Establishing successful relationships with your change partners

Great relationships between you and your partners are a critical factor in ensuring major change initiatives come in on time and on budget. It’s rewarding when you’re working with partners where everything clicks; partners who understand what you need and where everyone works together to get the job done. Partnerships that don’t work out can suck the very life out of you, damage your team’s culture and moral, diminish stakeholder confidence and ultimately fail to deliver what you hoped for.

Partnerships are important

If you’re delivering business-critical change, you need the right team. It doesn’t make sense for businesses to keep all this capacity and capability in-house. Partnering with those that can provide the change leadership, systems integration or specialised support, may be essential for you, and if so, it’s critical that your partnerships are set up properly and operate well.

We see many organisations who fail to get their partner relationships right, with critical business change suffering as a result. For some this has become the norm, expecting and accepting a manageable level of pain, but for others it leads to programme failure.

How can you identify and prioritise improvements?

Great partnerships are based on trust, with both sides working to the best of their ability to achieve a common goal. With clear expectations and mutually beneficial conditions, all parties are encouraged to build on and improve the relationship.

We see five stages that good partnerships progress through. Too often we see organisations that cannot get to the levels they want to achieve, because the partnership is stuck. In this article we take you through the five stages; setting out what you need to focus on to make sure that your partnership becomes a strong one, delivering the critical business changes that your organisation needs.

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  • Geoff, thanks for the response – you are quite right; the issue I raise is neatly summed up in your article under “Ageing core systems”.
    I think there is a real problem in my usual industry (Oil & Gas) due to a difference in philosophy, methodology and governance between Top-Down and Bottom-Up change. Top-Down follow your prescribed recipe and are managed by internal change where benefits are described up-front and then rigorously pursued. In the case of Bottom-Up, “features and benefits” (of an application) are sold to the technical users – who just love a new feature. Users then unite and force the hand of the Portfolio Manager and a technology insertion programme is conceived.
    I truly believe the funding is thus provided merely to keep the peace – and so long as the users get their new feature, on time and to budget, the programme is deemed to have succeeded. This must be the case in other industries driven by technical modelling rather than any direct touch points with a customer.
    As such, there must be a market for applying your solutions to my problem. There must be countless instances where technical capabilities are competitively displaced by another vendor, that programme is delivered by the vendor, but no actual business change or real benefit is derived.

  • Thanks for the observations Colin. I really like the point you make about the ‘shiny new application’. One other article we shared recently was one looking at those programmes focusing on delivering the technical solution, but not the benefits associated with it ( Too often, as you say, we’re thinking about benefits too little and too late. Change Programmes are there to make a significant and sustainable change to the organisation. We’re going to come back to this topic again in the New Year.

  • Really good insights – I wish my clients over the years had read this..
    I would question how to keep that prized client/vendor-side relationship on track when the steps you introduce are not followed. Many Programme Managers on the vendor side have no chance of delivering to expectations when benefits are not even defined at the outset and the programme is founded solely on the client buying ‘new toys for the boys’ (but somehow expecting business benefits).
    Of course, there will be none – users carry on as before except using a shiny new application or data repository.
    With so many vendors adopting competitive displacement strategies, this phenomenon of a client buying a capability and trying to add the benefits strategy retrospectively can be painful in the extreme.
    Do you have a recipe for a miracle cure?


POSTED BY: James O'Sullivan - Director of Client Delivery


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