Do You Have a Strategy for Effective Service Partner Management?
Many service organizations today depend on outside vendors and partners to carry out their service delivery activities. The decision to use a service partner to deliver services can be influenced by any number of factors including financial, resource, geographic or product related circumstances. In some instances, it may be more cost effective to go outside the organization to get a specific task performed. The decision to leverage partners could also be skills driven, where a partner has certain skills that the service organization has yet to develop. Alternatively, the decision may be market driven, where the partner can help drive increased business, accommodate a temporary surge in demand or help to reduce backlog. Whatever the influencing factors are, the organization should have a plan and established process for selecting and managing external service delivery partners.
Service Partner Model
The first step in creating effective partnerships is to define a partner model that the service organization will use to engage external providers. The model will help the organization establish the foundation and operating guidelines for selecting and interfacing with delivery partners. The model will define the business objectives, the circumstances in which partners are used, the criteria for selecting a partner and the guidelines for managing the relationships on an ongoing basis. The key issues associated with the partner management process can be described as follows.
Defining Service Partner Business Objectives
The business objectives of the partner delivery model must be clearly defined to ensure that the appropriate partner can be selected and performance managed effectively. In addition, the business objectives will help the organization establish guidelines for when and in what circumstances to use service delivery partners.
Service Partner Selection Criteria
Establishing well-rounded selection criteria will help the service organization to choose the most appropriate partner to meet delivery needs. The organization can create a partner classification that defines the types of partners necessary for various delivery requirements and then define selection criteria for each class of partner. Requirements might be weighted based on importance and be identified by their scope of impact. For example, a requirement might include the capability to handle a specific volume of requests with within a target timeframe. The scope may include the requirement that the partner be able to deliver services in certain geographies, specific products lines or technologies.
Service Partner Contract Management
Partner relationships must be managed on a continuous basis. The partner contract serves as the basis for managing the relationship. The service organization should assign a responsible party to manage the contractual relationship and administer the terms of the contract. Having a consistent process to manage and administer partner contracts will help ensure that the expectations of the organization and the partner are aligned and that the financial and business terms of the relationship are being met.
Service Partner Readiness
Creating a comprehensive service readiness plan will help ensure the partner comes online in a timely fashion and is fully capable of delivering the contracted services. The plan should include a gap analysis of partner capabilities to identify readiness issues and a process for the ongoing monitoring of progress. The foundation of the plan will include access to up-to-date product information, training requirements, infrastructure requirements, process definition and other items necessary to bring the partner online.
Service Partner Performance Management
In order to ensure the success of the partner program, a solid performance management model must be in place. The model should include financial performance indicators as well as service delivery targets and measures of success. This requires continual review of performance with the partner. Consider establishing a partner scorecard that includes all key financial, customer satisfaction and service delivery measures. As part of the scorecard, highlight performance versus defined targets to help identify opportunities for ongoing improvement.
A well-defined partner model will help the service organization determine partner requirements, the conditions under which it is appropriate to use partners and the steps necessary to identify, select and bring partners online to deliver services on behalf of the company. The model will outline the operating and business principles that govern the relationships and to which the partner organizations must adhere. By creating a comprehensive partner model in advance, the service organization will be in an excellent position to effectively leverage partners to meet delivery needs and manage the relationships to the maximum benefit. The Service Capability & Performance (SCP) Standards include a complete section on how to effectively leverage service delivery partners.