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As the media landscape expands and the technical needs of organizations grow, partnering with highly specialized experts is increasingly necessary to succeed. The amount asked of individuals today is so much greater than it was in the past that having true domain expertise in every facet of your role is nearly impossible. But how do you ensure you’re working with the right people? With so much on the line, what steps can you take to set yourself up for success?
Below is a list of questions to ask yourself while engaging with outside resources to set your team up for success.
1. Does this project require a partner or a vendor?
Anyone who has been on the “sell” side of solutions should be very familiar with this concept. I know the above may read as a trivial distinction, but trust me, having been on both sides of the aisle, it is not.
There are certain needs in your organization that you simply require a blunt object (i.e., a capable vendor) to tackle, which don’t require a lot of back and forth to coordinate. They range from security passes to get into the building to dependable internet, just to name a couple of examples. For clearly-defined needs like these, you need reliable vendors.
Other tasks need a more collaborative approach. They require strategy and the ability to work fluidly as needs become more clearly defined or shift entirely. Genuine partnership in this vein is defined by open lines of communication and a constant feedback loop as teams work closely towards a goal that, while scoped, can be malleable.
This tends to be especially true when rolling out a new software or policy to multiple tenants of an organization, as opposed to provisioning single teams. Understanding that different users have different use cases for the same “object” requires a deep understanding that goes beyond a traditional vendor relationship.
2. Is my RFP too prescriptive for genuine partnership?
One thing I have learned time and time again is that I don’t know what I don’t know. I’ve come to understand that as an organization, if you identify a gap in your process or offering and don’t know how to fix it, you should make that clear in your RFP.
Getting caught up on hyper-specific features instead of focusing on the fundamental business ask is commonplace in many of the RFPs I have come across and even written myself. Unfortunately, it can handcuff your future partners. Just because you do something a certain way today, doesn’t mean it should continue that way in the future.
The bottom line is this: When you get excessively granular in your RFP, specifying out even the smallest details, you convey that you don’t actually need a partner but instead want a vendor to execute what you already know is the best path forward. So, when writing an RFP in search of a true partner, state the business outcome you are trying to achieve, and allow prospective providers to show you how they would tackle the issue. This will give you a better picture of their capabilities and create a path to true collaboration, not dictatorship.
3. Are we giving our partners enough autonomy to take us forward?
Once you’ve onboarded a partner to own a project or function that you’ve previously determined they’re best equipped to handle, you need to get out of their way and let them get to work. Surrendering control to external teams isn’t easy, but success often requires it.
If you trust your RFP process, then you need to trust the partners you’ve selected to come with you on the journey. Ideally you’ve chosen a person or a team that has successfully undertaken similar projects and understands the pitfalls that may arise, which means you should listen carefully to what they say. Having a collaborative approach and occasionally failing together is a better, more productive state than creating tension and distrust by micro-managing.
Knowing what you need is a great strength. Recognizing you might not know how to get there on your own is an even greater one.
Ultimately, partnerships have a large role to play in driving your business forward and serving end users, and success hinges on being strategic about how you design and execute them. So, be thoughtful about where your organization is strong and where it could be stronger, and be strategic about what you ask for and of whom you ask it. Then trust yourself, your team, and your chosen partners to deliver.