Outsourcing | July 14, 2017
IT Service Provider – Trusted Technology Partner
Over a period of several years now, the image of IT service providers has undergone a clear change. They used to be mere contractors, responsible for undertaking specific tasks and nothing more, whether it was the implementation of a dedicated system or, for example, the addition of technological competences to the client’s team using the team extension model. So the ordering party assessed for outcomes above all, but cooperation rarely took a truly cooperative form, and there was no place for trust according to this form of contract.
Sales representatives, account managers, project managers and implementation specialists, as well as programmers themselves – in other words, the entire team responsible for the fulfillment of the contract with the customer – have been arduously working on changing the image of the service provider and building essential trust. What is such work based on? Firstly, the development of effective communication methods between the parties involved. The market has evolved over time, the terms of cooperation have stabilized, business relationships have changed, and more and more often, the client has a desire to strengthen cooperation, which can bring greater operational effectiveness as well as measurable benefits for both parties, not least in financial terms. However, certain conditions must be fulfilled.
Most of them are related to the broadly understood quality of cooperation that the service provider must offer to gain the trust of the customer and deserve to be called a professional partner. I will focus on a few selected factors only.
Ethics and loyalty in business
The principles of fair play, meaning how the parties treat each other, how they fulfill promises made in business meetings and negotiations, and how they talk about each other after cooperation has been completed, can all be called business ethics in general. These are by definition unspoken rules, because no contract is able to ensure loyalty, but without them, business cooperation cannot meet the expectations of both parties.
Expertise / technological competence
Technological competence, or the so-called technological stack offered by the service provider, and therefore the scope and level of expertise in the technology delivered, is extremely important from the perspective of trust in business. The technology partner needs to have specific skills, by which I don’t mean image, but the objective professionalism that allows for fairness in cooperation. Both competence in terms of the technology used in the project and knowledge and design experience beyond the scope of the contract are important here, as they help to rise to unexpected challenges that may arise in the project.
Maturity of the services rendered
The business maturity of a technology partner is manifested in experience, the ability to anticipate, and the awareness that the work done for the client is really an investment in the future and development of his own business. In this case, I chose the three most important areas to focus on: involvement, planning and timeliness. Of course, you can create a long list of qualities that show the maturity of your business partner, but these are undoubtedly key in building trust. Involvement is expressed in an active approach to the project undertaken jointly with the client. There is no question of passively waiting for allocated tasks. For example, in the team-extension model of collaboration, the members of the service provider’s team will not only carry out the tasks assigned to them, but also demonstrate their activity in more complex issues such as planning the architecture of the target solution, creative problem solving, or offering best-of-breed tools.
Correct planning and punctuality are very important, if not the most important, factors, and most often depend on whether trust is built between both parties. For this reason, an estimation is created on the contractor’s side pertaining to the time required for development and other necessary work. On this basis, a timetable is established. The partner’s business maturity can be seen in estimates of time-consumption that are realistic and not just created to offer a better deal. An experienced technology partner knows how much time it will take to complete the project, so estimates will not be artificially underestimated or inflated (which is likely to be the case with an inexperienced supplier who fights for a price at all costs or fails to adequately estimate the time needed and bumps up the estimation as a result). Experience and maturity allow for the creation of a plan for which the supplier will be able to take responsibility, and deliver the product on time.
The client and design challenges
We must not forget the client in all this, as in the end, cooperation has an effect on both parties. Without a suitable approach on the client side, a true partnership in cooperation is obviously not entirely possible. The customer should have the flexibility, commitment and good will to cooperate with the other party. Aspects of a project where significant customer flexibility can be significant are:
- the start date of the project, if more advanced preparation is required or if it is better to wait for a specialist with the requisite skills who may not be available immediately,
- the tools and technologies used, if the technology partner presents substantive arguments in favor of changing them;
- the work mode, for example, work done remotely by the service provider’s team,
- service hours if the standard work hours for the customer are different from those proposed by the service provider (a frequent phenomenon in the case of international co-operation),
even if at the beginning such changes were not assumed.
In addition, over the course of the contract, the parties may encounter various potential challenges which they must face in order to continue the project smoothly. I will refer here to examples in terms of body leasing / team leasing cooperation:
- the need to undertake proper onboarding processes,
- challenges in communication,
- the willingness of the person working on the project on the service provider’s side to change the project,
- the likelihood that the person responsible for the project on the service provider’s side may change job.
The client may not have a direct influence on some of these situations, and, if understanding and engagement are demonstrated, it is proof that he or she is willing to engage in a partnership with the service provider.
Win – win
If each party understands that a win-win situation is possible in the outsourcing relationship, and apart from short-term business goals, other values such as loyalty or partnership count, then we may expect that cooperation can be truly long-lasting and fruitful. In such cases, the benefits are evenly distributed, so that both parties are committed to growing them and to the continuation of cooperation for as long as possible. And isn’t that what it’s all about?