Buying a new car (think fresh off the fore-court) is a pretty standard project. We might well be evenly divided as to whether it’s perfectly hideous or brilliantly fun. Independently we choose the model of car we want – we read up, we ask other drivers, compare stats. We go to the dealer, get the features explained, test drive.
We strike a deal with the vendor, who are representing the maker of our shiny car. Note they’re not the same people who actually did make the car. Included in the deal is a warranty and if there are problems, these folk promise to fix it for the duration – quite possibly, if my deal is a great one, the first year of servicing is thrown in too.
So far so good and let’s accelerate 20,000 miles into year 2:
The car needs servicing, but it is under warranty. I’d like the Rolls Royce service, but I drive a well-nearly-Rolls and I’d like it from the garage I trust and perhaps who suggested the model in the first place. Plus I’d quite like a view as to whether new tyres are needed and to ask for an independent view….
But will that invalidate my warranty? I wonder.
I figure that, as long as the service is one covering the specification required, I won’t invalidate it.
Plus at this stage I can see that the greater investment in my car is coming post-warranty (funny how that happens!). I go independent. I still drive the same great car. I know I have great, value-adding services for it. I pay no more money – I pay less.
The point is that the balance shifts from requiring “guarantees” that I’ve not short-changed myself from a fabulous ride (vendor risk) to wanting a guarantee of really good advice.
Is your technology still a car under warranty??
There is always a role for the vendor in a partnership – the relationship is key and any third (or fourth!) party will deliver a stronger client service in recognising the different aspects of product, design and ownership. This point I stress.
Software vendors make the technology – they are responsible for design and great the more closely they work with their stakeholders to understand the need. Software vendors fix the faults – they retain that responsibility for the design. I wouldn’t try a trip to the local trade depot for a bit of something “to do” by way of brake pad if I were you and we are quite lucky in the technology industry that when it comes to software there aren’t too many vendors of spare parts. More positively let’s look to the vendors for the product innovations. Software vendors should show us the possibilities, engage with us to look ahead and suss out how tech can serve our future. We know them to be companies packed with people with some great ideas.
After all, it doesn’t take too long of driving before I want to know what the next model looks like.
And the role of the independent partner?
As you wish it to be – with independence comes flexibility. I’ve chosen as a word of the day this month the phrase “gig economy” and the prevalence of this term in technology right now itself evidences our expectation that today we expect within our roles to benefit from a less prescriptive definition of providers and professionals we work with.
In HR systems, why not make your own definitions of ownership of project, process, data?
Your partners can work pre-sales, in-project and in systems review or re-scope – with independence comes longevity beyond the term of the contract. Personally I’ve not changed my preferred garage in the course of a driving history (well, marriage actually).
Look for triangulation of advice, experience and sources – with independence comes objectivity. Consider the trust and confidence that can be engendered, not least in the tech vendor, if third parties do triangulate those sources on your behalf and present that evidence back to you.
Consider who is who in the tech world.
These days it is not just in the very tangible worlds of cars and things we can touch that we are used to distinctions between product creators and product-based services. We buy skills and services separately and we are relaxed about that. Not many of us have Bill Gates upgrading us to Windows 10, or even his direct delegate.
In offering out tech services, there are a good number of questions you’ll wish to address in your partnering choices. A decision to offer out, which interestingly only in a limited set of circumstances do we tend to call “outsourcing”, should be made on the basis of your own core business. With this comes natural conclusions about efficiencies.
Not a bad start in contemplating where services are to go might be to then ask:

  • Who has the expertise? Create your short list.
  • Who has the availability and commitment?
  • Whose motives are most likely to be aligned to ours and to mine?

I am torn between topping this article with an image of an Aston Martin or a lilac 2CV which is a first and fond driving memory, but given that I’m in the “this project is a nightmare” cohort I delegate that to colleagues to decide.

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