This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
This highly memorable scene from the original Matrix can easily be applied to sourcing.
Are you looking for long-term cooperation or someone to handle just one, rather short, assignment? Do you prefer to have a specialist in a very narrow field or a generalist able to cover more areas? Or maybe you need more than one? Are you under time pressure? Do you need to start the cooperation quickly – having already delayed commitments – or do you have the time to wait and undertake your new initiatives over the next few months? What type of work are you planning to commission, and how? Will it be a big project? Small chunks of work? New product development? Support of a legacy system? A mix of all the above?
Answering such questions in advance will help you understand what type of business relation you are looking for, and which business partner would be best suited to your needs.
It helps to ask yourself all the important questions during the selection process and, once you do that, you will be able to make an informed decision. It might also be a good idea to go through such a review process with your current business partner. Periodical analysis, let’s say once a year, might ensure that your partnership is heading towards its established goals. If you realise that you don’t fully know what you are trying to achieve, it’s also a good opportunity to improve on that or to decide to work with someone who might help.
Breaking off any relationship can be unpleasant, but it is better to find it out sooner, rather than later (not to mention cheaper) than waiting years to discover that your goals are not being met. Based on our experience, we can safely say that one of the most important things when running a project is to remember why we do it. The entire team must constantly keep in mind the end goal, which is for the project to meet the needs of your business. This will ensure that the progress is aligned with the desired result.
In the case of short-term assignments, simple things, such as holiday periods, sick leave or unexpected problems can sometimes affect the team workload and will, despite the best efforts, slow down the work unless we execute changes effectively — either to the project itself or to the factors impacting it. This is just a simple example of how we sometimes cheat ourselves and create unnecessary pressure. There are number of areas to look into when it comes to performing a reality check and the one that I would like to stress is organisational alignment — do we have enough competence to be a good team and deliver this project? We can be great on our own, but how do we work as a team? Are we mature enough to accept constructive feedback? Do we speak the same language (not literally of course) and how often do we communicate witch each other? How do we handle issues at work ? Have we done similar work together? What is our attitude towards the challenges ahead of us?
The importance of company culture is rising and, more often than not, it becomes a very important factor of business success. However, I don’t think there is such a thing as better or worse company culture. Based on our experience and a number of conversations with clients and partners, we came to the conclusion that having a similar company culture helps – to understand each other, to trust each other, to talk to each other, to like each other and, last but not least, to work together. This does not mean we ought to be the same. Differences are welcome as long as you can cope with them and draw conclusions from them, as long as they are not too overwhelming for the business relation to handle them.
B2B relations are dynamic, market conditions are changing, strategies are changing and people in both organisations are changing as well. For the relation to be efficient, it must be constantly nurtured and this requires effort from both sides, simply because a relation is a two way thing. Based on our expertise, what helps is to agree a structured governance process which will cover, among others, communication between different roles in each organisation from team level to board level positions, in order to cover all aspects of your relationship. Having such a structure will allow you to have important, but often difficult, conversations, as opposed to brushing problems under the carper to the point where they are beyond solving. In the complex and important negotiations we have had in the past, what helped us most was being more open in the partnership. Although it may sound scary at first, in our case the result was that our partner also opened up, which gave us both the possibility to design a solution that was not on the table before.
Finally, it may be an interesting experiment for you to try and look at people with whom you cooperate (internally, too) as if they were your customers — customers who have business needs, objectives and constrains. Would you approach them differently?
Key elements required by clients include predictability, reliability, and peace of mind that the work will be delivered according to the agreed scope and timeline. I am convinced that going through the above-mentioned questions will be a huge step towards having a better and more mature, long-term business relationship.