Clients Are from Mars, Vendors Are from Venus: Building a Long-Term BPS Relationship

The Business Process Services Marriage | Part 2

What makes a business process services (BPS) relationship successful? During our client conference in September, one of our clients spoke about why she believed the relationship between her team and CSC was successful. It was, she said, like a family.

So many outsourcing relationships are kept at arms’ length. But as our colleague Anthony Szaro pointed out in his blog – “How ‘Them and Us’ Becomes ‘We’” – the oft-used term “partnership” is an evolutionary one that is based on mutual responsibility and mutual trust, and like the best marriages, it takes time.

By Joe Salamon, Client Relationship Executive, CSC

Typically, after a BPS venture begins, both parties enjoy a honeymoon period. During this time – around 6 to 9 months – you’re learning about each other, you’re communicating regularly and you start to feel as though the relationship is sailing along smoothly. Your vendor has become more confident with your preferred way of working, your processes and your cyclical needs. Then something changes that throws you both for a loop – perhaps an issue arises on the client side, someone leaves or a situation that hadn’t been previously discussed arises – and a period of uncertainty occurs.

Meeting of Minds

More often than not what went wrong boiled down to the fact that communication stopped being as thorough or as frequent as it was at the beginning of the relationship. Both the client and the vendor make the mistake of assuming each party knows what the other is thinking and requiring. As we’ve stressed before, communication is crucial at all times. In addition, it’s always dangerous to assume.

In the best relationships, you’re back at the table communicating. At this stage, you develop lessons learned and solid, inclusive plans for moving forward. For example, when regulatory issues arise or corrective and preventive actions (CAPAs) are required, you start to develop an understanding of when and why these issues are likely to arise, and put in place plans to address them. Sometimes you don’t know what problems you’ll run into until you do. What matters is that you learn from mistakes and are prepared to strategize.

Associated with communication is transparency. Have you been open about problems you are experiencing? Often companies are afraid to be transparent. They may be afraid to draw attention to a problem or to let the other party know if a change in the relationship is being considered, or they may simply be afraid that what they share may make them look ill-informed or incompetent.

For example, the client contact may fear that if they appear less capable than the vendor, that his/her job might be at risk.

Fear is not conducive to a good BPS marriage. You want to know that your vendor is there to help you address gaps in order to meet key milestones, not to make you obsolete. In the best BPS relationships, your vendor builds up their client contacts to make sure they feel secure by helping them succeed. Indeed, in a real BPS family situation, your vendor makes you look like a hero.

Behind communication and transparency there must be a willingness to have those often tough conversations about the processes you have in place. They might seem familiar and comfortable, but are they working? And if not, are you willing to change them? That willingness to change needs to be organization-wide, not just from company or function leaders. Again, that goes back to working with a BPS vendor who is there to help you, your function and your staff succeed.

There are flaws in every relationship, but when both parties are communicating, there is transparency, and you have mutual trust and respect, you are well on the way to becoming a family.

Learn more about BPS and how to turn it to your advantage by viewing our recent webinar, “Regulatory Business Process Services: A Strategic Enabler for High-Quality Regulatory Submissions.”

Related content: The Business Process Services Marriage | Part 2

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