More and more organizations and tech companies recur to strategic sourcing as a key practice to improve efficiencies and competitiveness. This practice reduces costs and allows a company to focus on its core competencies. More importantly, however, it gives these businesses a competitive advantage to “buy” the technical skills, knowledge and experience that they need—something that would take far longer to develop in house. (And that is assuming they are able to find and hire the right talent in the first place.)
Traditional vendor selection practices, like RFPs, are excellent for gathering and evaluating competitive details, such as costs, experiences, and references, but can be limited in their scope. These selection processes alone cannot guarantee a successful relationship or expected returns.
Before assessing others, assess yourself
One key element that is missing in the strategic sourcing process is a self-assessment. This introspective exercise allows companies to evaluate their own readiness and organizational maturity levels—essential requirements to support a healthy and effective working relationship with the selected vendor. Only when a company truly understands itself can a vendor or co-development partnership work.
Here are some of the areas and internal processes that companies should evaluate before working with a new vendor:
Project or product documentation
Review existing documentation. Is it ready to be shared with a third party? Assess its completeness, accuracy and quality. Will it effectively communicate what is needed for the shared project? Product or project information does not need to be restrained to lengthy physical documents, but can be kept online or on collaborative platforms. What matters is to have a defined mechanism in place to communicate and exchange information between the team members.
Processes and metrics
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. To effectively manage a project and the effectiveness of a working relationship, organizations need to have their own defined guidelines, including how to evaluate deliverables, measure progress and access performance. Do not expect the vendor to be the only one to define processes and quality metrics.
Change is the only constant in today’s business. Market needs, technology, strategic decisions, are just a few of the ever-changing areas. To be successful, organizations must be able to adapt and adjust efficiently. If change is inevitable, then companies must become better at evaluating, implementing and communicating changes within their organization.
Healthy working relationships are not defined by a contract. Project stakeholders must address potential risks, solve challenges, present different perspectives and accept deviations from the original plan. How this is handled defines the nature of the relationship with a vendor. Treat vendors as colleagues and true partners, adopting open and honest communication from the start.
Don’t forget the human component. Think of projects as marathons, not short sprints. Successful projects result from constant, collaborative team effort—not heroic performances by individuals. When assessing your existing team, think like a sports coach: do they work as a team? Are staff members “coachable” and able to collaborate well with others? An honest, internal assessment of your existing team will reveal their openness to collaboration—and predict the inevitable success (or failure) of any co-development partnerships.
Applying a self-assessment of your company will strengthen future working relationships with vendors, but also benefit your company now. A thorough review allows you to uncover and address gaps, improve internal processes, strengthen communication, and encourage team collaboration.
Years of experience working in the tech industry, collaborating with both clients and partners, led to the development of these tips and insights—but I know they are only a starting point. Is a self-assessment something your company undertakes or would like to? We would love to hear about your experience or discuss any way we can help you complete one of your own.