This post is the second in a series exploring the 23 criteria of Crossbeam’s Tech Ecosystem Maturity Diagnostic. The Tech Ecosystem Maturity Diagnostic helps you understand how your partner program stacks up against others in the B2B SaaS industry, what you’re doing right, and what you should improve to advance to the next level of maturity. To learn more and take the tech ecosystem maturity diagnostic, click here.
Additional articles in our tech ecosystem maturity series:
- How to Level Up Your Co-Selling Workflows
- More coming soon!
Where the person responsible for integrations reports into contributes to your tech ecosystem maturity level, but keep in mind this is just one of 23 criteria! There are multiple factors at play.
The right reporting structure at the right part of your ecosystem’s growth is essential. For example, if the person on your team responsible for integrations reports to “sales,” it may be extremely difficult to tie the effectiveness of your integrations to revenue — especially when you’re early in your partner program’s journey. After all, you likely don’t have a solid attribution model just yet, and your biggest priorities and key performance indicators (KPIs) should be launching new integrations and onboarding new tech partners. As a result, you’ll have trouble getting the resources you need and your tech partnership program will suffer.
On the other hand, if you report to “product” early on, getting resources will be much more straightforward. It’s much easier to tie early integration success with retention and customer satisfaction (as opposed to revenue), especially considering your existing customers will be the first to try out your integrations and provide feedback.
We interviewed hundreds people in the industry, and this is what we learned:
- For “Explorers”, the person responsible for integrations typically reports to “product”.
- For “Producers”, the person responsible for integrations typically reports to “marketing”.
- For “Connectors”, the person responsible for integrations typically reports to “sales”.
- For “Supernodes”, the person responsible for integrations typically reports to the CEO.
In this article, we explore tech ecosystem maturity through the lens of where your integrations team rolls up to and how it’s organized.
Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #1: Explorer
“Explorers” are doing some guess work and experimentation to determine what works for their tech ecosystem right now, giving that a shot, and then iterating as their ecosystem and company grows. At the “Explorer” level, the person responsible for integrations at your company likely reports to “product”. This is in part due to the tendency for businesses at the explorer level having their engineering team’s time split between product development and integration development. Additionally, Explorers are setting the foundation for their tech ecosystem’s future growth. This entails:
- Developing APIs for you and your partners to develop inbound and outbound integrations. As you launch your first handful of integrations, your engineers may learn more about your APIs functionalities and what they can and can’t support. Sometimes, that means it’s back to the drawing board!
- Developing and managing the integration infrastructure particularly if you’re leveraging an iPaaS solution
- Building and managing your marketplace UI
In regards to your “integrations team” (or integrations team in-the-making), this could mean:
- Splitting your product and engineering team’s time between the product roadmap and the integrations roadmap
- Dividing responsibilities between your product, engineering, and partnerships team to fulfill the duties of more dedicated tech ecosystem roles (like an Ecosystem PM).
How to advance to the “Producer” Level
Establish an integrations team separate from the product team. This could involve some experimentation at first. Choose a couple of engineers to work on integrations full-time or part-time. In the case of reviews platform REVIEWS.io, they have two developers that build and manage integrations in sprints in addition to working on their product roadmap. By assigning specific developers to integrations, it ensures those engineers will always know the status of each integration and won’t need to transfer information on to other developers who fill in ad hoc. Additionally, the dedicated engineers can create documentation for the integrations, and they can shift to product-related work and then back to integrations work to pick up exactly where they left off.
Prioritize strategic integrations through sprints and aim to be first to market. E-signature platform SignEasy aligns its product roadmap with Apple’s iOS releases. This way, SignEasy is first-to-market when Apple releases new features like widgets and iPad pencil. This hussle to go-to-market with their most strategic partners ensures that SignEasy will stay ahead of its competitors.
Open the lines of communications between customer success, partnerships, and integrations. Launch a Slack channel for your customer success (CS) team to share integration requests, and document customer feedback and requests for integrations in a project management tool like Notion. Send out surveys to customers using your integrations to determine customer satisfaction scores (CSATs) for each integration.
Make thoughtful decisions about who’s going to build and manage your integrations, integration infrastructure, marketplace UI, and other foundational aspects of your tech ecosystem that can help you scale. Consider which members of your engineering and product teams will help fill the shoes of your ecosystem product manager (Ecosystem PM), solutions engineers, and other critical roles within your “Ecosystems Team” that you likely won’t be able to hire dedicated employees for until you’ve launched and proven the benefit of your first batch of integrations.
Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #2: Producer
As a “Producer,” you’ve launched some integrations, but you don’t yet have the processes and frameworks that can help you grow your tech ecosystem at scale. At the “Producer” level, the person who is responsible for integrations typically reports to marketing. With your next wave of integrations up your sleeve, your go-to-market strategy is just as important if not more than the integrations themselves.
The integrations you launch at this phase can establish your brand’s positioning in the ecosystem, help you access new markets through your partners, and generate ecosystem qualified leads (EQLs). After you’ve launched your integrations, you’ll be able to start tracking leading and lagging indicators of success.
For now, you’re focusing on getting the word out that your product can help your shared prospects and customers optimize their tech stacks and improve their metrics across their existing products. Perhaps you’re also providing your sales team with some co-marketing and co-selling collateral, but likely only for a few strategic partnerships, since you’re busy getting your tech ecosystem off the ground!
