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Collaboration across service providers

Creating a “One-team” culture across all service providers

When there are multiple parties in your ecosystem, it goes without saying that these parties must work together to achieve the common goals of your outsourcing. This collaboration is successful when we develop ways of bridging organizational and personal differences and working together towards that common goal. Again, there is no “one size fits all” approach, as with the onboarding of a service provider, but also here are a number of ways and techniques you can use to achieve the objectives of collaboration between parties.

These objectives are:

  • Coherent end2end service delivery, in which all parties work together towards a common goal
  • Positive and effective interactions between service providers, service integrator and the customer organization
  • Early identification of gaps or pain points in collaboration and service delivery

The ecosystem and the relationships between the customer organization, service integrator and service providers create a unique environment. From sourcing and contract negotiations to collaboration, governance and operational management.

There are various considerations that need to be taken into account at an early stage:

  • First and foremost, the cultural aspect is extremely important. An effective ecosystem is underpinned by relationships and desired behaviour. Collaboration and trust are important elements to stimulate a positive culture.
  • Collaboration is a human activity that does not just arise spontaneously. You have to think about how you see this collaboration and design it further.
  • Furthermore, the quality of collaboration is difficult to evaluate objectively. It is something you have to feel. You have to shape it and support it.

In this article I highlight a number of best practices to shape and support the collaboration between your various service providers.

Best practices to support the collaboration between service providers

Unite behind a Shared Goal

The ecosystem can only be successful if all parties involved in providing the service unite behind a shared goal. That shared goal is made based on the customer’s requirements for that service.
This is not always easy, as it might happen that you are working with an external service integrator, who actually is a competitor of one of the service providers with another customer. Nevertheless, collaboration and trust are an absolute must. It is important to identify and deal with any conflict in a timely manner.

Set up coordination

Wherever there is a relationship between different parties, their activities require some form of coordination. This can include drawing up clear communication of the vision and objectives, processes, tooling, onboarding workshops, …

Defining Collaboration Agreements

You can reinforce this with collaboration agreements. In such a collaboration agreement you define:

  • The objectives of collaboration
  • How you are going to work together
  • Who has which responsibilities
  • How to measure collaboration
  • Which incentives you might have to promote collaboration

Building collaborative teams

Finally, we have the building of collaborative teams. According to the SIAM Professional Body of Knowledge, there are eight factors that support this:

Leaders can encourage collaboration by making visible investments in things that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration. Examples include open floor plans to promote communication or allow different parties to work on the same floor to avoid silos.

At companies where the senior executives demonstrate highly collaborative behaviour themselves, teams collaborate well.

Mentoring and coaching people is very important, especially on an informal basis. Help people to build the network they need to work together.

There is a well-known saying “Recruit for attitude, train for skills”. Hire people with the right attitude instead of the right skills and improve their skills. After all, it is much easier to learn skills than to change someone’s attitude. Teach your employees, who have the right attitude, the right skills on how to build relationships, communicate and solve conflicts in a constructive way.

When people feel they are part of a community, they are much more comfortable to reaching out to others and more likely to share knowledge.

There is a lot of discussion about whether a team leader is better task oriented or relationship oriented to lead a successful team. Actually, it is a combination of the two. For example, task orientation works well at the start of a project, but it is better to shift to relationship orientation as soon as the work is underway.

When too many team members are strangers, people may be reluctant to share knowledge. A good practice is to put at least a few people who know one another on the team.

Collaboration increases when the roles and tasks for each individual in a team are clear and unambiguous. Then they no longer need to invest energy in clarifying ambiguities but can focus on completing their tasks.

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Jordy Mertens

COO – Senior Service Management Consultant