24 Jul Developing a successful, long-term relationship with your implementation partner
by Dylan Ferguson
A great implementation partner is someone who will be invested in your company and expect the same level of investment from you. Think of the best relationships in life: they are built on good communication and healthy dedication no matter what challenges arise. So when you pick your implementation team, you must be able to trust your partner in the trenches and be confident that together you can produce a positive outcome.
To make sure you foster rewarding long-term partnerships, we outline some expectations both you and your partner should have. What should a partner do for you? What should you do for your partner? And finally, we list some best practices to keep the relationship alive. If your implementation partner does not live up to these expectations, you may want to think twice about developing a long-term relationship with that partner.
What your partner should do for you
Possibly the most important habits of a good implementation partner are initiative and leadership. You should never feel like a babysitter to your partner; instead, they should be able to lead you toward better practices and greater success.
A reliable implementation partner will establish peer-to-peer relationships with relevant members of your organization. For example, their VP of Sales should have a working relationship with your VP of Sales, and there should be multiple such points of contact at various levels of management. Many implementation partners may initially put you in contact with only one or two employees with limited authority, but this can cause problems if a concern escalates or your point of contact is unavailable. So seek for a partner like Simplus who is eager to develop multiple peer-to-peer relationships with members of your team.
Your partner should connect you with subject matter experts. Let’s say you’re a Service Cloud shop but are looking at implementing CPQ. Your partner should bring SMEs from a number of different emphases and categories to the table so that even though you might be working with SMEs in Service Cloud, you also have SMEs in CPQ and CLM with whom you can discuss best practices and how you want to plan a project. A good partner will be bringing these people to the table.
Finally, your partner should have a reliable knowledge-transfer method to ensure that a healthy, long-term relationship develops that is capable of existing beyond the bare minimum of business deals. Here at Simplus, our delivery manager and director are involved in key accounts to make sure that our communication lines are always open, that everyone on the team understands your previous projects, and that we are prepared to develop even better service for you in the future. If your current implementation partner cannot provide that level of security and dedication, you may want to find a new partner who will continually improve your relationship and success as well as meet your basic needs.
What you can do for your partner
Just as you expect your partner to be courteous and to co-invest in your company’s success, so should you invest in creating a healthy, long-term relationship with your partner. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure that your partner is not single-threaded. This means that they should have an escalation path up and down your hierarchy in case of serious concerns. Oftentimes, partners feel as if they are unable to raise concerns outside of the department, which can seriously damage the long-term success of important projects and the health of your partner relationship. Giving them access to the appropriate levels of management can prevent this issue and potentially save you a great deal of time and money.
You should also be bringing your implementation partner to project conversations early on. Your partner can suggest valuable best practices and effective ways for approaching the project, and critically analyze whether you have enough information yet for the project to be lucrative. By involving your partner early on, you can make informed business decisions regarding whether to contract with vendors or have your partner build the necessary processes for you. Since each vendor will scope differently, it’s a good idea to be familiar with your options before committing to them.
Finally, get to know the people who are going to work on your project—interview them if possible—and make sure that they feel comfortable with the members of your company they will be working with. Remember that some of the work will need to be done on your side and you’ll need to assemble an appropriate team. If communication issues or personality issues seem likely, consider assigning other people to the project or be prepared to check in with them regularly to make sure that communication is flowing properly.
The best practices for working with a partner
Cultivate a culture of trust with your implementation partner. Trust them until they give you a reason not to, and if a reason arises investigate it deeply to see if it was an honest mistake or a flaw serious enough to require changing partners. Do not continue to work with a partner that you cannot trust. In the long run, being able to freely provide your partner with information and resources will save you a great deal of time and money as you will be less likely to miss key criteria or processes and therefore more likely to succeed. Trust must go both ways, so seek for a partner like Simplus, who will always be transparent and reliable.
Be prepared to address old problems and discover new, better ways of doing things. Your partner wants to create the smoothest programs for you possible, which may require you to let go of old systems and keep an open mind. Some companies insist on integrating their old systems into their new ones on the basis that their needs are unique, but, sadly, this often leads to unnecessary system complexity and huge wastes of time, money, and efficiency. Allow your partner to help you develop a more effective system and be proactive in helping your company overcome bad habits.
If an issue arises, alert your partner while the issue is still small—don’t wait for it to get big. Whether it’s a personality clash or one unexpected call, take care of it as soon as possible and involve your partner in that process. Use the escalation path previously mentioned to ensure that the proper levels of management on both sides are aware of the situation. Partners would rather have picky clients who bring up and deal with small issues than clients who only bring up problems when they’re too big to fix.
One of the biggest appeals of working with an implementation partner is the possibility of developing a long-term relationship with that firm. The longer a partner has been working with you, the more aware they will be of your company’s specific needs and the more trust that can develop between you and them. Working consistently with a partner that you trust reduces the amount of time your employees will have to spend learning new systems or establishing new relationships as well as making it easier to keep records of your projects and information. This, in turn, will save your company time, money, and hassle.
Establishing a productive and trusting relationship with your implementation partner is straightforward once you know what qualities to look for, what courtesies your company should provide, and what to expect in the relationship.
Dylan is Directors of Sales, West here at Simplus. A strong sales leader with over 10 years of consistent business development, goal achievement, and talent development, Dylan is credited with building strong relationships with sales teams to drive strategy and deliver results.