How to build efficient Digital Partnerships - IMD Business School
Digital Transformation & AI

How to build efficient digital partnerships

Stay ahead in today’s digital age

To stay ahead in today’s digital age, businesses must form efficient digital partnerships. By working with the right partners, you can create a robust digital ecosystem to help you reach new markets and grow your business.

The last decade has seen the rise of a host of new technologies that have created a whole host of new opportunities, this growth accelerated exponentially with the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many of the world’s businesses disrupted the reliance on building a strong digital ecosystem skyrocketed, with increased competition and innovation.

In this guide, we will discuss the benefits of digital partnerships and how to go about forming them. We’ll also look at some of the most successful digital ecosystems out there and see what lessons we can learn from them!

Table of contents:

  1. What is a digital partnership?
  2. The importance of building healthy digital ecosystems
  3. How digital ecosystems can help your brand
  4. Building digital partnerships: developing a strategic plan
  5. Joint venture partnerships: what to know
  6. Alliance partnerships: what to know
  7. Licensing agreements: what to know

1. What is a digital partnership?

A digital partnership is a collaborative business relationship between two companies to share:

  • Resources
  • Ideas
  • Expertise

The goal of a digital partnership is to create a competitive advantage. As a result, companies can leverage each other’s strengths to serve customers better and grow.

To form a digital partnership, companies must first identify areas where they can complement each other’s strengths. Then, they must establish clear guidelines and goals for the partnership and define roles and responsibilities.

Finally, they must agree on measuring success and regularly reviewing progress. By working together, companies that build digital partnerships can accelerate growth, allowing them to stay ahead of the competition and create lasting value for their customers.

History gives us many great examples of existing digital partnerships, in fact, one of the longest-running sites on the internet, IMDb built a lasting digital partnership with Amazon Prime (Amazon ultimately purchased the site) to suggest purchasing options alongside on-site searches for movies, TV shows etc.

Another great example is low-cost airline Easyjet, which has built and grown a now decade-long partnership with, allowing customers to seamlessly book accommodation alongside their flight in one single platform.

2. The importance of building healthy digital ecosystems

It’s no secret that we are living in a digital-first world. We rely on digital devices for everything from communication and entertainment to work and school. As our dependence on technology grows, so does the need for healthy digital ecosystems.

A healthy digital ecosystem is safe, secure, and private. It’s one where users can control their data and make informed decisions about how it’s used. And it’s one where businesses are transparent about their data practices and build partnerships with their customers, not just extracting value from them.

3. How digital ecosystems can help your brand

A robust and well-maintained digital ecosystem provides the foundation for a strong brand. Consumers are looking for brands they can trust, and a strong foundation helps to build that trust. Furthermore, a healthy digital ecosystem makes it easier for brands to connect with their customers and create deeper relationships.

By investing in a healthy digital ecosystem, brands can create a competitive advantage and better and reach their customers and future target audience. By partnering with other companies, brands can access data and insights that would otherwise be unavailable. This data can help brands fine-tune their marketing strategies and reach the right people with the right message at the right time.

Finally, a healthy digital ecosystem supports innovation. When companies can freely exchange ideas and data, they can push the boundaries of what’s possible. This leads to new products and services that can provide a competitive advantage for brands.

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever for brands to invest in a healthy digital ecosystem. By doing so, they can build trust with consumers, better understand their target audience, and support innovation. These benefits will help to improve the bottom line for any brand that invests in building a healthy digital ecosystem.

 - IMD Business School
Partnering Range Partnering Reach Matrix

4. Building digital partnerships: developing a strategic plan

Creating a clear and concise strategic plan is essential when developing a digital partnership. This plan should outline the partnership’s goals and identify each partner’s roles and responsibilities. The plan should also include a budget and timeline for implementation.

Communicate the value for both partners

It is essential to communicate the value that both partners will receive. This can be accomplished by developing a strategic plan that outlines the goals of the partnership and how each partner will contribute to achieving those goals.

Furthermore, the plan should outline how the partnership will benefit both partners by increasing exposure to new audiences or providing access to new resources.

Have an open mindset

The plan should be designed to promote collaboration and communication between partners and identify and address potential conflict areas.

The strategic plan should also be flexible, allowing for changes and adjustments as the partnership evolves. Perhaps most importantly, the plan should be developed with an open mindset. That is, all parties involved should be willing to negotiate and compromise to create a plan that meets the needs of everyone involved. 

Negotiate to align your goals

People often discuss the importance of negotiation in business, but what does that mean? When most of us think about negotiation, we think about haggling over price or trying to get the best deal possible.

However, effective negotiation is about much more than that. It’s about understanding the needs and goals of your counterpart and finding a way to satisfy both parties. This process is known as developing a strategic plan in the business world.

When you’re negotiating with another business, it’s essential to take the time to understand its goals.

What are they trying to achieve? What are their pain points?

