Partners are always a key element of change and transformation – no organisation ever has all the capability and capacity to go it alone. Partner spend is often amongst the biggest line items, but also one of the biggest causes of disappointment. Driving value from partners is vital, and something that we often see organisations struggle with. Why is this, and what can be done?
The overall operating model for partner management is big, and crosses many functions – there are multiple potential sources of value erosion, and overall management of performance of this vital capability is often poor. In ‘Agile’ terms, you need a product owner to ensure that the overall ‘service’ is driving good value. Too often this delivery model is fragmented, sometimes incomplete, and with separate functions owning different elements of the model, without ensuring cohesion and joined-up thinking. Perhaps why one of my customers recently lamented ‘we keep on spinning the same partners, making the same mistakes, and seemingly not learning’.
You’re only as good as your weakest link
There are four high-level areas to get right: overall resourcing strategy and partner sourcing; partner selection and engagement; delivery lifecycle performance management; and monitoring and development of overall partner performance. We will cover each of these in more detail in separate blogs, but getting internal alignment of these elements is a vital first step.
Value is typically lost in those high-level areas by:
- poor choice of partners / partner blend
- inappropriate contracting – in particular failing to focus on what matters and to control scope drift
- inadequate scoping – either rushing to delivery of an inadequately validated solution, or worse, engaging a partner to implement the wrong solution
- poor organisation – not getting the right delivery structure that optimises partners’ value-add, and leverages and develops well the internal capability alongside this
- poor day-to-day control of delivery performance – simply assuming partners will just get on with delivery – some will, some won’t, but there is always lots of co-ordination to be done – problems cannot simply (and lazily) be outsourced, and there are always client-side responsibilities to deliver as well
- failing to leverage the partner’s capability fully – sometimes partners are engaged, but their expertise is then ignored
- finally, a failure to develop the right collaborative relationship can be catastrophic.
Unfortunately, a failure in any of these areas will drag the others down. You really are only as good as your weakest link when it comes to partner performance.
At Project One we firmly believe that a key enabler of successful transformation is investing in and developing the capabilities to ensure that partner spend is effective and efficient. Orchestrating delivery is a vital, often overlooked, capability. It is a challenging area, but the rewards for getting it right are significant, whilst the penalties for not doing so are damaging.
Watch out for the rest of the blogs in this series and in the meantime get in touch if you want to explore further. In particular if that customer’s lament chimes for you, are you seeing the same disappointments over and over?