What are the best practices for building partnerships?

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Former Chief Technology and People Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
There are a lot of layers to this, but the guiding principle for me is extreme transparency with whomever those partners are, whether things are going well or not. Even if a partnership had been well supported for a period of time, it could be affected by a sudden change in direction or politics that has nothing to do with whether they were a good partner or not. It's always the CIO that has to have those tough conversations.

You know you're going to end up working with these providers again and again, it's never just one and done. The best policy is to be very clear with them that while you’re happy to talk about what they could have done differently, the reality is the circumstances are outside anyone’s absolute control. It’s a change in strategy that says that this partnership in this area is where my organization wants to go.
Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees
The framework that has helped me is to try to be as candid and transparent as possible with my vendors and tell them that this is a partnership. This is what I want to accomplish. These are my business outcomes. These are my KPIs. This is what my definition of success is for the entire technology stack. And then I tell them what I want to get out of the partnership at each of these layers.

I have an objective—not emotional—conversation about whether their product can actually provide those features or help me with that particular cause. Invariably, some vendors just want to keep the business, so they say, "Of course we can help." The next question that I ask them is, "Is that feature on your roadmap? Is that something you want to get to? Because if you're going to do it just for me, then it's a one-off thing and not a partnership. It is me dictating what I want and you bending over backwards." Eventually that power struggle will become toxic or problematic, or they won't invest much when they start to realize that it’s becoming costly.
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Partner in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

It's not about ending partnerships. It's about saying, "We have both a use case, and a project/initiative that we need to have delivered, and we don't think you're the right partner for it. That doesn't detract from all that you've done. It just means that we have to think of it in a more concerted fashion. And whilst we appreciate your efforts, it's probably not going to work."

CIO in Finance (non-banking), 51 - 200 employees

Yeah, you might have someone who’s "a startup person" and when the company scales it gets too bureaucratic for them.

CIO in Finance (non-banking), 51 - 200 employees
It's about people. Treat your colleagues, your employees, and folks that roll into you the same as vendors. We're all people. I generally try to take the shortcuts in my mind: however I want to treat internal people, that’s how I will treat external people, so that I'm consistent.
1 Reply
Advisor | Investor | Former CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed

In my eBay days, believe it or not, my Microsoft partner was outstanding. She actually helped us. For those of us that have gone through Microsoft EA renewals, if we had a choice between a root canal and an EA renewal, we’d probably go for the root canal. But she was incredibly helpful.

Partner in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
My strategy has always been to be transparent, but signal early. Signaling is something that I recommend highly, both to CIOs and to others. You need to be able to say, "Look, there's a bunch of projects that we're doing that take more time, and whilst I appreciate you wanting to partner with us, it requires a lot more effort. It's not a matter of us getting bigger discounts, it just requires quite a concerted effort from a team that wants to be able to do it."

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