Offering to “Partner” with a customer has to be one of the most over-baked weasel words in the enterprise software and services marketplace - particularly where information governance consulting services are involved. Yes, you can have systems for partnering that cover communication, escalation, accountability, shared risk and oversight, but at the end of the day it isn’t really partnering if you don’t feel the organization on the other side of the table cares about your success. I would argue that caring about success is the most important ingredient. When you know without a shadow of a doubt that someone (or an organization) cares about your success, you might not even call them a partner because they’re more like family. Caring about customer success is something we select our team members for, maintain ongoing leadership development standards for and it’s something we know has generated our most significant marketing results.
Our company is owned and managed by people who care about the customer because we are practitioners rather than an institutional investor driven organization. Our deep experience in the data managment and information governance gives our leadership team a noticeable patience and license to do what is right for the customer thereby generating a higher level of trust. I’ll admit that isn’t revolutionary. There’s a good reason many markets are trending back to privately held company positions (Dell, Informatica, etc.). In markets that are in evolution or transition, companies with short-term interested ownership make short-term and sometimes desperate decisions. The data and analytics market is going through just such an evolution with dramatic changes in the definitions of customer wants and needs. When you look across the table at the team that is selling, delivering and managing your results, you want to see in their eyes the experience and worry for your success.
When you think you’ve picked the partner for you, do the research to learn what that really means. Big investors in your pocket doesn’t necessarily mean financial viability. Sometimes investors sign up for over-inflated expectations too. Viability comes from repeat business and a core vision that aligns to customer expectations regardless of whether the investment market understands the need. Most importantly, what does your partner leave you with when they go away? Are you left with a dependency and a distraction, or a system, a capability and a community? Have you learned from them, and were they wiling to learn from you? It sounds strange but caring about the customer is hard to do. It means having awkward conversations that put politics to the side and focus on results. It means knowing that you are there to help an organization with problems because you never get customers without problems.
The next time an organization offers to partner with you, make sure you can look them in the eye and see the worry for your success. Offering to partner shouldn’t be used as another way to say “trust me” to the unsuspecting. We have been fortunate enough to see many of our customers through a promotion path of accomplishments, and they have taught us regularly what it means to be supportive and to partner for success. For the real lessons in partnering, I would invite you to discuss the topic with some of them in the Data Leadership forum or our DATUM User Community (DUC).