The strongest relationships are borne through baptisms of fire
In recent months the outsourcing industry has boomed. The value of outsourcing contracts grew by 150% in the three-month period to end June 2015, with Europe seeing a surge in the number of contracts awarded. This sudden increase in contracts demonstrates a wider appeal to outsourcing and the importance of building relationships with partners that have the right expertise, knowledge and capabilities to support with business growth.
But, in the fast-moving tech industry, how to do you choose the right outsourcing partner and build those long-lasting business relationships that are essential to success?
When things go wrong, you know who your friends are and who you can trust. This is true in life, but so too in our business relationships and in the alliances that we forge with partners and suppliers.
It’s one thing to provide a customer with a good, consistent service when things are on track, but what about when the ship hits the rocks? When projects unexpectedly de-rail and unforeseen complications occur, the best suppliers become trusted partners. Some of the strongest relationships are those that are borne through baptism of fire.
As a provider of SAP support, there are two key trigger points at which a new customer engages with us as an SAP partner. They are either going through a mandated review process at the end of a fixed-term contract, or they’re in a crisis situation in need of immediate help and resolution.
If you can prove yourself in the latter scenario, then the relationship will be often be stronger, longer lasting and more collaborative as a result.
But, how can organisations turn a fire-fighting exercise into a long-term business relationship?
Understand the customer and their market
As with any new customer project, getting up and running quickly is essential. Increasingly, expenditure on IT projects has the eyes of the board firmly on it. As such, the project must run as smoothly as possible, and deliver ROI in the shortest time possible. When a partner is stepping into an already fraught situation, the need for quick resolution is greater than ever.
Integral to this is knowing the customer and market inside out. What is a company’s specific pain point? What are the wider market pressures impacting their bottom line? How is their market evolving and how can you support this shift?
Senior decision-makers need the confidence that comes from having a partner who understands the unique intricacies of their industry and the challenges they face. In the tech sector, suppliers and partners need deep technical knowledge of products and solutions, coupled with specialist knowledge of – often complex – vertical markets. Not only is this knowledge beneficial to solve short term crises, but through a consultative, integrated approach the relationship is built to help plan long-term growth and strategic change.
Be transparent and keep it simple
Market trends and budgetary constraints mean that IT strategy towards partners and suppliers can vary dramatically. Strategies oscillate between the desire to consolidate the number of suppliers and consultancies they use to establishing a broader portfolio of ‘best of breed’ suppliers who offer a range of services.
However, in either scenario one thing remains true. IT managers and decision-makers want to work with suppliers who provide a transparent and simple service. Especially if stepping in to resolve a crisis situation – time spent wrangling with procurement is time wasted.
An open and transparent approach to any relationship is key. This should be felt throughout the duration of the relationship. Consider the following things: does a supplier have a simple and straightforward contract that clearly outlines SLAs and deliverables? Do they have a support function that is efficient and effective and embraces technology to maximise efficiency? Is there a consistent and committed account team who reacts to your needs?
An engagement model based around openness and transparency between vendors and its customers is a significant differentiator and helps to cement relationships, even in the most testing of times.
In today’s rapidly changing business environment, keeping on top of new developments, technology and legislation is challenging.
It’s important to build relationships with partners who can remove this headache, and have expertise in specific technology areas. They can then utilise and deploy solutions in the most effective way to deliver meaningful business impact.
Companies that can provide value-added consultancy services and move away from commoditised solutions will prosper. This is particularly the case when working on IT projects. Typically the lifecycle of upgrades and new solutions is high, and so by working with an organisation who has the relevant expertise engrained at the heart of their business will prove beneficial and ensure you don’t fall behind. Indeed, choosing a partner who is proactive in managing version upgrades, security patches, new deployments etc. will minimise the potential for IT failure in the future.
To conclude, IT decision-makers need to think carefully about whom they outsource operations to – they need to partner with vendors and suppliers who differentiate themselves by taking a wholly customer-centric approach. Today’s economy demands suppliers that can deliver focused, transparent and flexible solutions. They need vendors who have the expertise to react to short-term crises, but the vision to then deliver sustained, successful, long-term deployments.
About the Author
Partho Bhattacharya MD and President of SAP Gold Partner, Invenio Business Solutions, has a wealth of experience in the IT and technology industries with previous positions held at IBM, Tata, Perot Systems, Siemens and Sapphire Systems. He has extensive knowledge of the industry and is specifically interested in how customer experience is playing a more crucial role in IT strategy these days.