In a Global Delivery Model (GDM) of outsourced software product engineering services, wherein the objective of service providers is to help clients achieve faster time-to-market, higher innovation yields and increased value from R&D investments, it becomes ‘at times’ imperative to partner with marquee alliances while taking advantage of a global talent pool to strengthen customer experiences.
With so much focus on innovation and building just-in time (JIT) products, more and more companies are leveraging mechanisms by integrating world-class functional and technology expertise with deep domain knowledge and global operations excellence.
Nevertheless, the effort and cost to recover failing projects is proportionately greater than the cost to keep projects on track. With combination of an approved Service Provider database and the strategic alliance with 3rd party vendors, the key strategy becomes to quickly identify suitable vendors worldwide and build a successful alliance and partnership portfolio.
Following is my articulation on a detailed blueprint for partner enablement programs that have continued to lead a meaningful alliance campaigns and have resulted into successful and strong customer acquisitions:
Step 1: Assess internal needs and perform diagnostic
Identify the clients’ business needs and perform diagnostic to identify partner selection opportunities. Companies often engage smaller partners on a one-off basis to meet specific needs. In cases where extremely specialized business services are required, this type of one-off usage may be unavoidable, but may result into unnecessary costs and duplication of materials.
- Identify a partner mix that meets the business’ needs and consolidates spending. Factor in internal management overhead required to manage multiple contracts, contacts, IT systems, etc.
Step 2: Identify requirements
Determine how to meet learning needs
- Develop questionnaires and interview business leaders to understand requirements
- Interview partner managers and key personnel to understand their spend
- Conduct a gap analysis to determine areas of need between the current partners’ support of learning and future learning need
- Identify any unique certification requirements or need for customized content
Step 3: Identify Partners
Organize and shorten the partner list based on targeted savings and overall spend
- Partners can be grouped by industry knowledge and/ or specialization. Localization and capability augmentation opportunities may narrow the potential list of partners considerably, particularly as savings and targeted overall spend are estimated and measured.
Step 4: Conduct a Request for Information (RFI)
Create a short-list of partners using a weighted scoring system
- The scoring matrix provides a consistent approach for partner analysis by weighting criteria based on importance to learning objectives in order to determine a number of high ranking partners. Adjustable criteria weightings allow leaders to alter the significance of different areas of the RFI evaluation. Partners are then compared against one another. Here are some sample categories and questions defined in the matrix:
– Number of years providing business context services
– List of past clients and their experience
– Follow-up procedure to determine customer satisfaction
– Make improvements based on customer feedback
Staffing and resourcing:
– Number of employees with experience in industry
– Number of employees with learning design and implementation experience
Technology architecture and infrastructure:
– List of development applications and the number of employee resources with knowledge in specific applications
Partner products and service offerings:
– Experience and client examples in several training areas
– Each of these activities can generate cost savings and operational efficiencies which will benefit the entire organization
Partner services and product pricing:
Specific pricing structures using the same pricing scenarios across partners allow for more direct comparison of services cost. Once these steps have been completed, the team can begin to develop the business case for savings which will help drive the overall initiative within the overall organization.
Step 5: Conduct Partner on-site meeting
Consolidate the Partner list
Invite selected Partners to discuss:
a. Partner capabilities, pricing, and performance
b. Ability to execute on the business case for both the organization’s needs and the overall justification of savings
c. Quality and uniqueness of services provided
Step 6: Select preferred Partners
RFI results and on-site demonstrations build a clear picture of partner capabilities and enable down-selecting to preferred partners
The final objective is to select the right partner to enable the business to meet its goals. Once the short list of partners has been established, they should be grouped by their skill and specialization. Now, better pricing scenarios for volume usage or discounts should be attained. These scenarios should allow for the most competitive pricing possible. Pricing negotiations will also include a broad definition of a service level agreement (SLA). For selected Partners, defining agreements between partner and company on performance measures, problem management, and length of service is vital. Not having a clearly defined SLA can lead to lengthy disagreements, compromising efficiency and effectiveness. The SLA sets a standard for services provided and a guide for disagreements and inconsistent performance. Negotiating a strong SLA takes experience and foresight.
Step 7: Onboard Partners
Enable Partners to be productive as quickly as possible
Incorporate Partners into the organization’s on-boarding strategy and implementation. A full onboarding methodology as a part of the talent offering which can be leveraged should include:
a. Company overview and culture
b. Organization structure
c. Scheduled team meetings and calls
d. Project timelines and templates
e. Invoicing requirements and payment expectations
f. Getting Partners transitioned into the company’s culture efficiently minimizes the learning curve and can bring ROI quickly.
Step 8: Track performance and evaluate results
Evaluate progress and results
Centralization of partner oversight and management will help manage the partner relationship and improve efficiency by reducing redundancies in the selection process. Ongoing Partner selection should occur periodically to facilitate a high level of quality and adherence to the SLA, while maintaining partner lists to monitor for changes in capabilities. Sustaining the benefits of partner selection efforts requires continued diligence in driving the right behaviors.
The above ingredients mixed in a channel sales strategy should garner resulting benefits for a superior customer experience and healthy lead pipeline.