Once you clearly understand their objectives, you can start developing a plan that will meet both of your needs. This process requires giving and taking from both sides, but if done correctly, it can result in a win-win scenario for everyone involved. 

Plan and adapt according to the situation

In today’s business world, having a strong online presence is more important than ever. But unfortunately, many companies fail to realize the importance of digital partnerships.

A significant step in any suitable digital partnership is research. It would be best if you took the time to learn about your potential partner and their business. You can develop a successful relationship by taking the time to understand your partner.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to start planning. For example, what kind of partnership do you want to develop? There are many different types of digital partnerships, so selecting the one best suits, your needs is crucial.

Once you’ve decided on the type of partnership, you need to start working on the details. For example, what kind of content will you share? How will you promote each other’s businesses?

These are just a few of the questions you need to answer before you can launch your partnership.

Of course, even the best-laid plans can go awry. That’s why it’s essential to be flexible and ready to adapt as the situation changes. Feel free to end the partnership if your partner isn’t meeting your expectations.

If a new opportunity arises, be prepared to seize it. By having a flexible attitude, you can ensure your digital partnership is constantly evolving and growing.

Choosing the right digital partnership

The most common type of partnership is a joint venture, in which two companies share resources and expertise. Another type of partnership is an alliance, in which companies cooperate to achieve a common goal. 

Finally, companies can also enter into licensing agreements, in which one company allows another to use its technology or brand name. For example, licensing agreements are often used in the software industry, where companies will license their software to be used by other businesses. 

5. Joint venture partnerships: what to know

A joint venture partnership is a business arrangement in which two or more companies agree to share resources to achieve a common goal. This can involve anything from:

  • Pooling financial resources 
  • Sharing expertise
  • Working together on a new product or service

Joint venture partnerships can be an excellent way for companies to gain access to new markets or technology, but they can also be risky.

Before entering into a joint venture partnership, you must do your homework and ensure that you are compatible with your potential partners. It is also necessary to clearly understand the risks and rewards involved.

For example, if one company in the venture goes bankrupt, the other company may also be dragged down. In addition, disagreements between the partners could lead to the venture’s dissolution.

Despite these risks, joint ventures can be a valuable way for companies to expand their businesses and explore new opportunities. When entering a joint venture, it is crucial to choose a trustworthy partner with compatible business goals.

Done right, a joint venture partnership can be a great way to boost your business. But, done wrong, it could end up costing you dearly.

6. Alliance partnerships: what to know

In business, an alliance partnership is a formal relationship between two companies who have agreed to work on a specific project. This type of partnership is different from other types of partnerships in that it typically does not involve any financial investment or ownership stake in the other company.

Instead, alliance partnerships are generally formed for sharing:

  • Knowledge
  • Resources
  • Expertise

While alliance partnerships can offer many benefits, they also come with risks.

For example, if one company in the alliance partnership fails to deliver on its commitments, it could reflect poorly on the other company and damage the relationship.

Additionally, because alliance partnerships generally involve sharing confidential information, there is always the risk that this information could be leaked or used by the other company in an unauthorized manner.

7. Licensing agreements: what to know

A licensing agreement is a contract between two parties. This partnership includes one party granting the other party the right to use its intellectual property. The most common type of licensing agreement is a copyright license, which grants the licensee the right to:

  • Reproduce
  • Distribute
  • Perform

Other types of licenses include:

  • Trademark licenses
  • Patent licenses
  • Trade secret licenses

To be legally binding, both parties must sign a licensing agreement in writing.

As with any contract, it is essential to read and understand a licensing agreement before signing it. In addition, the terms of the agreement should be unambiguous so that both parties know their rights and responsibilities.

In particular, the agreement should specify the following:

  • What rights are being granted
  • How long will the license last
  • What fees will be paid
  • Whether the licensed material can be modified

It is also essential to ensure that the agreement does not conflict with any other agreements that either party has entered into. Otherwise, one party may be in breach of contract.

Licensing agreements can be complex documents, so it is always best to seek legal advice before entering one. An experienced attorney can help to draft or review an agreement to make sure that it meets your needs and protects your interests.

Build strong digital partnerships to grow your brand

Building a digital ecosystem of partners offers you a powerful lever to accelerate growth. Nearly 90% of top global companies aim to leverage a system of partners, but the complexity can be overwhelming, and the failure rate is high to sustain these partnerships. So how do you avoid being overwhelmed and succeed in your own context?

Here’s a few key tips:

  • Typically, the toughest challenge remains opening up to a partner. You have to feel comfortable with giving up some control.
  • Strong governance is critical to any partnership. However, it can be costly to design, agree on and maintain an interaction model that enables desirable partner behavior and controls for unwanted action.
  • You need good visibility on your organization’s digital assets and long-term technology vision in order to achieve any digital partnership ambition
Read more Digital Transformation articles