Taking a Priorities-based Approach to Partner Program Planning

Taking a Priorities-based Approach to Partner Program Planning

Amanda Olsen discusses her priorities-based approach for partner program planning, including why it’s a better fit in her experience than OKRs.

This article is part of our Q1 spotlight on Partner Program Planning, Goal Setting, and Forecasting. Learn more in the series introduction.

Amanda Olsen has taken a nontraditional path into partnerships. After graduating college with a social work degree, she sold copiers in California. Ultimately, she moved into software sales, primarily working with startups. Amanda was always dependent on her network throughout her career, even before working in formal partner programs.

This journey landed Amanda at Zuora. In her role, she began to grow the ISV arm of Zuora’s partner program. Today, Amanda joins us to explore how she has leveraged priorities over OKRs to align her team.

Setting Priorities vs. OKRs

Amanda Olsen

Amanda Olsen previously tried implementing OKRs when Zuora’s leadership team first rolled out corporate OKRs. She explained, “Especially with ISV partners, we reported to the Product Team but had cross-functional alignment throughout the organization. It was hard to set OKRs since we depended on other teams to be successful.”

OKRs are great if you have all the resources to make them happen. “In that role, using OKRs was challenging because we depended on Legal, Sales, Marketing, and Product Teams. Ultimately, we decided we needed a different approach to drive and measure our successes.”

Amanda decided to swap OKRs out for priorities and hasn’t looked back. “We focused on three categories of priorities: expansion of the ecosystem; customer experience and adoption; and operational efficiencies and partner experience. Our efforts needed to fit into one of those priorities, which helped our team align on goals and made it easier to see what we’ve accomplished each quarter.”

This framework has worked incredibly well for Amanda and her team. “It was successful for us and helped us get buy-in from executives. When the team would receive new requests that didn’t align with one of their three priorities, it was easier to push back. Further, we could better align with the product team’s efforts and organizational OKRs.”

Leveraging Priorities 

In the past, Amanda and her team set priorities annually and reviewed progress regularly. She shared, “We set priorities at the beginning of the year, then reviewed them consistently at weekly tactical calls. We also reviewed at the end of the quarter to understand progress and plan for the next quarter. Priorities were like our bible — we would frequently revisit them to ensure they were top of mind.”

Tactically, Amanda shared, “When you have a small team, you need to have clear priorities. Previously, I outlined my priorities, then worked with my boss to frame them. This process enabled my team to get executive buy-in, which is always really helpful.”

Advice for Goal Setting with Priorities

Amanda shared advice for partner professionals considering swapping out OKRs or KPIs with priorities. “I think what worked for me last year was focusing on three categories. Then within those three, I was able to break each priority into different sections. I determined what tangible actions we could take to improve the customer experience, expand the ecosystem, and improve efficiencies.”

In Amanda’s experience, if you start by figuring out what your top categories are, then every year, you can drive impactful results in each area. “Especially for a startup or smaller company without a corporate OKR process, using priorities helped get buy-in across the board and ensure clarity.”

Additional experienced partnership professionals will join us to share their planning, goal setting, and forecasting insights. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn to catch all of the interviews as they’re published. 

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