The REVIEWS.io integrations team rolls up to the COO, who rolls up to the Chief Technology Officer for deployment approval. Their developers split their team’s time between the product roadmap and the integration roadmap. Previously, whichever developers had more flexibility would hop on the task of developing a particular integration. Now, they have two developers on the team who are dedicated to managing their integration development during sprints. After the sprints, those developers return to typical product updates on the product roadmap.
“We had five to six developers working at any one time and whoever was free would work on an integration,” says Rich Ball, Marketing Manager at REVIEWS.io. “The problem we had there is every developer works differently. By having a dedicated team of two that solely works on those integrations, it’s allowed them to improve that process and create documentation that supports another developer that comes into that space.”
How to advance to the “Connector” Level
Hire roles dedicated to your integrations. Eventually, this team should include solutions engineers and an ecosystem PM. The solutions engineers are responsible for technical scoping and serving as a technical resource for integration partners. The ecosystem PM interfaces with your internal teams to ensure everything is running smoothly and on track to meet your go-to-market deadlines.
Consider splitting up your integrations team by personas. For example: Typeform’s integrations team divides its work according to the “customer,” “developer,” and “builder” personas (learn more in the next section).
Consider adopting an iPaaS solution to help you scale. Typeform went from 30 integrations to more than 100 integrations in just a year after adoptiong an iPaaS solution and with the help of its partners.
Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #3: Connector
As a “Connector,” you’ve found your groove. Your integrations inform your business strategy, and you’ve got the metrics to prove it. Companies at the “Connector” level have a thriving forward-momentum from repeatable processes, frameworks, and templates.
At this level, the person responsible for integrations likely reports to sales and is deeply invested in their sales team’s co-selling strategy. Integrations play a vital part in your team’s ability to convert, onboard, and retain customers, and your account mapping strategy directly contributes to the success of every stage of the customer lifecycle.
But there are other ways to embed partnerships into the goals of your internal teams.
Typeform’s integrations team rolls up to the Chief Product Officer, and they use a matrix organization to keep cross-functional teams working together to get its integrations to the finish line. Individual roles across multiple teams comprise Typeform’s “ecosystems colony”.
In 2019, Typeform split its integrations team into two: one based in the US that managed integration development and one based in Barcelona that managed the integration infrastructure. When Typeform adopted an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) solution in 2020, its Barcelona team developed the integration infrastructure for the iPaaS solution to integrate with Typeform; then, the Barcelona team prioritized working with external developers looking to build on top of Typeform’s platform. Meanwhile, the engineers in the US built and managed the integrations internally, with the support of the iPaaS solution, and with the support of external partners.
Since then, Typeform has organized its integrations teams according to three personas. One team prioritizes integrations for external developers, one prioritizes integrations for customers, and the last prioritizes integrations for the “builder”. The builder refers to developing blocks and new software development kits (SDKs) that will ultimately be relevant to partners in Typeform’s tech ecosystem.
In our article showing partnership team org charts, we spoke about how Contentsquare’s integrations team used to report to customer success and business development and now reports to product. Gilad Zubery, Executive Vice President of Global Business Development and Partnerships at Contentsquare, said the change helped the company scale and productize its integrations.
“My team’s goal is to productize as many integrations as possible,” says Zubery. “And that can only be done if the integrations team sits under product, follows product processes, and has the head of technology partnerships to direct them on priorities and support the work with our partners.”
How to advance to the “Supernode” Level
Make it easy for external developers to build on your platform and to use your product in all of their workflows. Establish dedicated roles on your integrations team to work with external developers, develop and maintain relevant APIs, and software development kits (SDKs).
Establish repeatable workflows, templates, and go-to-market strategies with partners. For example, RollWorks implements the co-marketing flip six months into a tech partnership to ensure integration adoption. Zapier uses a partner tiering system to incentivize partners to improve their integrations and drive more adoption in exchange for benefits. Repeatable workflows like this are the first step of becoming a Supernode.
Provide your partners with integration analytics and improvement suggestions. Salesforce AppExchange displays analytics directly in its partners account dashboards and enables its partners to call an API to retrieve more data on the user experience. Additionally, Salesforce sends automated reports to each tech partner with suggestions for improving their integration listing pages. The more your partner is invested in optimizing their integration with your product, the more qualitative your partner ecosystem will become.
Tech Ecosystem Maturity Level #4: Supernode
You’ve made it to Supernode stardom. You’re incorporating partner data into every department, and every department benefits. Your tech ecosystem has magnetic effects on other SaaS companies in your space; your ecosystem is extensive, and you’re a target partner to many.
At the “Supernode” level, the person responsible for your integrations reports to the CEO, or, if you’re like experience management platform company Reputation, you’ve hired a Chief Ecosystem Officer (the other CEO).
As a partnerships manager, you’re likely familiar with most of the Supernodes in the space. CRM company Salesforce has 2465 partners and counting (and we’re one of them). Slack has 1653 partners (we’re one of those, too). Our Tech Ecosystem Maturity Diagnostic can help you determine your tech ecosystem maturity level and identify the tactics you could implement to level up your tech ecosystem to “Supernode” status.
Where the person responsible for integrations reports to (and subsequently the organization of your integrations team) is just one criteria of 23. Take the Tech Ecosystem Maturity Diagnostic, and you’ll find actionable tips for graduating from one maturity level to the next. Plus, you’ll receive custom-tailored content according to your answers in the months to come. What’s your level?