Partnerships are about relationships that require foundational trust among everyone involved. How do you know whether or not there’s trust between your IT partner and your team? Does your IT partner take the time to learn your company’s culture? Do they speak your language?
Cultural compatibility is important, and there is no “one and done” recipe to establish a shared understanding. It’s about building a long-term relationship where you continuously learn from one another to deliver results. A successful partner takes the time to understand your internal operations. You’ll know you’re on the right path when your IT partner demonstrates a solid understanding of your business and growth plan by actively collaborating with you and your team. Your IT partner shares, recommends, and helps develop tools and processes to innovate and automate your business in order to drive flexible, game-changing solutions.
As with any relationship, nurturing business partnerships takes time and effort. Building engagement between people from different organizations requires that you invest in the time it takes to plan together.
Ways to build engagement:
Share openly: A successful partnership with your IT partner requires mutual trust and open lines of communication. In a partnership, you open up your company’s vulnerabilities around secure data, intellectual property or process flaws, for example. Only when an IT partner has a full and accurate picture of your business will they know how to best serve you and your team.
Clarify roles: As you forge a new relationship with your IT partner, consider how you continue to manage the expectations of your internal IT team. Keep in mind that you’re strengthening two kinds of relationships here: the relationship between your team and your new IT partner and the dynamics within your existing team. Inc advises that you as the leader have patience, flexibility and encourage mutual feedback: “When you give your workers honest feedback (positive or negative, so long as it's constructive), it shows that you're genuinely invested in their development. When workers give you feedback and you sincerely listen to it (and/or act upon it), they'll feel more empowered, and more secure in their positions.”
Make it about the employee: This goes hand in hand with building trust. According to Forbes, “engaged employees aren’t just motivated by money, status, or power — they are motivated by shared values, trust, mission, and purpose.” Engage and inspire employees by giving them the “why” to their work — and why they should care — rather than just the “what.” Forbes further writes that “engagement is a journey, not a destination. It’s work. You have to get up every day determined to be more engaged, a better leader.” Share your bigger picture business ideas with your internal IT team. When they know more of the “why,” they’ll be invested in helping to develop the fresh technological tools and relationships with your partners that you need to thrive.
Grow together: Growing your business to be more competitive means you (as a leader) are adaptable to change — you can adopt new solutions and embrace new approaches. You trust your IT partner to help you move in the right direction by setting engagement goals and metrics. You trust that changing responsibilities of your internal IT team (towards driving business, away from keeping the lights on) will facilitate digital transformation and make your business more successful and sustainable.
Create a collaborative environment: Collaborative engagement requires dedicated work, including the time, training, and resources that are necessary day to day. This means also retaining a dedicated internal IT staff. As you offload your foundational IT needs to your new partner, focus on your current team members’ strengths rather than their weaknesses, and be positive in your interactions with them. Allow your team members to discover their own potential by showing your team what they’re capable of, even if it may seem impossible to them.