Why is low-code essential to any partner’s toolkit?
In this episode, Louise is joined by low-code advocate Kevin Jordan. Kevin has worked in the low-code and business process mapping arena for several years and is very passionate about what this technology is helping organisations to achieve.
Today his role centres on supporting Netcall’s growing low-code partner network. Kevin shares his perspective on how the partner world is evolving, why low-code is essential to any partner’s toolkit and his top tips for any businesses looking to partner with a low-code vendor.
To learn more about partnering with us go to community.netcall.com/partners.
Louise: Today I’m joined by someone who I’ve wanted to get on the podcast for a while and I’ve finally convinced him, it’s Netcall’s Head of Channel, Kevin Jordan. Hi Kevin!
Kevin: Hi Louise, hi everybody listening – thanks for convincing me!
Louise: So you’ve been working with low-code for a while, haven’t you Kevin? So do you want to start with an introduction to yourself and tell us a bit about your background?
Kevin: Sure. Well my background is ‘BPM’- business process management- and I worked for a number of years with a BPM vendor, and we worked on a lot of projects to help organisations map out processes and how they wanted to work. We did some really great projects, we’d map out the organisational processes, but typically at the end of all of these projects, one of the questions would be ‘now what? How do I take these processes that I’ve identified, and how do I actually implement those into the business? How do I affect the change?’ and when I saw, as was, the MatsSoft platform, which is now Liberty Create, I think I saw the answer.
So in effect, when I saw low-code for the first time, I realised you could actually take these processes that’d been defined by the business and you could turn them into business applications that you could deploy into your organisation, to help with those processes. So over the last six years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with many projects with both our direct customers and our partners, across pretty much all verticals, and I must admit I’m still as amazed today as I was the first time I saw something built-in low-code at some of the projects and some of the work we were able to do with our customers.
Louise: Ah that’s fantastic! We interview a lot of different people on this podcast and through our webinars, and one of the things that we like to do is ask people to explain low-code in their own words. So over to you, what does low-code mean to you?
Kevin: Ok. It’s an interesting question and it’s one I ask in almost every first meeting I have, and to be fair the answer is almost always different. But for me, low-code in its simplest term is a cloud-based development platform, where all of the components you need to build business applications are pre-configured. So using drag-and-drop, and simple drop-down configuration, you can very rapidly build business applications. Now, obviously the advantage of that is you can go from nothing to a fully working business application very quickly, but over the years one of the key benefits I’ve seen of low-code is the ability to not only initially build applications very fast but also to scale them, to grow them – change, the ability to change and to expand and adapt what you’re doing. And also the fact that it’s actually a singular platform, so you may start on day one with the need to build one application to do one thing, but our partners and customers very quickly realise that once they’ve got the platform, they can do many many other things with it.
It also helps customers and partners with things like consolidation with applications, we talk extensively about things like rapid prototyping, test and learn, fail fast, just this idea that you can go, you have an idea, you can build something, you can try it, if it doesn’t work, you can bin it! If it does work, you can scale it and adapt it.
Louise: So you’re now Head of Channel at Netcall, what does a typical day look like for you? What does your role encompass?
Kevin: The great thing about working with partners is that almost every single day is different, so to give you some examples of some of the things I’ve worked on already this week: I’ve been involved in a couple of meetings with potential new partners, so exploring their business models and what they do, and also sharing with them the details of our partner programme, and the platform and what it does. I’ve worked with an existing partner on a new bid, again we’re looking at how we can help support them in their bid processes, I’ve also attended an event where I’ve hosted a round table which is to do with new technologies into government, again, low-code is a very transformative tool, but it’s not the only one, so these conversations are very interesting because you’re talking to partners and customers who are looking at how they can use a portfolio of technologies to affect real change in their organisations.
I also have business-as-usual jobs, so I’m working with my team, and we’re looking to understand how we can support our existing partners, and I guess actually there are three key things that I’m focused on, on a weekly basis. The first one is looking at new potential partners and partnerships, the second one is how we support our existing partners, so it’s easy to go out and sign up a lot of partners, but that doesn’t really achieve their goals or our goals, the important thing is, if we’ve agreed to work with somebody, how do we support them, how do we enable them, how do we make sure they’re trained, they’re technically supported, that they have mentoring capability, how do we help them find their first opportunities, how do we help them win business, how do we help them fulfil that business, how do we help them grow?
So that’s actually a very large part of what we do. Then the third part, and I’ve always thought of the role of partner-management as an advocacy role, so really, I look at myself as representing the partners, internally at Netcall. But equally the partners, and the partners we’re most successful with, will have an equal number on their side, somebody that represents Netcall, inside of their organisations. So I think advocacy – and it’s a bit of a balancing act, it’s a bit of a fine line to walk – I work for Netcall, but actually, I always look to represent the partner internally as well.
Louise: Sounds good, so when we talk about partners, what do we mean, are there different types of partners that we work with?
