As a consultant, would you recommend your cli- ent to outsource their most treasured process, the core of their value chain? If your answer is
no- you’re not alone. You would probably be thrown out
by your client before you could spell KPI. But you also
know that for your clients it may be hard to let go of
some processes they should be outsourcing. Additionally, in the modern, globalized world, simply outsourcing
is not enough. With a tightly knitted bond, the outsourcing relationship can become a real value differentiator.
What is the solution? How do you find the right partner
that your client is willing to outsource this process to?
The answer is not necessarily who your client could
outsource to, but how. IBM, in cooperation with Van-tagePartners, has developed a method to facilitate the
how. With Relationship Alignment, your client won’t
need to worry that outsourcing an IT process crucial
to their business will be a risk to them. Relationship
Alignment ensures that both your client and their IT
outsourcing partner forge a relationship built on trust.
WHAT IS TRUST, ANYWAY?
Virtually every business relationship is built on a contract. But contracts can span hundreds of pages and a relationship will still fail. In fact, the most common source
of failure is not the contract but a lack of trust or other
soft factors. Contracts are too rigid to be a north star in
everyday transactions between the partners. The truth is
that trust is expensive. It takes time to develop trust, and
a great part of it is relationship specific. If a relationship
is lost, most of the investments made in trust are not salvageable. Deciding to trust a partner on a level that goes
beyond risk management is therefore a strategic decision.
Deciding to begin a strategic partnership is not a
trivial matter. However, the benefits of a working strategic relationship are reason enough to consider it:
Whether your client hopes to achieve synergies in development or wants to outsource to a specialist.
Relationship Alignment makes this manageable. Our
approach gets stakeholders on board and analyzes the
existing (or launching) relationship quantitatively and
qualitatively. Using the analysis, we plan a two-day
workshop in which we put expectations on the table and
work on aligning the relationship. Parts of the analysis
are repeated on a regular basis to monitor the health of
the relationship. The goal of the workshop is to develop
a relational contract, which supplements the existing le-
gal contract with behavioral norms, thus creating trans-
parency which is an essential prerequisite for trust.
HOW DO YOU DO RELATIONSHIP ALIGNMENT?
Relationship Alignment encompasses five steps.
The first step, preparation, gathers the necessary support from stakeholders on both sides of the partnership:
the outsourcing provider and the client. This support is
crucial because Relationship Alignment requires not
only time from both sides, but more importantly the
willingness to change something about the relationship.
If neither partner feels they need to change something
about the relationship, Relationship Alignment cannot
work. The goal of Relationship Alignment, instead, is to
work out what exactly needs to change to make the relationship work to both partners’ advantage. Further, the
preparation phase is also used to gather data about the
relationship from the executive sponsors in preliminary
The second step, analysis, involves in-depth interviews and a survey to fully understand the relationship.
IBM Relationship Alignment:
Use Your Outsourcing Relationship as a Value Differentiator