Appoint a Community Czar
Suggestion No. 1: Appoint a "community czar"
Identify a "community czar" who can "own" the business side of a community initiative and equip partners with both the technology and the best practices to be successful. "Partner satisfaction" responsibilities may include: determining how they are using the system, specific needs or challenges, suggestions for new capabilities, and tracking and communicating community key performance indicators (KPIs).
Suggestion No. 2: Prioritize partners
Determine which partners will have the greatest impact from using a SAAS solution and being a part of the connected IT community; plan to onboard three to four of these partners first. For example, any partners who have to participate in compliance documentation and accountability are a natural fit, since the shared solution has the potential to ease a very specific pain point. Once you have identified several willing partners, you will be in a better position to subsequently fine-tune the system, its processes and your onboarding approach.
Suggestion No. 3: Understand the overriding IT infrastructure
Before selecting a cloud or SAAS solution, team with your business users (for example, CXOs dependent on project ROI, vice president-level visibility and reporting, director team management and operating-level transactions) to understand the overriding IT infrastructure of your most critical partners. While IT can control internal processes such as security and compliance, your organization may not have the sway of big brand names such as Hewlett-Packard or Walmart to dictate that partners use it. Team with the business users to help them understand the requirements for creating a successful infrastructure.
Consider how to span the levels of IT sophistication to be inclusive of your broad partner set. A sophisticated partner may need you to support electronic messaging (for example, electronic data interchange (EDI) or RosettaNet). Or, alternately, this partner may want to interact directly from their ERP system (SAP, Oracle, Axapta or the like), which would require an integration provider.
With a smaller, less sophisticated partner, you'll want to enable them with simpler, flat file comma-separated values (CSV) uploads/downloads. With basic manual entry into a portal, you can, over time, train and encourage the less sophisticated partners to advance to electronic messaging. At the same time, larger partners will certainly have times when they'll want to provide discreet updates by manual entry, so there is value in providing a range of options.