Building and Maintaining a True Partnership with Service Providers

June 25, 2014 Beverly Chamberlain

Every client has their own way of managing relationships with their service providers.  Over time, I have noticed that the best partnerships are the ones that evolve to a symbiotic relationship with a strong focus on the communication and governance process. I’d like to share with you some of the things we do in order to create a true partnership.

How can you define, maintain, and enhance your relationships to achieve a true Partnership?

Excellent relationships between clients and service providers do not happen by themselves.  Crucial factors are managed within the communication and the governance process:  effective planning, open communication, shared vision, client satisfaction, innovation and ongoing flexibility. These focus areas allow us to work more efficiently and effectively to achieve extraordinary results.

Our recommended “best practices” for inclusion in the communication and governance plans with service providers include:

  1. Role Definition: Outline the roles and responsibilities between the service provider, client organization and consultants. This ensures that everyone is clear on how they act and interact to meet objectives and maximize performance. Roles should be periodically reviewed and revised to adapt to the changing business environment.
  2. Identify Key Stakeholders: Whose voice must be respected for different types of decisions? Who must be informed of decisions, and how timely?  Identifying these individuals up front enables a collaborative goal alignment through the development of controls leveraging policies, procedures, and standards to meet contractual obligations.
  3. Describe Appropriate Communication: This is something that you will want to establish together with your service provider. Remember the goal is to foster a fair, transparent, productive, and collaborative relationship.  What type of information needs to be communicated? How often and within what timeframe? Is email the preferred form of communication? Is your communication at the appropriate level?  Has an escalation path been established? Are some communications required to be done in a formal, contractual manner?
  4. Establish key controls: What are the measures and metrics and what are the allowable limits? What are process gates, and the criteria for passing through those gates?  Maintain proper controls and visibility through reviews and approvals of key stakeholders. This will ensure alignment in planning, problem and change management, continuous improvement and innovation. Select the right number of controls – enough to capture what’s most important to your business, but few enough that you can focus – typically areas such as service quality and reliability, and timely resolution of issues (especially critical issues).

I have found that focusing on these core best practice principals have enabled us to enhance the relationship leading to a true partnership.  With it, we’re able to keep our clients continually informed and ensure that we remain aligned with their strategic direction. It has worked for us and if implemented, it could enhance your communication with service providers, too.

About the Author

Chief Information Officer of the Government & Transportation

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