AWS Partner Network (APN) Blog

5 Stages to Building a Successful Partner Practice with AWS

By Dean Lidstone, Partner Management Solutions Architect – AWS


AWS Partners have shared with us that as they evolve to better support their customers they need to focus on building vertical solutions, specializations, and relationships with Amazon Web Services (AWS) teams and other AWS Partners.

Over the years working with partners, we have learned that having a focused AWS practice helps partners be more successful in supporting our evolving mutual customer base.

In this post, I will explain what a partner practice is and why a dedicated AWS practice can be essential in getting the most out of your AWS Partner Network (APN) involvement, especially if you are on the Services Path. I’ll describe the five stages of a successful partner practice and offer insights into how to optimize your APN resources and benefits.

What is a Partner Practice?

A “practice” is a continually improving group of skilled personnel with defined processes and supporting technology around a core specialism, domain and/or a go-to-market (GTM) strategy, such as artificial intelligence (AI), retail, or migration.

“Having a dedicated practice has allowed us to focus on specific technologies and share knowledge and resources between projects,” says Tiago Fernandes, Director, EMEA Center of Excellence (CoE) at TD SYNNEX. “The skills and learnings we have in one country can be shared with others in another country. We have a dedicated AWS CoE which is well placed to support AWS Partners with building an AWS practice, and complementing those AWS Partners who may require expert design and consulting skills or expertise on specific projects.”

A practice will typically have a single-threaded owner who is 100% dedicated and accountable for the build/market/sell activities. They will report results to senior stakeholders and define the practice’s GTM efforts, partner offerings, specializations, and delivery artifacts. The owners of the practice should consider building a business case that ensures the right level of investment from the partner and identifies a potential return on investment (ROI).

A practice should be supported by a physical or distributed/virtual team and is responsible for onboarding, training and enablement, and aligning with the Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) to set the standards, methodology, tooling and best practices within that team’s focus area.

The owners of the practice should be adaptable to new technologies or processes, seamlessly integrating them into their existing defined standards. An agile approach will enable the business to tailor certain aspects of their offering and strategy across other teams and geographies to best suit their market.

Why is a Practice Needed?

Based on the Global Partner Ecosystem Multiplier study conducted across nine countries by Canalys, AWS Partners with the broadest set of service/partner offerings had some form of vertical AWS Practice that allowed them to tackle industry-specific challenges. This allowed AWS Partners to achieve a $6.40 multiplier per $1 AWS sold.

Hence, an AWS Practice is needed to address the growing market demand for specialized services, products, and skillsets. It allows organizations to build a team of experts who have deep knowledge and experience in a particular domain, enabling them to provide high-quality and specialized services and offerings to customers.

Additionally, an AWS practice can help an organization differentiate itself from competitors and establish a strong reputation in the industry. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction, new customer wins, loyalty and retention, geographical expansion of the customer base, and deeper alignment and collaboration with the AWS sales organization to yield higher revenue recognition, market impact, and profitability.

According to McKinsey, the value of cloud is shifting away from rejuvenation (cost, operational, efficiency) to innovation (innovation-driven growth hyper scalability, accelerated product development). By focusing on a specific area of expertise, an AWS practice helps organizations stay on top of the latest trends and technologies, allowing them to stay competitive and relevant in the marketplace.


Figure 1 – AWS practice example.

As shown in the diagram above, a practice can span multiple locations, countries or a single country, and a partner may have more than one practice within their business.

Building Your Partner Practice: The Five Stages

An AWS practice continuously learns customer needs, develops offerings, delivers them, and iterates to create a flywheel effect that expands its scope, users, services, and impact. To help AWS Partners along their journey, we have defined five stages that underpin the operation and growth of a thriving partner practice.

#1 – Practice Activation: Building the Business Case for Change

It’s imperative to identify an executive sponsor who can drive force from the top; securing organizational buy-in for the practice and setting appropriate ways of working, operating models, and governance for cross-organization collaborations.

AWS Partners must start with understanding what the opportunity is with AWS for their business, including objectives and outcomes. The first step is to conduct market research to identify the needs and preferences of potential customers in the target market, and define the potential total addressable market (TAM). This should be viewed in two dimensions, AWS Partners’ immediate addressable market and the aspirational market.

