust in negotiations; keeping out legal until there is a clear narrative for the partnership
  • Getting into a flow of sculpting the deal together
  • Understanding what they get, and what you get.
  • Seeing the needle move on key metrics for the partnership
  • The satisfaction that comes from building out networks, and finding out intricate industry insights.

Pains
Lastly, partnership professionals experience the following pains in their jobs:

  • Convincing needed to get buy-in on the vision for the partnership, both externally, and internally
  • Not having enough space to explore a potential collaboration with partners.
  • Mobilizing people internally takes a long time. Lots of long talks, iterating along the ranks.
  • Changing internal priorities and people changing positions.
  • Hard to keep it simple: Every stakeholder adds on a layer of complexity for executing on the partnership

The figure below, visualizes these jobs, pains, and gains, and shows how they connect through color-coding.

The Partnership Professional
The Partnership Professional

The solution
Lets now look at the Partnership Canvas as a product, and some of pain relievers, and gain creators that it and the Partnership Design process provides to help partnership professionals succeed at their game.

Product
The Partnership Canvas is a visual business tool that captures the essential design elements of a partnership deal. Together with the Partnership Design process, it creates a method for understanding, designing, and testing business model partnerships.

Gain creators
The Partnership Canvas is an add-on to the Business Model Canvas. This enables it to tap into the power of the Business Model Canvas to understand, and design businesses. As such the tool  can be used for research on other business models, and partnership in an industry.  The connection with the Business Model Canvas also creates linkages with Lean Startup methodology, turning partnerships into testable business model experiments.

The partnership tool is also a simple, easy to understand visual tool. It asks for all the relevant insights, which are needed to create a complete understanding of a partnership.

Pain relievers

  • The Partnership Canvas is an agile tool, which facilitates quick communication, and decision making around business options.
  • The Partnership Design steps start with exploration of partnering options, before moving into experimentation and implementation.
  • The tool brings focus to partnership discussions. This also helps people with different (non-business) backgrounds, and disciplines to quickly understand and decide what is needed to build a productive partnership.
Partnership Design as a solution for the partnership professional
Partnership Design as a solution for the partnership professional

This is still an ongoing research project, and I haven’t covered the full depth of partnership professionals’ field of work yet. I keep learning from every new conversation I enter. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the profile I’ve compiled so far, and also about other tools, and methods that you use yourself to design partnerships. Do comment, or send me an email to bart[dot]doorneweert[at]gmail[dot]com if you’d like to talk further!

The special offer!
Lastly, I’d like to point you to an upcoming opportunity for joining me in a Partnership Design Masterclass, which I’m hosting on September 23rd in Utrecht the Netherlands. Book your ticket soon to get the early bird rate: Here’s the link to the event.