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How can we release the value of partners in transforming our business?

Published on 27 April 2020

How can we release the value of partners in transforming our business?

Technology transformation is a key challenge for every customer operation. It was a challenge 20 years ago but today, and looking to the future, types of technology, pace and impact are so different. We see that shaping very different outcomes and experiences. Moreover, the way we evolve and implement change is itself changed. For Laura Moss at the Santander Group, one of our Planning Pioneers, our focus needs to be on how we adapt to this and how we prepare for emerging trends, a challenge for us as individual professionals and organisations. 

Experience from outside
At The Forum, we see how much professionals add value when they leverage a powerful network outside the organisation, not just within. When you set something up – a planning team, a new system, a new approach – you need to blend maximum knowledge of how it can be used and maximum knowledge of your own business. We see the potential of partnerships in this way, to bring insight and experience from the outside, always up-to-date and connected. We apply this approach at The Forum, when we partner with members. We’ve seen the importance of this with technology, over the 20 years, with workforce management, then speech analytics and data science. Do we choose suppliers in this way, or think only of the kit or programme they supply?     

Embedding change
Embedding a new approach is tough and requires the right resource from the start, all the more when you are looking at AI, robotics, omni-channel and social networking. Increasingly, professionals have worked on both sides of technology projects. Colin Whelan, now at Hoist Finance but previously at Aspect, advises to not “chase the newest technology”. Instead, understand the threshold at which a system or contact channel moves from being emerging to embedded, in your operation for customers and colleagues. It’s easy to be distracted by “new & shiny”, in a world of rapidly changing opportunity. Yet, if we start from our organisation’s goals, using the Strategy Pyramid (pg 52), others can work with us, bringing knowledge outside-in. Then, we see more clearly where we need fluid thinking to solve new or unique problems or where the priority is to crystallise knowledge, so that best practice is shared and far more consistent. 

The partnership awards
Our Partnership Award recognises outstanding supplier and client relationships. In the shortlisting, there were questions. What would be distinctive about our award? How would members learn? In fact, there was no need for apprehension. Response was amazing and it soon became clear that, in our exceptional professional community of learning and sharing, partners wanted these awards to do just that. In this way the awards programme is crystallising best practice, sharing programmes that are often transformative for both client and supplier. Around half were entered by the client side, unusual compared to other partner awards I understand. We are so proud of the passion that is the hallmark of professionals and the desire to collaborate on best practice, the ethos of our professional community. 

Technology transformation
For many clients, the choice of partner was a key ingredient of success. “We’ve caught up rapidly in the digital space”, says Ben Newbon-Stead, programme lead at Clarks Shoes. With Cirrus, they found wider experience to tap into and the use of chatbots proved transformational, but had not been part of their thinking before. At AA Ireland, the partnership with ServisBOT made it possible to deliver a great customer experience with chatbots at remarkable speed. The ConnexOne partnership provided the chance to establish a new operating platform at Gladstone Brooks, driving significant business growth and efficiency. And a 3-way collaboration between Zoom, Natilik and their client, Radius, introduced workforce optimisation & quality management, helping the client adapt to a capability that was entirely new at that stage. For Vitality Health, a managed service for speech analytics and quality management from Ember brought passion and expertise, yielding results that many have previously found elusive in this area. The right partnership at the right time is key to success. 

Partnership in planning
The Anaplan partnership with RSA and that of Calabrio with Fexco show how planning teams benefit from close relationships with their technology provider, a mutual relationship in which the benefits of systems are worked out by talented planners and made available for all to see. Blending external skills and knowledge to drive improvements is also important, with the CACI partnership a big factor in the broader approach to forecasting at Anglian Water. At Jet2 real time automation from QStory was rolled out in weeks, providing the same support environment for the first time, to home-based advisors as on-site. Arise work with npower in providing homeworking, that not only covers intra-day peaks and other surges, but complements the overall resource, to enable lifestyle-friendly shifts. It shows how outsource partnerships are moving beyond just saving costs or meeting demand (the big challenges back in 2000) with a more deeply integrated planning relationship. Likewise, WebHelp & The Very Group (formerly Shop Direct) tightly integrates outsourced, offshore operations into the group strategy and the management of retail peaks is the fruit of planning expertise on both sides. For Tech Mahindra the relationship with Three Ireland has evolved to take on planning and insight specialists offshore.   

2020 Vision 
Strong partnerships require a clear focus both on your organisational goals (so that change is truly embedded into how you do business) and the opportunity to learn from outside (so that you can identify quickly what can work best for you), in this era of rapid change. Great partnerships have this in common, both teams become increasingly in demand. 

This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge

To download a full digital copy of the Best Practice Guide, click here

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