Kevin: There are, yes, broadly there are four, five types of partner we work with, but I’d say in particular the ones we spend a lot of time with, are orientated to the full-service delivery capabilities, so what I mean by that is partners that are looking to take our development platform and use that to build applications they can provide to their customers, either reselling them to their customers, or selling them as a service; partners that are looking to build out their own delivery capabilities, and also partners that are looking to provide all the consulting services around those capabilities, so in real-world terms, what do they look like?
They could be anything from your big SIs (system integrators), they could be the kind of mid-size business consulting, business transformation and change consulting companies, and then, at the other end of the scale, we have a whole roster of partners who are specialists in certain industries. So they may be smaller, but they have a huge amount of subject matter expertise in their own industries.
Louise: So what are your top tips for anyone looking to partner with a low-code vendor?
Kevin: Well I guess, it wouldn’t just be about partnering with a low-code vendor, it’s about partnering in general. So I’ve worked in partnerships for a long time, and I’ve worked on both sides of the fence in partnerships, and they typically fall into two kinds of categories really, you’ve got the partnerships where it’s very much a vendor and a supplier, and that’s the nature of the relationship. Partnerships I’m more interested in are those that are probably slightly truer to the term. And for me a partnership is where the vendor, the software provider, people like us, we’re doing everything we can to provide the support that the partners need to be able to actually go and successfully win business. But also, if things like innovative commercial models, we have a technology that can actually allow partners to go and do some really creative, clever things with their customers, now if you then anchor that to a traditional commercial model of reseller/VAR, you’re kind of hamstringing the partner’s ability to go and take advantage of that.
We’ve put a lot of work into developing a partner programme, which, in effect is the commercial reflection of the agility of the technology, and I think when you’re looking at partnerships with software vendors, not just low-code vendors, but across the board, you’re obviously looking at building a meaningful revenue stream, and a meaningful business, and a meaningful business relationship as a partner.
So really what you’re looking for is a relationship with a vendor that is a genuine partner in the honest sense of the word. You want the vendor to have a dependency on you because of your delivery capabilities and your subject matter expertise and your credibility in the market, and so on, and equally, they’re willing to offer you in return, the right kind of support to get you up to speed, enable you, help you sell and deliver. So in other words, you have a mutually vested interest in the success of the partnership. I would go back to that commercial model, it’s amazing how many times I see partnerships where the vendor’s commercial model is completely geared towards the vendor, and doesn’t really take into consideration how the partners are going to make some decent money out of it.
Louise: So what excites you the most about working with partners?
Kevin: The great thing about partnerships is you get to build some quite long-term relationships, so some of the people I work with now, I’ve been working with not just in this role for the last six years, but also I’ve worked with for fifteen, twenty years, across many different organisations and you build up a level of trust. And trust is key in partners. Ultimately, partners have their customers, and they want to be sure that if they’re bringing people into their customers, they can trust them as individuals, as organisations, to represent them correctly, but also to help them deliver on what they say they’ll do. So again, that’s the advocacy thing, trust is a massive part of partnering, and both we, and the partner needs to have trust in each other that we’re going to actually follow through and deliver on what we say.
Louise: So it sounds like it’s a really exciting time for us, and our partners, and businesses in this environment in general.
Kevin: Yeah it is, absolutely, and low-code is becoming mainstream. Four, five years ago it was still relatively cutting-edge stuff, and again, a lot of people have a view of low-code that you would use it for very small-scale applications. Well we’ve done quite a few projects, both directly and with partners, where we’re replacing core systems. We’ve actually built our own replacement for Dynamics (CRM) internally you can build some very robust business applications on this.
So it is exciting, and it’s also exciting for those partners that want to engage technology to differentiate themselves in the market. So we’ve had a lot of success over the years with partners. For example in a bid, they’re bidding against another five vendors, and everybody’s bidding roughly the same approach. It might be different techs, but it’s roughly the same approach, and we’ve worked with partners who’ve decided to disrupt that approach, and they’ve decided to come in and say, “Where everybody else is telling you huge requirement specs, and huge development days, and huge costs for change, we want to reverse that trend.”
What low-code helps our partners to say is “it’s quick to develop, quick to change, it’s not expensive to change, you have transparency of what’s going on, and ultimately if at the end of the project you want to move to a different vendor, you can walk away with all of the information because it’s transparent.” Those partners that are embracing these new technologies to be able to do that are actually winning. And they are actually disrupting and, I’m sure, annoying some of the more traditional players in the market.
Louise: Exciting times for sure! So is there anything else that you think we should cover?
Kevin: Well I guess the obvious one is how do you partner with us? If someone is interested in partnering they can drop me a line, ‘email@example.com’, or if you go to our community site, find our partner page and apply. And also if you’re on our community it’s worth having a look around, one of the things that our partners are doing now is starting to provide content, which is available to our other customers and our other partners, and it’s also a place for people to engage with each other, share experiences, knowledge, expertise, and so it’s a useful resource.
Louise: Yeah definitely. Well this has been really insightful so thank you for joining me today Kevin, and that brings this podcast to a close. So as Kevin said, you can learn more about how to partner with us on our community site, and anyone can join, so I’ve included the link to this in the notes for this episode, or feel free to get in touch.
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