External Partner Relationships: Nurture vs Neglect

Thursday, 10 March 2016 07:04
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Few companies these days haven't yet embraced external innovation as a means of augmenting their internal product development capabilities to realize its benefits. Yet, I perceive that most are missing out on an enormous opportunity to dramatically increase and accelerate these gains. Where are they falling short?

External partner management.

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends...  

External Partner Relationships: Nurture vs Neglect 

Your company has developed an extensive external innovation ecosystem comprised of high caliber external technology providers, technologists and suppliers. It has also has a collected a full raft of external technology leads, with more coming in daily. This is all good, right? Maybe. It depends upon how actively and deftly your company nurtures this valuable ecosystem.   

Some companies already have the right idea: they regularly engage with valued supplier/partners on a semi-regular basis to enable them to share challenges and to work together to help solve them. Clearly, it is in the best interests of all parties for valued partners to help solve client problems, and in doing so, to maintain their valued "insider" status, and also potentially win new business associated with the solutions adopted. It's a good practice and a good start to a broader relationship management strategy.  

However, many companies don't yet do this. Nor do they make time to nurture their external relationships beyond their "inner circle" supplier network. They only reach out to these "outside" parties when they need them, versus seeking to identify opportunities to share value on an ongoing basis. In this, they're missing out on untapped capability.

One of the most common (and possibly also the most obvious) missed opportunities is in management of external technology provider relationships. In this context, I'm not referring to managing correspondence with the odd assortment of garage dwellers that make unsolicited technology submissions consisting of the near-equivalent to an "idea on the back of a cocktail napkin".   

Rather, I'm referring to qualified, sophisticated technology and service providers whose submissions either languish in the review queue or are stalled awaiting actions and or decisions from other internal stakeholders. These folks and their potential contributions are routinely neglected and taken for granted by companies and frankly, these parties get quite frustrated by the inattention showed to them.   

The companies themselves may not feel that they are acting neglectful. Rather, the representatives responsible for these case loads may (and usually do) feel stressed and overtaxed by the extensive list of cases they need to manage. Unfortunately, as in Sales, relationships need to be actively nurtured and not simply managed in order to derive full benefit from them. Otherwise, they wither and die of neglect.   

My point isn't to simply suggest that companies speed up the rate at which they review external submissions (although that would be helpful). Instead, I suggest that companies have a strategy for external relationship management, have the right people in the right roles (many times these are technical people versus business development types who have developed skills and EQ for it), and importantly, they need to view the relationships as potential partnerships and not simply "cases".    

BFS provides its clients with partner relationship services to ensure that external relationships are properly managed and nurtured. I also help to keep "pushing the peanut along" in terms of the individual projects that serve as the current basis for engagement. This helps to ensure timely progress, even when the review queue can be rather daunting.     

Contact me today if you or your company would like to learn more about best practices in external partner relationship management. It is in your best interests to preserve and nurture your investment in your company's external innovation ecosystem.

"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.

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