Blog November 12, 2018

Best Practices for Entering Into IT Partnerships

Cultivating IT partnerships these days can be a fantastic way to create added value and promote innovation and growth for your company. When done correctly and best practices are utilized, it’s a great way for both parties to set and reach mutually beneficial goals. By taking a smart approach to the partnership everyone can benefit, which is the cornerstone of a true “partnership.”

That said, many companies still attempt to go it alone, missing out on the opportunities and synergies that IT partnerships produce. While partnerships are often necessary in order to break into new global markets, they can also help your company gain expertise in areas that aren’t necessarily in your wheelhouse. For a small company, partnerships with larger organizations can expand your capabilities, making your own company more appealing to a larger set of customers. If you’re a large corporation, a partnership with a startup can help you gain entrepreneurial skills and allow the startup to access your marketing power or expand its distribution. The benefits are numerable, but one thing is clear: partnerships in the IT sector can expand not just the solutions you offer but also the revenue growth you’re working hard on each and every day.

Partnerships are crucial for software, hardware, and technology vendors. A recent IDC study states that by 2021 about half of the Forbes Global 2000 companies will create alliances with tech firms. Working together makes the whole much greater than the sum of its parts, and today we’ll share 10 great ways to engage your channel partners and work together in ways that benefit both parties.

Business Impact Analysis

Prior to searching for your IT partner, the first tool you need to utilize is the business impact analysis. A business impact analysis is exactly as it sounds: a way to evaluate and measure what will happen to your business – both positive and potentially negative – if you enter into a partnership or business-oriented alliance. It lays the foundation of a clear strategy and determine what services, features, and information are vital to the company’s survival and will be the partnership’s guideline. This is also the time to determine if there is any proprietary data or information that should be protected.

Information Classification

The next important best practice before entering a partnership is to set criteria for how you’ll protect confidentiality, integrity, accessibility and traceability in order to demonstrate how you classify various types of data. Clear boundaries and expectations will ensure that both sides fully understand data classification and there is little room for confusion down the road.  It is imperative that you protect your intellectual property, your methods, and (perhaps most of all) your client list.

Start Smart

Once you’ve made the decision to move forward with partnership(s), your first action is to locate a potential partner that reflects your needs and demands in organizational features. This is one of the most, if not the most, critical steps and you must take the time to research your potential IT partners.

There are several questions you need to consider. It’s critical that you prioritize what’s important to your business and find a partner that meets those needs. Will they provide added value, and if so, how much? What resources do they currently have? How will they be integrated into your system? Will you announce that you are working together to potential clients or ask that they operate in the background? It’s also important to recognize what you offer to them as well.  After all, that is the point of a partnership.

Without proper research and prioritizing your needs, your IT partnership may be destined for a rocky relationship from the start. If possible, arrange face-to-face meetings or at least multiple conferences/conversations with all involved parties in order to help ensure everyone is on the same page and that the two companies do indeed “mesh.”

Speak Open & Honestly

Your IT partnership will never work if there isn’t honesty and trust or there are only one-sided agendas. Have open and honest conversations about the goals of both companies and identify ways to align your dual resources so that both businesses get maximum benefit from the partnership. Tactical relationships can benefit everyone involved, but both sides must be open and honest about what they want and need from the partnership. Remember, you are not entering a vendor/customer relationship but rather a partnership where everyone’s best interests should be under consideration.

Laying Out Goals

Many partnerships encounter hiccups in the relationship due to a lack of agreeing on key goals and objectives or a lack of framework for rules of engagement. Develop an open line of communication and be willing to accept feedback on internal inefficiencies. Clearly define your current struggles and work together to map out solutions…and then do the same for your partner. Partner with a company that can help you realize these opportunities. When done open and honestly, this best practice builds a transparent relationship from the start and ensures that all parties are in sync.

Mutual trust is a must, so search for partners that are clearly looking out for your best interests, as well as their own. If either side makes a promise, ensure that clear procedures and guidelines are defined for fulfilling that promise. The partnership has to contribute to the company’s profitability and laying out each side’s goals can ensure that it reaches its full potential.

Document Everything

Transparency is another must have best practice when working with other companies and developing IT partnerships. Ensure that both sides have quality processes in place, including documentation of the agreed upon expectations and workflow steps. That way if any issues do arise along the way you can utilize the documentation to appropriately address them. Documents such as procedures & protocols or quality control guarantee compliance and generally keep everyone on the same page.

Analytics

Another best practice is to develop operational analytics in order to utilize any data that is collected. Operational analytics will allow you to adapt processes as needed and stay consistently innovative. Your stored analytical data is another resource that you can utilize in multiple ways to assist in growth and innovation, and a best practice is to take advantage of these opportunities.

Research-Based Development

You can advance your overall objectives by taking advantage of research-based development. By collaborating on projects, both sides gain access to a better pool of resources along with the knowledge to guide their decisions. Monitoring progress based on research, data, and analytics will help in the development of the partnership and allow you to approach research on multiple fronts.

Points of Contact

Identify points of contact (POC) for both sides early on. Create standardized processes for submitting and assimilating data and information, fielding requests and disseminating it to the appropriate people/departments, and identifying team member roles for both partners. This helps improve the flow of information, promotes time efficiency, lowers the “perception” or “reality” of risk, and ultimately builds a collaborative and more transparent partnership and work environment.

Plan for the End

Of course, no one wants to consider it, but IT partnerships can and do end and while it may not be pleasant, it shouldn’t get down and dirty. This is why you should consider implementing a business dissolution plan that outlines ending the partnership or changing partners. Swinging back to the open & honest section, have a conversation up front to discuss what actions or issues could potentially end the partnership or where your company draws the line.

This plan should include a timeline for the separation process, a list of tasks that require completion before dissolution, any payments that must be made to various attorneys or tax agencies, notifications to stakeholders, and any final documents that must be filed.

IT Partnerships for The Win

Partnerships can be hard but when done right, they can be one of the most important tactics for growing your company. Strategic IT partnerships allow you to share your collective strengths and knowledge, relish in success together, and also share the stress that is inherent with doing business. These best practices can help you maintain a thriving relationship for the entire lifetime of the partnership and ensure that the goals and limitations of both sides are clear from the onset.  If you’re interested in learning more about partnership with Connectria, contact us here.  We’re always eager to explore new ways to help others grow their businesses while also growing our own.  After all, that is indeed the point of a true, positive partnership.

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