Happy clients are not always good partners. The best advice for companies looking at supply chain technology solution partners is to find one that does not just acquiesce to every want, but one that looks at the bigger picture to ensure that you can succeed in the short and long-term. In this week’s ‘Supply Chain Talk,’ Arkieva CEO Harpal Singh discusses what makes a good technology partnership, drawing from his years of first-hand experiences.
The idea of a partnership for a vendor could mean having their hands in your pocket for a long time. If you ask the customer, their expectation is that the vendor will provide anything they want at the drop of a hat. None of these are the basis for a partnership.
Thirty years ago, when I was wearing the client hat, we were trying to install one of the first comprehensive scheduling solutions at a large plant in Texas. Performance was terrible. We had the choice of two hardware vendors who both acknowledged the problem. The first vendor (our vendor of choice) offered to consider the problem and bill us accordingly. The second vendor made some phone calls, brought in a new box, set it up and solved our problem. I leave it to you all to figure out who became the vendor of choice for the next ten years after that.
PS: The first vendor is out of business, and the second still is a profitable company.[Read Previous: Supply Chain Talk: Controlling Working Capital and Inventory – Is There a Pot of Gold at The End of the Rainbow? ]
Two Critical Aspects of a Supply Chain Technology Partnership
Over the years, I have learned that there are two critical things that make a supply chain technology partnership work. The first is a willingness to be invested in the other party’s success. The vendor must want to make the client succeed, not because client success translates into increased revenue, but as an intrinsically held belief. The second is for both parties to get beyond making every interaction a transaction. Sure, transactions are necessary to regulate the exchange of money, but reducing every improvement, every problem-solving exercise, and every coaching and training task to a monetary transaction erodes the partnership relationship.
Some years ago, I started a client project with the naïve belief that surely everyone wants to be more efficient and that we could align around the common goal of improving resource utilization and saving money. This was not the case. The client’s goal was to demonstrate that they could initiate a software project, define a process, and demonstrate that they could run the process successfully. The actual impact of the system was secondary. Wanting to get paid, we, of course, acceded to their goals.
In the words of another wise old man, “the operation was a success, but the patient died.”[Read Also: Supply Chain Talk: Do You Have a Supply Chain Knowledge Repository? ]
All the boxes were checked, and the system was successfully delivered, but it was never used. This could never be the basis of a successful partnership because the successful delivery of a project without benefits was never a part of our belief system. The moral of this tale is that successful partnerships can only succeed if there is a foundation of common beliefs.
Like all relationships, partnerships are about honesty, a willingness to acknowledge mistakes, and a desire to work on shortcomings with the hope of success over the long haul. As a vendor, we have benefitted immensely over the years. Our partners have helped surface business and technology issues that have ended up as successful products; they have tested new features, helped us focus our resources, and quite frankly have sustained us financially through tough times.
Happy clients are not always good partners.
I keep telling our newer consultants that their goal is not to make the client happy but to make them successful. Making a client successful means pushing back when you must, understanding client motivation, and going beyond client “wants” to client “needs.” It means keeping abreast of technology, proactively matching client needs to available functionality, and understanding enough of the business to explain the impact of potential changes. For the client, it means knowing that the vendor is not perfect, that you should evaluate the vendor on long-term performance, and expect that when you have a crisis, your problem will be treated as their problem.[You May Also Like: Supply Chain Talk: Using Excel for Planning – 4 Telltale Signs That You’ve Pushed Excel to The Limits ]
Have a supply chain topic that you would like us to discuss? Join the Arkieva Supply Chain Talk with Arkieva CEO Harpal Singh. Add a comment below or send a tweet to @Arkieva with #ArkievaSCT, or email email@example.com.