Building a partnership business: dunnhumby’s Will Adcock talks to Microsoft’s James Chadwick

The partnership model is a proven success story for many businesses, and as digital evolves there are fresh opportunities to grow and thrive in a partner ecosystem. At dunnhumby, our Alliances and Partnerships programme caters to the needs of our client base and develops new innovative opportunities. Collaborating with innovative partners, we integrate our world-leading Science and Retail expertise with partner solutions to develop and deliver new capabilities that lead to better customer experiences.

One such company that’s redefined the mould is Microsoft. The tech innovator has 25,000 partners across the UK in its independent software vendors ecosystem, which is headed up by James Chadwick. Chadwick has been with Microsoft since Bill Gates’ departure 14 years ago (although he assures us that the moves were unrelated!). Great partnerships are his bread and butter, and by working with the most innovative and creative partners out there, Microsoft is able to deliver amazing customer outcomes.

dunnhumby’s Head of Alliances and Partnerships, Will Adcock, sat down with Chadwick to learn more:

Will Adcock (WA): Partnerships aren’t new to Microsoft, but how are they helping to drive the business forward in a landscape that is increasingly going digital?

James Chadwick (JC): Given the breadth and depth of Microsoft’s partner ecosystem, we have to work meticulously to identify those partners that can give us scale in the most important technology areas. And dunnhumby is among them, having moved your customer insights products to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, where retailers and suppliers have instant and secure access to dunnhumby’s data science tools, enabling them to share critical business insights.

We have invested heavily to help customers become more competitive domestically and globally. Key research provides me with a real steer on who to partner with for optimum outcomes, helping Microsoft’s customers to utilise technology for competitive advantage.

WA: And how are potential partnerships identified and selected?

JC: Customers want to buy from, or partner with, organisations that are thinking about sustainability, diversity, inclusion and socio-economic challenges. Which is where the alignment of Microsoft and dunnhumby really comes to life – at the intersection of technical alignment and opportunity, and cultural alignment.

WA: It’s interesting that you say that, as my next question was going to be: why are we strong together? It’s obviously valuable to pinpoint what the customer really wants and acknowledge that they care about who you’re working with.

JC: It may seem that the concept of partnering is only relevant to the businesses involved, but research shows that your customers do care. A good partnership delivers results through ideas-sharing and helping customers’ businesses to change, evolve and thrive. Being part of an ecosystem such as Microsoft’s is mandatory in today’s world. By partnering with specialist organisations with specialist capabilities, it can solve niche problems and identify niche opportunities. The benefits are huge, and it’s something we can expect to see more and more of.

WA: And I guess that creates value for the customer.

JC: Absolutely. The true value comes for a customer when you create a ‘golden thread’ across the technology investments, which empowers every person to get real value from their tech investment. It unlocks the value of data at every level throughout an organisation. There are examples of organisations taking complex, people-based solutions and automating them, innovating in five minutes what would previously have taken days. I like to say that it’s part of the ‘innovation cycle’.

WA: So what are your key metrics – the foundations of this business model?

JC: Microsoft’s key metric is consumption. The usage of its technology should result in further engagement and further partnership with other customers. It’s a business model built on the concept of consumer revenue, which is a plus for customers. A great partner can really help drive amazing consumption. We see the likes of dunnhumby as potentially a weapon of mass consumption for Microsoft.

It’s a philosophy that circles back to culture. More than 200 of Microsoft’s major partners have signed our Partner Pledge, whereby they promise to take action in the key areas of digital skills, apprenticeships, diversity, sustainability and responsible and ethical artificial intelligence. There’s been great progress in getting more women into tech roles, for example, although of course there’s always more to be done. It’s an agreement that delivers on targets and metrics in each of the areas, which are key pillars for growth and evolution. Plus, there’s a network effect of doing good things in one space that gives you the opportunity to do good things in another space.

WA: There’s clearly far-reaching value in aligning with other organisations.

JC: Definitely. It’s something we’ve long been convinced of – it’s a good thing to do and we need to do it, our employees demand that we do it, and our customers demand that we do it. For those reasons, it’s great that we’ve got real focus in these areas. And we see dunnhumby as a real trailblazer and a market leader, and we really want to take this partnership from strength to strength.


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