This analysis should also include analyzing market trends, customer needs, and existing (competitor) offerings. Based on the market research, the AWS practice should develop a clear value proposition with enough differentiation to offer to prospective customers, as well as define the TAM it wants to capture in a business case.

Additionally, AWS Partners should consider expanding the business case to ensure the investment will yield a return. Consideration should be given to net-new skills that need to be hired, or whether existing employees need to be reskilled. This includes thinking through how many employees the practice requires to be successful, the size of a typical customer opportunity, and how many customer opportunities the partner needs to win to break even.

The success of the partner practice can be measured by a set of primary and secondary key performance indicators (KPIs). Primary KPIs are reported to the business and include practice-generated revenue, profitability, and customer success (satisfaction, renewals). Secondary KPIs track the long-term sustainability and growth potential of the practice and may include the number of prospects, customer acquisition costs, case studies or testimonials, number of skilled resources, certifications/designations attained, thought leadership produced, and new offering launches.

Aligning secondary KPIs to practice development milestones helps the practice to establish a governance model. During this stage, AWS Partners should consider brand awareness as branding makes an impression on consumers and allows them to know what to expect from AWS Partners.

#2 – Enable the Practice

AWS Partners should define and build the capabilities needed to sell and deliver the practice offering, with a focus on two main sections: training and enablement and partner offerings.

Training and Enablement

Enablement often differs from formal training and provides individuals with a combination of practical and hands-on experience combined with best practices from previous projects. Enablement is key to establishing a successful partner practice, and should be supported by sales, technical, and professional service team members.

AWS Partners should focus on formal certifications for technical teams and accreditations for sales teams. Employees achieving certifications supports their individual and personal development, and is fundamental for a partner to show credibility in the market and progress within the AWS Partner Tiers.

Certifications should align with the goal of the AWS practice. Partners can leverage partner learning paths, instructor-led training courses, on-demand training, or build a tailored learning path leveraging accreditations or specialty certifications to achieve this.

Technical workshops and sales enablement are essential in supporting the practice and allowing individuals to learn. Focusing on technical and sales enablement motivates members of the practice to be more proactive in discussing these topics with end customers, and workshops are a good way to encourage discussions of business challenges and desired outcomes for customers. These workshops can be self-service or instructor led with the help of an AWS Partner Solution Architect.

Furthermore, AWS Partners can leverage other forms of enablement to help upskill the individuals within the practice, including APN Immersion Days or AWS GameDay activities.

  • AWS GameDay is a collaborative and fun learning exercise that tests partners’ skills in implementing AWS solutions to solve real-world problems in a gamified, risk-free environment. AWS GameDay Quests Development Kit (QDK) gives AWS Partners the ability to integrate their products with real-world scenarios to be leveraged as repeatable, lead-generating events with customers.
  • APN Immersion Days offer AWS Partners access to workshop content, tools, and packages to use exclusively with their customers to showcase specific AWS solutions, services, or partner offerings. APN Immersion Days can also help upskill individuals within the practice.

For expert training, AWS Partners have access to the Deeper Learning series, which unlocks early access to highly confidential NDA product roadmaps, feature release previews, and other strategic content. Through the Deeper Learning series, we gather all the AWS experts together in one forum for you and sessions cover AWS services, industries, workloads, use cases, and managed service provider (MSP) exclusives.

“Training and enablement is a continuous process and we build this in from day one,” says Andy Montgomery, UK CTO at Devoteam A Cloud. “We are a learning company and all of our people have annual certification goals as part of their individual personal development plans. Our learn and be curious culture requires consultants to learn through formal training, and we combine this with practical sessions based on the APN Immersion Days and AWS GameDays.”

Partner Offerings

Customers have told us that having industry-specific partner offerings is key to attracting new and existing customers. Customers gain more value from industry-specific solutions designed to meet specific needs. AWS Partners should consider building complete solutions targeting specific industries.

The AWS practice will define the standards, methodology, tooling, best practices, and strategy across other teams and geographies to best suit their market. AWS Partners may have existing solutions that have been built for specific customers or new ideas the partner wishes to bring to market at scale.

Building partner offerings that align with the AWS practice’s specializations or GTM strategy is fundamental, as this ensures consistency and that teams who support these offerings have the skills and credentials to be technical authorities when advising customers. Additionally, focusing on customers’ business challenges helps define a specific outcome or use case offering. Partner offerings can be focused on specific customer target markets or verticals, allowing AWS Partners to build complete solutions targeting specific industries.

