Debra Sherrill professional photo

Debra Sherrill

Director, Consulting Expert

After your company has been in business for a while, your customers will begin asking for a product or service you don’t have the resources to provide. Alternatively, another company might reach out to you for the same reason. While this growth is an excellent sign for your business, you should carefully evaluate each IT partnership opportunity, including partnership expansions.

IT services partnerships can be great because they can open doors to opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise been considered for. They can also multiply your market reach. Ideally, you want to create a partnerships that create a win-win-win for your organization, partner, and mutual customers.

Types of technology partnerships

The evaluation you create begins with determining the type of partnership you’re looking for: a product or a service. For example, having a hardware or software product partner might require a substantially different evaluation from determining a staffing partner, which provides a service of staffing your (or your customers’) organization.

Top considerations for adding a IT services partner

Being asked to be a IT services partner can feel like a no-lose situation, especially if the other company is offering you what seem to be good incentives to do it. At first, it might seem like effort will be required of your organization to deliver results. However, the added complexity offers its challenges:

  • Commit to the management requirements. While your company won’t be doing all the work, it will require administrative effort to make your combined projects successful. Your partner typically has a portal that you need to keep up to date. You must track your activity in the partner CRM system and your own. As with any good partnership, good communication is vital. Someone needs to stay on top of partner incentives and feed that information to the relevant people in your organization in a timely manner. If you can’t commit to this, chaos ensues, and the partnership won’t work in the long term.
  • Verify that it’s a positive relationship for both organizations. If it’s not a positive relationship on either side, it’s not worth starting or expanding a relationship. Balance in the relationship where both sides have something to gain or lose will keep the relationship strong for the long haul. Use extra caution when considering a partnership with an organization much larger or smaller than your own. The imbalances can provide an outsize advantage to one of the organizations and might not feel mutually beneficial.
  • Take a selective, proactive approach. You don’t want to create a long list of partners with all the overhead that goes along with it. CGI, for example, is a multi-billion-dollar company with only nine key strategic partnerships. Put your effort into developing partnerships that will positively impact your customer relationships. You should know what your company needs to complement your current offerings versus considering each partnership as the offers come along. A matrix (a sample below) can help you score a potential partner.
  • Evaluate culture and corporate values. Having similar approaches in how you do business can help the partner relationship. If you don’t mesh culturally, you might have difficulty managing the relationship and presenting a unified approach to your customers. You’re sharing one reputation as you enter a deal. If you share strategies and values, it should appear to your customers that you’re presenting a unified solution.
  • Determine how joint marketing will work. Both partners must agree on how to market services and products to customers. Again, both partners must benefit. For example, if you’re working on a joint case study or white paper, one partner can’t be the hero of the story.
  • Reveal any conflicts of interest. If your work overlaps with a potential partner, dig in and ensure you know where the lines are. It’s better to decide not to go forward with a partnership agreement or at least have the rules explicitly spelled out before an issue occurs.
  • Approach any exclusive partnerships carefully. Don’t be too eager to sign with a partner as an exclusive provider of a service or product, such as one cloud provider. You might lose a customer over a technology that had nothing to do with what you’re providing. However, if you’re just starting out, partnering with one technology might allow you to develop strong expertise in that product or service and help you reach the next level.

How to evaluate an IT partner

I’ve included this sample template to kickstart your thinking about which factors are most important for your organization to consider in partnership evaluation. This is only a starting point, but working with such a template can help your organization make a data-driven, rational decision. This process might save you if a high-level executive makes a recommendation because he has a good relationship with someone at the other company.

Evaluation criteria for what makes a good partner

The evaluation criteria is not the same for all situations, so create your own.

Assign a weight to each evaluation criteria and use a 1-5 scale to score each potential partner then add the scores.
1 - not at all favorable
5 - extremely favorable

This approach should help you identify the strongest partners for your organization.

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About this author

Debra Sherrill professional photo

Debra Sherrill

Director, Consulting Expert

Debra Sherrill is a Director Consulting Expert at CGI with 30 years of experience in the Information Technology Industry focused on consulting and outsourcing with an eye for digital transformation. Debra is passionate about leading and developing employees and building and maintaining strong client relationships ...