Written by Rob Bernshteyn |
May 15th, 2013
In the software buying process, partnerships are often given scant consideration. Too often, buyers don’t learn about the quality of vendor partnerships until after the deal is done. Or, they make the technology choice and then pick the consultant separately.
That’s the wrong approach. Partnerships are like a marriage. You can’t just say, we’re gonna get the best deal on the software and we’re gonna get the consultant we happen to know, and marry them. That’s not how it works.
Partnerships should be very interesting to anybody who is deploying software because the truth is no one is a one-stop shop.
The most effective partnerships are usually based on having a lot in common.
Most software companies are good at technology. Then there are a whole bunch of consultants that bring the technology to their clients as a solution. There are ancillary products that need to snap onto the solution, and there are also systems integrators that implement the solution. In each of these cases, you need to judge the strength of the partnership, not each individual element.
The challenge the buyer often has with a weak partnership is that it can turn into a finger point.
The consultant says, well we did an analysis, we found where the gaps are and for that we’re charging you money. Their value-add is to analyze your business, show you technology variety and tell you, you gotta build some stuff. They benefit from there being a lot of confusion because they charge by the hour.
The technology provider says, hey my technology can do whatever you want and it’s these guys who are configuring it, they have no idea what they’re doing and they’re milking you for dollars. And who gets screwed? The customer.
Customers need to look hard at partnerships, with an eye to finding those that really know how to work together to get the customer to a place of success.
The best way to discover the quality of a partnership is through real reference conversations and by meeting the actual people you’ll be working with. Look for references where they’ve partnered together to deliver real results for customers. Dig into the details. It’s not just whether these two logos have ever appeared next to each other on the same page.
It should be clear that both partners understand the transformative nature of what you are trying to achieve and that it’s a marriage between process change and technology adoption. They don’t think the technology provider is just rolling out some technology and then the consultant does whatever it is that they do and its completely separate. They know how to work together to create transformation.
Have they worked on projects of similar size and scope to yours? If you’re a global or international company, does the partnership have the right reach and experience? Do they understand the specific compliance rules in the countries where you’ll be doing business? Have they been able to deliver results together in that sphere?
Are their incentives are aligned? If one partner is trying to bill as many hours as they can, and the other partner is trying to charge as much as possible for the software, those aren’t aligned.
Ask to meet the people that both companies would be assigning to the project. Get them in a room together. Ask about when have they worked with that technology before and if they have, what have they delivered together? How long did it take? How wide was the adoption?
If they haven’t worked together, how confident are you in their ability to work together? How do they interact with you, and with each other?
Are their company cultures similar--not just the people behind the project, but if they have to pull in other resources is the culture similar in both companies or is it just completely askew?
For partnerships, that translates into having worked in similar spheres, industries, and geographies, and on projects of similar goals and scope. Ideally they met and fell in love with each other long before they met you, and they know each other very well and they have a strong working relationship. Those are the kind of partners that can help you do something transformative.