A collaborative approach literally involves two parties “laboring together” to achieve an outcome. Cognet attempts to not only be collaborative once a transition is complete and in production, but also in the beginning during the sales and discovery phase to ensure that the relationship will work for both parties.
What kind of relationship works in an offshore and/or outsourced model?
Is it a Vendor? In most vendor relationships, a product or service is provided to the customer who may have several choices. The customer is “king” and can usually procure the product or service with price being the driving factor for vendor selection. This is not Cognet.
Is it a Partnership? Traditionally, partnerships share both a common equity interest and joint decision making. Many companies abuse the word “partner” to have that more kind and paternal spin on relationships, but the reality is that there is no strong ties of common cause and outcome. This is also not Cognet.
So what makes it a collaborative relationship?
The first step is admitting a couple of key things to yourself before you embark on a global journey, part of a twelve step program to get you past yourself. The first two are:
My current processes are imperfect, and quite possibly not documented or measured today.
My people make mistakes, even if they hide them from me and probably because they aren’t measured.
We all have these issues, hidden or in plain sight, and the common goal is to ensure that they don’t impact a customer and therefore our bottom line. This is exactly why you outsource, but you do it in the right manner. You will more than likely get documentation and measurement you didn’t have before, along with accountability and responsibility for delivery of that work. You let the ISO expert in the building not to point our faults that are already there, but to help improve them in the future through collaboration.
Your processes are just that, yours! However, the work performed crosses many swim lanes from client to departments in your company today. When you plug Cognet in you simply add a swim lane in the collaborative pool. The common goal remains increased customer satisfaction, but now there is now another party in that performance who is accountable at a whole new level.
Once you accept both the imperfections and desire to improve them, collaboration may enter the equation. Your vendor isn’t a vendor, or even a partner, but a part of the organization. They are an extension of your team who works in an integrated fashion with your employees as part of a process. Processes cross departments today in your organization, and in the collaborative model they cross organizations, but the members remain a team with a common purpose.
The result, which may take a while, is that the teams form relationships and ISO, Six Sigma and Continuous Process Improvement become a shared objective of the team. Sure, there may be initial finger pointing of “the vendor screwed up” or “those people don’t know what they are doing”, but when the unemotional focus on improving that process from mistakes catches on, the return on investment is high.
There are certain skills that are required to manage in a collaborative model, as well as roles such as liaisons. The skills can be infectious and mainly include the acceptance of critical or process based thinking. Looking at the numbers and process and solving the problem becomes the common interest, not laying blame. This takes a combination of data and relationship building skills, as well as a willingness of your employees to upgrade their job skills now that they have help, or desire more customer contact. They may not, so you have to choose carefully.
In the end, a collaborative provider is managing your stuff. The combined team of your employees and an outsourcer are simply trying to take what you already have to another level by applying skills and tool sets that you may not have in-house today. They collectively own the process and impact to clients as a team, and the objective is to put the right work in the right location and increase attention to client facing activities in your company. It may not work for everyone and people may leave because of it, but in the end your bottom line and customers will notice the difference, and increase your company’s chance of survival over the long-term.