Partnering for the Win

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Partnering for the Win

Our company is an amalgamation of many individuals’ experiences and knowledge. Much like Liam Neeson, we have “a very particular set of skills; skills (we) have acquired over a very long career.” As an organization, we succeed by recognizing and focusing on those skills or core competencies which we are the best at and have the most expertise in.

Sometimes customers are looking to solve problems that do not completely fit within those set of competencies and overlap with some ‘adjacent’ ones. This might be delving more into infrastructure rather than just programming, utilizing a technology or process you are not familiar with or providing additional types of services you do not often provide. At this point, there are generally three options:
 

1. Pass the opportunity along to someone else who can complete all aspects
2. Take a stab at trying to do those adjacent competencies yourself
3. Look to bring in a partner to deliver the solution together

 
There is a lot of value to be had in option number three if done correctly; namely you can solve your customer’s problem with a best in class solution from experts in all facets involved. However, there can be reservation and concern about bringing an ‘unknown’, outside entity into your customer and needing to trust and rely on that entity for your success. While a natural reaction, there are steps that can be taken to ensure a positive result and avoid those fears and concerns.
 
The first such step is to find the right partners. That might sound easy at face value, but there are a lot of companies out there serving our marketplaces and offering the types of expertise you might be looking for. Selecting the one that is right to partner with, is a crucial step. For us, it is very important to find partners that are true leading experts in their respective fields and have similar expectations of themselves around customer service and experience as we do. We spend time getting to know the key members of that potential partner organization, understanding their operating philosophy, what their procedures are and walking through what it might be like to work together. That vetting process really helps to set expectations on how future interactions will go from both sides’ perspectives.
 
The second step is to set an engagement model based on your outlook for the future. Typically we see this as either being one where the partner is really doing that work and we are managing the overall effort as well as integrating our portion or one where the partner is in a support role to us taking full responsibility to design, develop and deliver the solution. Another option we have utilized is a slow transition between the previous two where we define a pace and structure to get from point A to point B. So, for example, we might have the partner do everything on project 1 while we shadow and learn, then we collaborate and each do defined tasks on project 2 and then on project 3 we are doing the work with the partner in the support role.
 
The third step is to really make sure you execute your process. It can be easy to ‘let them handle it’ when an issue arises that mostly / exclusively deals with your partner’s scope, but that can easily cause confusion over ownership and lead to unsatisfactory results. Instead, make sure it is clear which entity is accountable for the opportunity and then perform to that role. So if we are taking the lead, we make sure that we are following our execution process, that our partner understands what that process is and what the steps are and that we help them be a part of it. If our partner is the one leading, then we make sure that we treat them as we do our end customer and make sure that we are making them a Rock Star solution provider.
 
In conclusion, we have found that with the right partner we can provide greater business value to our customers than we could alone. How have you been able to find other organizations to successfully partner with? What have you found to be the most important traits of a good partner? Any other advice for those looking to partner for the first time?
 
 
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