This blog series discusses the four dimensions of potential conflict in a managed services agreement (http://blog.ciber.com/2013/managed-services-complexities/: content complexity, supply chain complexity, contract complexity, and relationship complexity. In this episode I would like to address the issue of relationship complexity.
A newlywed´s classic mistake is the belief that one only marries his spouse. In fact, you get married with the whole family, which is important to take into account at every opportunity. A happy marriage requires understanding and careful balancing of the entire environment. This small example demonstrates that simple bilateral relationships in life are the exception, not the rule. Managed services relationships are no different.
Again and again I hear from consultant colleagues that they have built up a fruitful, trusting relationship with their clients. At the same time, a client recently complained that they do not realize what we do and what we spend their money for. So we ask ourselves: how can we close that gap?
First, let me share a small view on the key features of such a relationship. This view consists of four parties, each with specific interests:
• The customer’s business departments are the ultimate end-users, and the main contact of our subject matter experts (or SMEs). They want to be served as quickly and competently as possible. This ranges from solving their everyday problems through the implementation of specific requests to the consultation process regarding the optimal use and development of their IT landscape.
• The customer’s IT department seeks to ensure a high level of satisfaction of the departments and at the same time to control costs. Often they fear being left behind. They have a natural desire to represent their own value within the company, although, in a managed services relationship, they do not provide direct IT services: their focus is the management of IT suppliers.
• The Ciber subject matter experts (SMEs) have a dual charter: to fulfill the client’s expectations as well as the formalities of the contract (see previous episodes). They have a very strong interest to reduce the complexity of everyday work.
• The Ciber service manager is the bridge between customer and Ciber, trying to balance all the formal and informal aspects of the relationship and to draw on the right resources as needed. He must always be vigilant, intentional, and able to demonstrate achievement of all contractual agreements. As the relationship manager, their main requirement is to keep in touch with all stakeholders, understand their roles and responsibilities, and to involve them as necessary.
Of course, information transfer is only one of the factors for a successful relationship: commitment, accountability, compliance, and communication rules, foresight, understanding of the needs of the customer and respect are the glue that holds together the heterogeneous structure.
Regular direct contact between all customer functions and Ciber´s SME is essential for a functioning relationship. Ultimately, managed services is “people business”. To quote a client about Ciber’s recipe for success in relationship management: “We feel it is very important that Ciber respects its client and is willing and able, if necessary, to change.”