One of the most fundamental characteristics for determining the maturity of a vendor-client relationship is transparency between parties. This aspect of the relationship reveals how much trust is involved, which in turn will drive the partnership’s evolution. True transparency and trust will result in success for both sides and will enable those all-important environmental features of investment and innovation to flourish.
Transparency in this regard speaks to information and exposure offered up from either side. From the client side, that may be information related to their technology stack, plans, objectives, challenge areas, organization details, vendor strategies, and other similar processes. From the supplier side, such information might include their organizational structure, interest and commitment to the client, capabilities, and investment areas, to name a few.
The information that is often shared is defined by which parties from either side are in play. Consider the diagram below, which outlines the amount of transparency and information that is shared depending on which levels in the organizations are building their relationship.
To the left is all information, confidential or not, related to the client side. To the right is the same for the supplier side. The middle is void of any transparency and in most cases where all relationships start. As the client starts to share information and becomes more transparent, the supplier’s understanding of the client starts to build. Then, as the supplier does the same, that same understanding is reciprocated.
Top Level Transparency
When considering the external resourcing environment, the CIO from the client side and the vertical head from the supplier side often engage in conversation, but the amount of transparency shared at this level might be limited,so as to ensure both parties stay interested in each other, while it’s the lower level people that often dig into the specifics of projects and find opportunities to do business together.
A good meeting between the CIO and the supplier should result in both sides feeling committed to working together, being focused on business priorities from both sides, and walking away looking to influence their respective sides to further the relationship and involvement together.
Further down the chain, there is another level of engagement when the supplier is looking to work with the client by way of an RFI, RFP, or other mutual agreement. Here, the primary players might be the account lead and RFP execution team from the supplier side, along with the procurement function and project leadership teams from the client side.
The exchange here is more detailed, as the specific objectives, requirements, and schedule are shared by the client while the vendor starts to share more about their capabilities, organization, culture, differentiators, operating models, and references. All of this is shared by the supplier in the interest of winning the business while the client seeks to build confidence in which supplier is best suited for this work.
Now, consider there is final contract on the table and a specific engagement is fully defined, awarded, and initiated between supplier and client. Now you have executing teams from the supplier engaging with the IT project teams, and possibly even the business teams, on a daily basis, which is driving project objectives. There is far more visibility on both sides concerning environmental understanding, provisioning, process rules and regulations, and, of course, project requirements. The supplier starts to expose their resources and their execution prowess, while the client exposes their team makeup, process and project rigor, technical capabilities, and more. The more this sort of information becomes transparent, the better the relationship and expectations are aligned. Confidence and trust are clear outcomes.
Mutually Beneficial Transparency
Perhaps most important are the levels of transparency between the supplier’s account manager and business relationship manager, and the client’s vendor management organization. Between these constituents, it’s vital to have the highest levels of transparency possible. Here is where the strategy for both the supplier and the client need to be discovered, massaged, defined, and propagated into both organizations. Value wants to be extracted from the environment. Good vendor management will work with the supplier to determine what their value equation is, how they would be best aligned into the client organization, and how their investments can be best targeted to maximize payoff. Meanwhile, the needs of the business are evaluated for which model might make the most sense. The logical and appropriate association of the business needs with the suppler capability and interest need to be matched up in the most beneficial way for both parties.
Transparency is critical for any of that to happen, because misleading information about supplier capability or interests, or clients not providing enough details or access to enable the supplier to succeed are major components of project failure.
Transparency Challenges & Failures
Clients experience project challenges when failing to provide enough detail of understanding and expectations to the vendor, or when the work was effectively thrown over the wall to the suppler expecting them to somehow succeed. Suppliers, on the other hand, may avoid divulging proper and timely information about their own performance when the project starts to go sideways. They may believe they can throw more people at it or work nights and weekends to get caught up instead of being transparent with their performance. By doing the latter, the client is fully aware, engaged, and more than likely willing to help with whatever is necessary to keep the project on track. Not providing the right amount of transparency from one side or another can spell doom to project success.
Can you see transparency? Not exactly, but you can certainly sense it. Always look for reciprocity with the transparency you are willing to share. It needs to come from both sides somewhat equally to optimize its benefits. Provide the right amount of transparency and you can feel the confidence grow, ultimately seeing the opportunities evolve. You can feel the trust between supplier and client which will promote investment and innovation while extinguishing doubt, anxiety, and conservatism you may have. It can control the governance level you believe you need to run your organization with an external resourcing strategy. Depending on your role in organization from either side, providing the right level of transparency and expecting the same in return helps to build a far better foundation for which to develop the client-vendor relationship, leading to mutual business success.