As businesses continue to become more reliant on technology, more and more organizations have formed partnership ecosystems. Bringing in and working with multiple partners is a smart way to deliver better experiences with optimized costs and capabilities.
While there are many pros to working with partners — there are some drawbacks as well. Operations become increasingly complex as a partnership ecosystem grows. Regardless, end users will still expect a seamless experience, and the more partners you work with, the harder it could become to maintain that smooth experience.
This article will address how CIOs can effectively manage those IT partnerships and set up their organizations for success in a partnership ecosystem.
Partners vs. Suppliers and Vendors
You’ll notice that I refer to “partners” and not “suppliers” or “vendors”. That’s intentional verbiage. In order to succeed in this new paradigm, CIOs need to evolve from working with vendors and suppliers in a strictly transactional sense. Strategic partners are vendors that have go above and beyond effective delivery of systems and services – they commit to helping the CIO achieve the organizational goals of the company.
The difference between “partner” and “supplier” has become increasingly noticeable due to COVID-19. Many CIOs saw partners be more proactive in their relationships by reaching out to see how they could better assist organizations during the pandemic.
The best partners recognize that a business relationship is about more than making a sale. It’s about building a relationship where they understand the customer’s business models and the inner workings of the company. They don’t just execute on the customer’s demands, they work with the customer to find mutually beneficial solutions.
When Badly Managed Partnerships Happen to Good Organizations
Why should you care about managing your partnerships? When does a vendor need to be a partner?
Silo mentality has been a frequent roadblock within many organizations – and IT is no stranger to them. Internal silos can wreak havoc on workflows and efficiencies. When IT isn’t looped into the full scope of projects and how the rest of the organization is driving value, they are often left to catch up — and end-users always suffer. And that’s just with internal silos!
Compound that with the fact that more organizations are reducing staffing yet increasing demand for technology. This means more outsourcing and external support. But without a shared and agreed approach to delivering that support, IT organizations could easily find themselves in a chaotic situation.
Finding the Right Partners
Of course, there are many vendors simply parading as partners – so how do you know what to look for in a partner? The most important thing is not to rush into a relationship or make a decision based solely on price. Yes, it can be time-consuming to get referrals and do your due diligence when evaluating potential partners. Start off with your trusted circle of IT leaders. Other leaders are often the best source of knowledge of who is a great partner and who simply delivers a product.
Once you have your shortlist of partners from your own research and recommendations from peers, it’s time to start establishing connections. Remember that the right partner doesn’t start the conversation about themselves or their product – they will want to first talk about your goals and objectives.
Perhaps more importantly though, you have to view a potential partnership for what it is — a partnership, not a vendor-client relationship. It’s important to not view the potential partner as just a fulfiller of work. During those initial discussions, you have the responsibility of clearly defining expectations, challenges, organizational dynamics, and the goals of your organization. Don’t limit your conversations to specifically IT or the initiatives for a particular tool or product. IT is crucial to the success of any business so any IT partner needs to have a clear picture of that business.
This will give the partner the opportunity to create a better strategy for delivering the right products and services for helping you achieve your goals.
How to Better Manage Your Partners
The best partnerships happen because they’re built on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. So there is a level of “people-work” that has to go into any of these relationships. But there are some ways you can better structure your organization so your partnerships will be more successful.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
Far too often, supplier check-ins are just quick reviews of operational metrics or updates on the tasks completed during a timeframe. These types of communications aren’t sufficient in a partner relationship – in fact, this is a disadvantage to you and your partners! You want your team to be actively communicating with your partners about what’s happening in your organization so they can continue to get a clear vision of the overall picture of your organization.
- Establish transparent workflows for all your partners.
This might be difficult because your partners likely have their own workflows. But working with them to establish a shared process that all partners follow makes for a smoother experience for your entire organization. Again, this might be a difficult ask and could take some time to develop, but the right partners will be willing to engage in defining workflows that work for your organization.
- Get your internal teams and stakeholders to see partners as part of the team
Silo mentality doesn’t work — even when those silos are made up of full-time employees and contractors. Your internal departments and teams should feel empowered to be a part of the partner-IT relationship. You want everyone in your organization to know and trust your partners. This might mean bringing other departments to meetings with external partners or looping your external partners into existing initiatives with other departments.
Introducing Service Integration and Management
If you are looking for a better way to integrate your partnerships, Service Integration and Management (SIAM) might be the best option for you. SIAM is a management methodology that is growing in popularity. SIAM will provide an organization with governance, coordination, assurance, and integration for working with outside partners by introducing a “service integrator” role. If you’re working with multiple vendors, suppliers, and partners, SIAM can enhance the experience for everyone within your organization and for suppliers and partners working with your organization.
If you’re curious about introducing SIAM or improving your partner relationships, I’d love to discuss how to prepare your organization to thrive in a multi-partner ecosystem.Share