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The Hows and Whys of Having (or Being) a Chief Partner Officer

In my previous article, I talked about CPOs -- chief partner (or partnership) officers -- and I'm overwhelmed and a bit surprised by how much interest this discussion has attracted. CPOs are the talk of partner ecosystems -- not just specific to the Microsoft ecosystem, but also in much broader terms, and even with regard to partnering outside tech.

Why Should You Want To Hire a CPO?
One of the biggest mistakes partners make is senior leadership not extending their buy-in and support. People in an organization might go out and forge partnerships, but it's risky when it's not part of the company's strategy.

Another problem is that partnership efforts across a larger organization get reinvented over and over again, as there is little coordination. That means everyone is working in their own siloes and no one shares best practices in a structured way. That can also lead to certain critical issues (like legal ones) getting overlooked or duplicated.

Having a CPO is about making a stand -- internally, as well as externally -- to show that partnerships are important and are part of senior leadership's responsibilities when running the company. It's also about recognizing the people who are working with partners. The value of sending a strong signal about how much you value partnering cannot be underestimated.

Why Should You Want To Become a CPO?
Great question! Being the CPO is one step up on the corporate ladder. It comes with some superpowers but also with responsibilities. You will have a seat at the senior leadership's table, which enables you to participate in important discussions, but also gives you access to the tools needed to navigate your organization toward success.

And, of course, you will become a very important ambassador for your company's partnership efforts. That means that you will need to be socially competent, great with media and the press, and great with partners. And remember that being candid and honest goes a very long way, as everyone will hold you accountable and remember your promises.

So What Does a CPO Do?
A CPO owns the strategy for all partnership efforts, as well as the execution of that strategy. This includes building and nurturing great relations with people in sales and marketing. The CPO might be alone or have a larger group of people reporting directly (or indirectly) to them, depending on the size of the company.

A CPO's effectiveness is multiplied when sales and marketing are aligned with the company's goal and efforts in partnering. The role of being both an internal and external public ambassador is extremely important, as that gives you a great deal of influence -- and that is perhaps your strongest superpower. Using that influence wisely will be instrumental in achieving your company's goals.

As mentioned, the CPO builds, sells and owns their company's partnering strategy. A large portion of the role is dedicated to this ongoing task. You can use internal and external resources to help, but as a CPO, you should have the right level of strategic knowledge and insights to build the strategy yourself. After all, you are the one that needs to sell it internally; the buck stops with you. That means a successful CPO will need to be a true master at partnering with relevant real-world experiences. It's hard work and should be treated as a long-haul venture.

The CPO role is gaining lots of interest. My guess is that this is not the last time we’ll heard about CPOs this fall.

Posted by Per Werngren on October 03, 2023 at 12:15 PM