By: Greg Coleman, Service Strategies
Many service organizations today depend on outside vendors and partners to carry out their service delivery activities. The decision to use partners for service delivery activities can be influenced by any number of factors including financial, resource, geographic or product related circumstances. The decision to leverage partners could be skills driven, where a partner has certain skills that the service organization has yet to develop, market driven, where the partner can help drive increased business or accommodate a temporary surge in activity or driven by other factors influencing the situation. Whatever the influencing factors are, the organization should have a sound plan and established process for effectively selecting and managing external service delivery partners.
The first step in creating effective partnerships is to define a partner model that the organization will use to engage external service providers. The model will help the organization establish the foundation and operating guidelines for selecting and interfacing with delivery partners. This model will define the business objectives and establish guidelines for the circumstances in which partners are used to deliver services, the criteria for selecting a partner and the guidelines for managing the relationships on an ongoing basis. An expanded review of some key areas involved in the partner management process follows.
Defining Business Objectives
The business objectives of the partner delivery model must be clearly defined to ensure 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.
Partner Selection Criteria
Establishing well-rounded selection criteria will help the organization to choose the most appropriate partner to meet service 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 specific volumes of service requests within target timeframes. The scoping may include the requirement that the capability be available in certain geographies or for specific products lines or technologies
Partner relationships must be managed on a continuous basis. One vehicle useful in managing these relationships is the partner contract. The service organization should assign a responsible party to mange 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.
After a partner is selected, the organization will need to get the partner ready to deliver services on their behalf. Creating a comprehensive readiness plan will help ensure the partner comes on line in a timely fashion and be 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, customer records, training requirements, infrastructure requirements, process definition and other items necessary to bring the partner online. The readiness plan should identify personnel responsible for each step of the plan and a process for testing the readiness of the partner.
In order to ensure the success of the partner delivery 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 to ensure 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 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.