AWS provides several routes to market for partner offerings, including AWS Marketplace, AWS Solutions Consulting Offers, and AWS Partner Solution Finder (PSF). AWS also offers the Foundational Technical Review (FTR) for service offerings, which validates an AWS Partner’s service offering to be published on PSF.

#3 – APN Program Engagement

AWS Partners have the opportunity to grow their business with AWS specializations and showcase their success to customers through the AWS Competency, Service Delivery, Service Ready, and Managed Service Provider (MSP) programs.

  • AWS Competency Partners are validated technical experts with proven customer experience that specialize in building software or delivering services across industries, use cases, and workloads.
  • AWS Service Delivery Partners and AWS Service Ready Partners are specialized in delivering AWS services to customers, or have validated software products that work with AWS services.
  • AWS MSP Partners are specialized in providing end-to-end AWS solutions and services to customers at any stage of the cloud journey including advisory, design, procurement, building, adopting, and managing.

AWS Partners can demonstrate their expertise by showcasing the AWS certifications that individual employees have obtained, and by producing microsites on the AWS Partners webpage. To increase visibility and technical authority, individuals working for AWS Partners can onboard to the AWS Ambassador Partner Program, which enables employees to become technical experts in various domains by evangelizing AWS and their partner organization to customers.

#4 – Go to Market Strategy

In parallel to building partner offerings, AWS Partners should consider how the offerings will be promoted in market. Partner offerings help build repeatable solutions that partner sales teams can actively share with customers, and these are often conversation starters with new or existing customers.

A successful GTM strategy for a partner solution involves coordinating the vision and scope from a wide range of company stakeholders, including both the marketing and delivery teams to ensure those teams understand the offering and have the skills and resources to deliver on customer projects.

Finally, it’s important to align both sales and technical teams within the partner’s organization who can help promote these solutions by identifying potential customers and net-new opportunities where an offering can be proactively presented to customers.

AWS Partners have access to AWS Partner Marketing Central, a self-service portal that hosts a collection of customizable resources designed to expand customer reach and drive demand for partner offerings. AWS Partners can also showcase customers success stories via the APN Blog, one of the most read blogs at AWS. Additionally, AWS Partners can highlight their success with customers by producing partner success stories and case studies.

Partner Ready Campaigns give partners the ability to launch customizable campaigns to build awareness and drive demand. Campaigns includes landing pages, emails, social media kits, banner ads, case study templates, solution briefs, and more. Campaigns can be launched from within AWS Partner Marketing Central.

APN Immersion Days, mentioned earlier, are a great asset to include in a GTM effort. This helps validate the partner’s technical solution and can be incorporated into sales activities by supporting customers in learning about AWS services through theory and hands-on learning.

#5 – Selling and Value Capture

AWS Partners should consider leveraging the APN Customer Engagement (ACE) program, which allows collaboration and co-selling with AWS by driving successful engagements with customers. Participation in ACE provides partners with a platform to manage a pipeline of joint opportunities and leads.

AWS has a wealth of partner-focused teams to support customer opportunities, including Partner Development Managers, Partner Solutions Architects, Account Managers, Partner Development Specialists, Partner Marketing Managers, and more. AWS Partners can leverage these teams to further support their engagements and in building an AWS practice.

Partners must follow up on project completions with post-engagement surveys by requesting AWS Partner Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) responses. A pre- and post-engagement business analysis helps build a portfolio of case studies, and customer relationships should be maintained for future reference or testimonial statements.

There are many funding benefits available to AWS Partners to help differentiate your AWS practice to increase delivery capabilities and drive value for customers. Refer to the APN Funding Benefits Guide for more information.

The below diagram summarizes the five stages mentioned above.


Figure 2 – AWS Practice stages.


With evolving customer demands, AWS Partners see value from aligning their AWS business to have practices that are focused on supporting technology around a core specialization, domain, and/or go-to-market campaign. Doing so will keep you relevant and allow customers to realize their own AWS benefits through partner offerings.

Typically, a successful AWS practice is built around five key stages which have provide a sound methodology for many of AWS Partners today. The benefits of an AWS practice allow partners to show thought leadership and specialization to best serve the customers.

For more information on all the topics discussed in this post, please view the AWS Partner Handbook.

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