A frank and open approach is a prerequisite to an open and productive partnership, confirms Klopper. When he joined AkzoNobel he invited his counterpart to a face-to-face meeting, and together they hammered out how a more positive relationship could develop. “We created an ambition, within a time frame. What we believed was needed on both sides to turn it around and sustain it,” recalls Klopper.
All of these facets were turned over and worked on in many more one-to-ones and team sessions and translated into a rigorous plan to turn the partnership to higher levels. “There were several issues, including tangible areas of delivery performance, but there were also issues in non-tangible areas, such as the way team members communicate and work together,” he explains.
The way Klopper sees it, it is vitally important to resolve any personnel issue, not only for the future success of the partnership but for the welfare of the individuals concerned. “For the sake of our people, we have to deploy them in projects that give rather than suck energy,” he adds. An open consultation and self-assessment review of the team was conducted and proved pivotal.
Redefining the team was just the start: optimum behaviours had to be identified and the team trained to practice these through KPIs and coaching provided by a psychologist. The external coach, an expert in high performing teams, taught team members how to improve skills, recognize deviation from desired behaviour and how to better deal with it. Being able and willing to talk about unhelpful emotions that arise is one such skill.
“If you feel frustrated, it is helpful to point out what is happening, discuss it, and then this means you can go back to the content and discuss it more productively,” says Klopper. A DXC colleague, Martin Larsson, a client executive specializing in the automotive sector partnering with NEVS, confirms the primacy of openness and transparency in a successful partnership.
“There needs to be open communication between the customer’s business, the customer’s IT people and the partner. You have to make people feel like they are being listened to and that we are picking up the good ideas that start to flow once the business is given the opportunity to engage and explore options, and seriously think how they want to conduct their business in the long run,” advises Larsson.
“We have to be open and transparent about how we want to work together and what the cost drivers are both for supplier and customer. This means we can compare notes as the project develops and it’s not a ‘black box’ exercise, where everything is agreed and committed in a silo. Instead, we have to be agile and go with the motions and continuous evolution of business goals in a Continuous Improvement Programme.”
As a business makes decisions and market circumstances change, good partners recognize it’s a case of understanding new business concerns and opportunities, but not breaking the schedule. “You need the ability to pick up new ideas, evaluate the urgency and business case and put them on the execution road map.
“The NEVS project and partnership enjoys clear and outspoken sponsorship from top management at the client company. This ensures that everyone has the same understanding of the company’s ambitions and primary business objectives, what the business can afford to do at a certain time – and equally important – what not to do,” concludes Larsson.
Partnership will be scoped in many different ways in digital business, but openness and transparency will be non-negotiable as these two case studies demonstrate.
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Author: Helen Beckett
Helen Beckett is the Community Manager of the Business Value Exchange. She has been a writer and editor for over 20 years and takes a particular interest in the challenges facing the CIO in today’s business climate.