This talk was given by Bob Moore, CEO, Crossbeam at SaaS Connect 2019 in San Francisco, Mar 26-27, 2019. Get the slides

Every partnership wrestles with the question, “Do you trust your partner with sensitive data, or do you protect that downside and keep your data to yourself?”

In the classic prisoner’s dilemma problem, two criminals are put in a situation where each must choose to stand by or defect from their partner in crime.

Neither partner has any visibility into the other’s decision, so each partner must decide to stay silent or to defect based on their own knowledge and their own risk assessments.

In the theoretical problem, logic says both partners should independently decide to defect. The risks of maintaining that partnership are simply too high once each person is thrown in a cell and told to confess.

As Crossbeam CEO Bob Moore tells the SaaS Connect audience, a convergence of technology and market forces is changing those risk calculations. As a result, we’re on the cusp of an economy in which partnerships will flourish and create whole new ecosystems of opportunity.

How the SaaS market today demands more automation of partnerships

On the market side, the maturation of the SaaS model is allowing businesses to rethink what it means to have a partnership channel and how you invest through those channels, Moore says.

“It takes you from a world where dollars can be spent en masse on things like reselling, things like implementation, into a model that requires a much more recurring model around how relationships get built and maintained.”

In that world, API-connected partnerships are crucial. For many young companies today, their tech ecosystems and their partner programs become a revenue-driving channel, “and that unlocks a different dynamic of how to work partners in the market.”

On the product side, the rise of the API economy is lowering the barrier to entry for partnerships, and disparate datasets can talk to one another in meaningful ways to give partners holistic views of their entire ecosystems.

This, however, is where things get stuck, Moore says, and the next wave of innovation needs to facilitate the automation of workflows between partners without exposing anyone to the inherent risks of sharing data.

What technology facilitates SaaS partnerships today?

That wave is just beginning to break, too. Moore envisions an emerging world in which partners engage in strategic data collaboration, where workflows are connected across companies, and where companies are able to consistently and measurably attribute revenue to partner programs.

He highlights three companies that are helping build this world:

  • Slack — Moore says he frequently sees Slack channels used in the partnership context to create lines of communication between teams.
  • Snowflake — Snowflake has introduced a “data sharehousing” platform that lets partners query each other’s databases directly, obviating the need for APIs all together.
  • Crossbeam — Moore’s company is an escrow service for data that finds overlapping information such as customers and prospects within a partnership ecosystem. This helps companies get real intel from that network, and then put that information back into the individual company’s frame of reference. That way, “you know who to spend energy on and how to position your products in the context of your partners.”

What is the future of partner technology?

Moore predicts that the next several years will see an entire category will emerge around the notion of partner success, and this category will emerge for purely pragmatic reasons. Once organizations understand the benefits of a partner-success framework, the business case will be obvious.

“And because all the underlying technology required to actually facilitate this is there, the rate at which the adoption can happen is extremely rapid,” he says.

In other words, be ready to share data with your SaaS partners in the very near future.