Last year, when a prospective corporate client approached Exodus Communications to host its e-commerce site, it also asked for help converting a video library into streaming media. Helping its client find the right vendor to manage this
conversion turned out to be more difficult and time-consuming than expected. Although Exodus had established a business community with a variety of partners, these partners could not consult a detailed directory of the core competencies of other members of the community or easily find that information from another source.
Today, to find a solutions provider that fits a client's needs, all the company has to do is post a query on the Exodus Alliance Exchange partner relationship management (PRM) extranet. Built on the belief that information about experts and available resources is more valuable when shared, the exchange is designed to facilitate two-way conversations between Exodus and its partners and among the partners.
Among those partners are manufacturers such as Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems; Internet infrastructure vendors from Cisco Systems to Inktomi; and software vendors including Microsoft, Oracle and Siebel Systems. Also involved are Web development firms, system integrators and consultants.
Companies turn to Exodus for the technical, communications and security infrastructure required to host and maintain a business-critical Web site. To fill this need, Exodus operates 24 Internet data centers (IDCs) across the U.S. and Europe (and plans to add 14 more this year). From these bunker-like facilities, Exodus provides redundant Internet connectivity, scaleable bandwidth, independent power sources and technical support and management services that keep the Web sites of its 2,800 customers operating around the clock.
A significant portion of Exodus' revenues comes through referrals from its partners. After setting up a global virtual private network, a vendor such as Sun or HP will point its customers to Exodus for hosting services. In addition, many of Exodus' customers rely on the network of Exodus partners to meet their IT needs.
Managing Business Relationships
A January 2000 white paper from the Aberdeen Group of Boston, "Partner Relationship Management: Building stronger Channels in a Web-Architected World," holds that many businesses are "flying blind in regard to their channel operations, with little accurate intelligence on either the aggregate or individual partner levels." The report argues that to achieve a strategic advantage in today's quickly evolving e-business environment, suppliers and partners need to establish, maintain and increase "mind share."
Exodus is trying to do this. "We had to find a way to interact with the extended sales forces of 700 business partners so every company in our chain could leverage new revenue opportunities in a community environment," says Arif Razvi, director of worldwide alliance programs for Exodus in Santa Clara, Calif.
The company wanted to buy rather than build this kind of large-scale application, says Razvi. After rejecting customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) solutions for lack of flexibility, he turned to the emerging PRM market. After evaluating packages from major providers including ChannelWave, PartnerWare and Siebel Systems, Exodus chose Sales Partner from Allegis Corp. of San Francisco. One key feature, Razvi says, was the ability to target content to specific groups within the partner community.
Allegis offers its application as an application service provider (ASP), so Exodus was freed from managing a portal-type partner Web site as well as the software. Despite the remote residence of the software, Razvi reports that Allegis customized various components to provide specific functions Exodus requested.
Partnering for Profit
In August 1999, the technology solutions division of Wyle Systems, a global distributor of computer hardware in Irvine, Calif., became the first partner to beta test the Exodus Alliance Exchange. Over the next nine months, Wyle's business with Exodus grew significantly. Chris Dunnay, Wyle's strategic account manager, says seven sales specialists under him work only to service Exodus nationwide.
"The exchange has been a phenomenal success," says Dunnay, who expects to double revenue streams from Exodus with the upcoming release of Exodus Allegis extranet in late 2000.
To register on the Exodus Alliance extranet, partners complete a detailed profile of their corporate structure that includes the number of employees, their core competencies and certifications, and details of the services they provide. They also furnish contact information on sales offices, technical support and management.
To use the extranet, partners post a notice that they're searching for specific technology solutions or services for a customer. "For example, if one of our customers wishes to purchase Microsoft Windows NT software and consulting services, we can forward this information to the Microsoft rep in that region," Razvi says. "Conversely, if a Microsoft professional services exec has a corporate customer who needs Web hosting facilities, he can post that information so our appropriate regional sales managers can follow up."
When the system opens to all 700 partners in summer 2000, the entire community will be able to leverage an extended sales force numbering many thousands. But more than simply sharing sales leads, the system, Razvi adds, "allows us to track opportunities generated between our company and our partners, so that we can proactively manage those relationships for target marketing and even building business plans online for mutual benefit."
Karen Smith, senior research analyst for PRM at the Aberdeen Group, characterizes the Exodus-Allegis alliance as a global extranet, in which every member's salesforce becomes an extension to the salesforce of every other company in the community. In this sense every partner in the collaborative environment has an incentive to work together in ways that weren't possible two years ago.