In looking at the marketing collateral for most service providers, one cannot help but notice that the “partner” keyword is sprinkled across quite a few places. Yet rarely does one find an explanation of how this “partnership” works. That lack of specificity makes me wonder how much of a partnership mindset is truly in their core ethos and culture or if it is someone in marketing working in earnest to check all the boxes.
At Netgain, we take the concept of “partnership” to heart and work to engrain this into our culture and our DNA across our actions and priorities.
Let’s start with the fundamental question – what does it mean to be a partner? For us, a successful partnership with our clients implies three things:
I elaborate on each area below.
1. Alignment of Goals
Right up front, as part of the sales and solutioning process, we explicitly seek to understand and validate the motivations and drivers of our clients and the associated definition of success. This seems obvious, but we still hear from prospective clients that more often than not the sales and solutioning process – and particularly in IT services – starts and ends with the service provider’s capabilities.
Yet in our experience, while the core set of “must-haves” for our clients might be relatively similar, the nuance of what they are trying to achieve strategically varies significantly. That variance can have major impact on their objectives as an IT organization. For example: Are they seeking to improve current service levels, unlock tangible efficiency, improve the end-user experience, address security or compliance concerns?
While the answer broadly may encompass all these dimensions, there is always one factor that trumps the list. Understanding this clearly and positioning this as the fundamental anchor to the overall structure becomes key to both upfront alignment and ongoing calibration of success via good governance. This is also something we come back to repeatedly, both in our internal account reviews and quarterly business reviews with the client.
2. Shared Responsibilities
With our most successful, long-term clients, a recurring theme that emerges in the feedback is their view of Netgain as a seamless extension of their IT. For us, this is a tremendous validation of value and something we strive to articulate and structure upfront as part of the engagement.
Knowing that each client may be at a different point in their digital transformation journey, we seek to understand the strengths and capabilities of their existing internal IT talent. This helps us structure and personalize Netgain’s solution portfolio to incorporate existing capabilities and assets, thereby extending, supplementing, and where possible, enhancing client capabilities and their overall experience.
The output of our efforts is manifested in the form of a shared responsibility framework (sample below) and is further supplemented by a co-management model that provides the Internal IT team with access and visibility into the underlying infrastructure.
3. Proactive Mindset
We feel this is the most fundamental test of partnership – are we looking out for the interests of the client proactively and going beyond the reactive dimension of support? Doesn’t every service provider claim they provide exceptional support? While we sweat the little details that go into delivering a great client experience, we view this as table stakes in the service provider value proposition. Rising above the sea of service providers for us implies embedding a proactive mindset into our culture. We reward and celebrate when our engineers go the extra mile and connect the extra dot.
As part of engraining the proactive mindset deeper in our value proposition, we also incorporate the role of a Technical Solutions Engineer (TSE). This experienced technician interfaces with the primary client IT stakeholders while sitting alongside the support team. As part of their role, they gain a deeper view of the client processes and infrastructure while being abstracted from the day-to-day operational workflow. The TSE is more focused on the bigger picture aspects of the solution including ongoing health and capacity review, documentation, scale, security, and other key considerations important to evolving and scaling the solution.
At the end of the day, successful partnerships don’t just happen. It warrants a structured approach with significant bidirectional effort, commitment, and sweating the little details.