Before digging into more benefits of dancing with an elephant, I want to point out platforms are not just software and hardware – they are organizational and social structures too. For example, one of Autodesk’s pillars is our sales channel – a network of 1900+ Value Added Resellers that sell, support and add value to Autodesk products (and now web services). Take a look at Apple. Is there platform a hardware and OS – iPhone/iPad and iOS – or is it their App Store? Is Google’s platform Search – or their Words advertising process? When considering dancing with an elephant, do get beyond the technology to business systems and processes that are also platforms a small company can leverage. Is Facebook’s success – and value to members of its ecosystem – its technology or the network of hundreds of millions of people (is it billions now?) they connect? Is partnering with Apple about technology of their sales platform the App Store? Is partnering with Facebook about their website or about social connections? If you happen to be an Autodesk partner are you just thinking about leveraging technology to boot strap your new business? What about leveraging Autodesk Value Added Reseller (longer story at a later date on when and how to leverage Autodesk Value Added Resellers) or the thousands of Autodesk Training Centers you can find in every corner of the world? I personally know several people that made enough money partnering with Autodesk – through IPO, acquisition or just plain cash flow - to retire young (though most haven’t retired young as they cannot stop themselves from pursuit of building another successful business). These days the media is full of similar stories in other industries – folks like Zynga going public on the back of Facebook’s social platform and PayPal’s birth on the back of EBay’s auction platform.
A new key point you will likely hear me talk about repeatedly in the future is taking just a wee bit of time to research and understand the “Why Dance with an Elephant” from the elephant’s perspective. Not understanding what the elephant expects to get from the partnership is tantamount to getting married based on a review of your future spouse’s finances without ever meeting them. Too likely to lead to surprises – some good but some not so good. Working through the benefits of partnering from the elephant’s perspective will take several blog posting over several weeks – but to read the last page of the book first – product and customer extensions (increasing platform value with existing customers and extending sales to to new customers and markets), innovation and people. Of course knowing where the elephant’s next step is likely to be – and knowing the risks and rewards of letting the elephant lead you in the dance versus you trying to lead the elephant – is important to a long and financially rewarding partnership with the elephant. More on that later. Next posting will be a bit more on “Why Dance with an Elephant”.