Understanding the Difference Between SIs & Agencies

Understanding the Difference Between SIs & Agencies

Greg Rust joins us to discuss his experience partnering with SIs with Adobe.

This is part of our 2021 Q1 spotlight series on working with strategic integrators and agencies. Read more about this series in our intro article.

This week, Greg Rust joins us to discuss his experience partnering with SIs with Adobe.

This spotlight series is brought to you in partnership with PartnerStack.

Meet Greg

Greg Rust works out of Austin, TX as a Global Partner Lead at Adobe. He has been with Adobe for over 7 years and currently manages one of their top global partners. Greg is responsible for Adobe’s footprint with Publicis Groupe everywhere in the world.

Publicis is the third-largest communications group in the world today. Publicis has reinvented itself for the “Connected Age” by moving from a holding company to a platform. Publicis is made up of media, creative, data, technology entities, and more. This makeup allows Publicis to go after all kinds of business, knowing if there’s expertise required to secure the account, they can pull from all across their network.

What’s the difference between working with SIs vs. agencies?

When Greg first started managing partners at Adobe, it was with an SI called SapientNitro, which eventually was acquired by Publicis Groupe. As technology is becoming a more significant challenge to solve in the era of digital transformation, Publicis identified a gap. SapientNitro was a significant acquisition for Publicis that gave them a global footprint and global resources from a system integrator perspective.

Greg shared that, “When you manage an SI, they recognize that they have the potential to grow a pretty rich Adobe practice. When I pick up the phone to see how we can work together, most accounts have some level of Adobe footprint. ‘You’re already in our account, doing some work on the platform; can you help us sell more of our platform as it aligns with your technology recommendations and strategy work?’”

Greg highlighted that SIs typically start with a piece of strategy. “The client reviews the strategy work and the recommendations. [They] then can decide if they want to do more with the SI.”

Between SI partnerships and agency partnerships, there is a uniqueness you have to recognize and appreciate. SIs seem to align more with what Greg is trying to accomplish. “To me, it seems more seamless when both teams are collaborating. When working with the agency side of the house, you have to make sure you are working with the tech lead on the account or it can get a bit bumpy. When I reach out to collaborate and if they are not aware of the Adobe footprint in the account, they wonder ‘Why are you in my account?’ From my perspective, eventually, we’re going to bump into each other, so let’s work together sooner for the benefit of the client. If we can help them see how our technology is going to address the client’s objectives and it aligns with their current remit, then it will trigger additional service needs and likely the agency will benefit from this. Often, agencies are more protective of their client relationships.”

Greg shared from his perspective partnering with Publicis, “Anecdotally, looking at the 250 Publicis accounts in the US, there is an Adobe footprint in 85% of those accounts. We’re in there, let’s find an opportunity to work together, not just for the benefit of your client, but for everyone’s benefit. It’s important to have the same strategic conversations with the client that their team and our sales team are having.”

How can you create momentum in a partner program?

When Greg first started at Adobe (over seven years ago), the overarching Adobe practice resided with just SapientNitro. Today, the Adobe practice is across Publicis Groupe globally and has grown 6X from where it was. How did Greg drive such a significant partnership? “Wins trigger wins. That happens from executing against a structured methodology. Salespeople see their peers closing deals from working with partners and say, ‘Wait a minute, I want some of that!’ From there, it just keeps growing and growing and growing.”

Greg shared that Publicis also has an approach for driving sales momentum. “There is a strategy from Publicis Groupe called the ‘Power of One’ approach. When any of their large strategic accounts are bidding for new business, they’ll form a team across all the key hubs that pertain to what that client is trying to solve for. A Power of One team is typically made up of 2-5 entities across Publicis Groupe. Typically, there’s an SI piece in there somewhere which represents the need for technology in solving the client’s business challenge. This is often the door opener for the teams to collaborate and that ignites the partnership.”

What are key milestones and metrics to report on?

Greg completes reports on a weekly basis. “Whether we’re seeing how many account collaboration calls they did, I have a quota dispersed across the team. I look at how much pipeline they generated on a daily, weekly, and quarterly basis.”

The success metrics Greg tracks to measure success include:

  • Calls with an account to identify net-new opportunities
  • Bookings
  • Co-sales
  • Enablement
  • Joint marketing

Greg shared that these numbers are exciting because “those opportunities are typically much better-qualified leads than what the sales team finds on their own. Since partners operate at a higher level in the account, closer to the ‘power’ in the C-suite, there’s a higher degree of integrity with those deals. We also know that partner-identified opportunities close at a faster rate and larger financially.”

Greg also does quarterly business reviews with the partner executive team and the Adobe executive team that trickles down to the core areas of the business. This communication is important because “this is a people business. People do business with people they trust, believe in, and demonstrate integrity. Part of the alliance challenge is ensuring they’re cultivating relationships on each side of the table. We should be able to pick up the phone on any account to solve any issue.”

How should you approach SI partnerships for success?

Partnerships require a significant time investment. Greg shared his thoughts for ensuring those partnerships are successful. “First, the story has to be ‘Where’s the relevance? Why would I want to do this?’. You need to share a vision both ways. Next, there needs to be a business case ‘We’re having this discussion because you see value here. Can I grow my business built on your position in the marketplace if I’m targeting clients that you’re also targeting?’ Everybody is in it to address their clients’ challenges and opportunities and become indispensable to their clients, as well as grow their own revenues.”

Greg has had strong relations with the CEOs of different SIs. “What it gets down to is there has to be that identification of the key things: I trust you and you run a high-integrity business.”

Explore more insights on successful SI partnerships.

This article is part of our Q1 series highlighting partnerships with SIs and agencies. Each week, we’ll highlight a different leader and their experience in the space. Follow us on LinkedIn to ensure you don’t miss an update!

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