Kick Starting An Associate Enabled Delivery Model
Some weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited by one of the largest Global SI’s to attend a strategic off site meeting. This SI has, like many of its competitors, been looking at how they can be more consulting driven in their go to market for their wider IT and Business services. There is nothing new here in that such an approach has been part of the strategy of most global SI’s for the last decade or so. The big difference here was that this SI wanted to explore more effective delivery models to their clients, and in particular incorporating the use of Associates both in the sales process and delivery.
Having made the decision to change their delivery model to make it more Associate centric, the question was – how do they crash the learning curve or how do they kick start such a model? From my own experience in working with several global SI’s, and leading the largest Associate based network consulting company in the UK, I was able to highlight 6 key criteria to help crash this learning curve.
- Mindset – this is fundamental; the SI has to make a decision to do this for the benefit of themselves and their clients. This should be a company-wide decision and not left to individuals to decide if they want to use it or not. It needs full commitment and should not be treated as “well we will try it on a few deals and see how it goes”. If your marketing message is to be believable in the market you have to make a strategic decision and commit to it. In addition it will be hard to form the right partnerships with Associate led consulting firms unless there is a focused mindset to make this work.
- Creating relationships/partners – this is no different from other major decisions that affect profitability and involve 3rd parties; you have to form lasting partnerships not a vendor/supplier relationship. Working with individual contractors will not work in the medium term and will add overhead, create risk, and will make any marketing message harder to sell in the market. Plus you will be in danger of simply processing CV’s with no guarantee of quality. In creating these relationships try to understand the full capability your partner has to offer.
- Be proactive – this is similar to mindset in that you have to be positive and proactive in your messaging. Create a positive marketing message around the benefits to clients. Also, proactively address potential client concerns around quality, liability, retention of key Associates, one team and method, and how any Associate will operate internally within the SI in terms of escalation and ensuring the best people are available. Finally, never hide the use of Associates, the client will find out within hours of the assignment starting; be proactive and tell the client why you are using Associates for the benefit of the client.
- Think like an Associate – remember an Associate is not an employee and an Associate has usually proactively chosen life as a contractor and doesn’t want to be an employee. They are not interested in internal politics, and they only get paid when they are delivering. Their key focus is delivery; it is about the role and can they do the assignment. Associates are usually very productive and good at time management; they are not interested in wasting time on non-productive activities, or any activities that are not leading to fees.
- Communication – it is critical that you communicate fully both internally and externally. Often a focus is given to creating a strong marketing message, and articulating the added value of such a model for clients. The main reason I have seen for these models to fail is due to lack of internal communication. This should be a strategic decision about why you are doing this and it should not allow individuals internally to decide whether they use this model or not. Also communicate with your Associate partner company – where possible, share your pipeline, and your future needs.
- Look at the big picture – this should be far more than simply looking at job profitability. You need to look at revenue growth, client wallet share, practice profit etc. Look at the increased volume and value of assignments you can bid for and win at the expense of your competition because you have a larger talent pool, a lower cost base, a flexible delivery model and greater breadth and depth of skill and capability. This should not be looked at as simple staff augmentation to plug a gap where one or two roles need filling on a sold job. Use the model and its advantages to win larger assignments, and to keep out the competition in accounts.
It is fundamentally about growth not process!
Wednesday 18th of February 2015
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