In many outsourcing engagements there is an ongoing discussion on the need to establish a mutual partnership. And in almost as many situations this leads to disillusion and disappointment with at least one of the parties involved. I think partnership is both overrated and underestimated as a concept and should not be strived for in many scenario’s.
A partnership is something mutual and the fact that two partners-to-be have different expectations from the engagement is usually an indicator for challenges later on. From a vendor point of view, partnership is usually equivalent with “moving up in the value chain” which in itself stands for increased revenue against higher profits. At the same time clients often expect a partnership attitude from their vendors especially when they require performance on top of and beyond contractual agreements. Both parties justify their views by indicating that the services required/delivered are of the highest importance and based on that the relationship should be special.
Peanut butter as an example
An example of the opposite is my relationship towards peanut butter. Those who know me well, will appreciate the fact that peanut butter is an important if not vital part of my life. Abstinence from peanut butter may not prove lethal in the short term but it has a severe negative impact on my personal happiness that I try to avoid. This means in no way that I engage in any kind of partnership with my local supermarket or even feel a significant loyalty to a certain brand of peanut butter. The service is of the utmost importance, the relationship with the vendor is of no consequence to me.
I think there are dozens of examples that show there is no direct 1-on-1 correlation between the importance of the services and the importance of the vendor. To aspire for partnership requires efforts from both parties, effort which in some cases may be better spend in providing high quality services.
Probably situations exist in which a true partnership is the best engagement setup. At the same time many relationships that are positioned as a partnership are in need of some serious counselling. I will elaborate further on the topic of differentiation in engagement models and when these are applicable in a next contribution. In the meantime any examples and your views of this topic are greatly appreciated.