Working with Partners: The Case for Actually Talking

Incessant e-mails among partners and clients are far from ideal.

As Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once famously said, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Just about all of us know this quote, even if we don’t speak French. In translates to “as the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” Most of us know it as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Karr’s iconic line harkens back nearly two centuries. Because of that, he wasn’t talking about implementing new technologies. Yet, those words remain oddly apropos in the business and IT worlds. Yes, terms like cloud computing may be relatively new, but the concepts behind it go back decades. (Some would even call cloud computing and grid computing cousins, although opinions on precise definitions and technical differences vary considerably.That aside, we know which ones marketers prefer.)

Lest I overstate things, Karr’s famous saying isn’t entirely true here. Beyond the advent of sexier technological terms (the style), there are some legitimate differences between now and 2010 (the substance). First, contemporary applications are much more powerful than their antecedents. Second, storage is far cheaper thanks to Kryder’s law.

Against this backdrop, over the last five years, many organizations have deployed new technologies in addition to—or in lieu of—legacy ones. (Some would call this period Enterprise 2.0, even though I don’t love the term.)

Incessant e-mails are far from ideal.

Similarities

Let’s look at some similarities. My friend Alan Berkson correctly notes that, at least at a high level, the three essentials of any implementation remain migration, customization, and integration. No argument here. At least conceptually, those three areas haven’t changed very much in decades. The same holds true with many decidedly unsexy back-end data-conversion tools, such as ETL (extract, transform, and load) and SQL. On many IT projects, you can add to communications problems to this list.

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked for plenty of implementation partners, both independently and as an independent contractor. I’ve also been on the other side of the table. On scores of projects, I’ve seen the gamut: from true collaboration and teamwork (even amity) to general apathy to outright hostility between and among the parties. (For more on this, see Michael Krigman’s concept of the Devil’s Triangle.) In the most pernicious of situations, the twin threats of legal action and unpaid invoices hung over our heads. People furiously sent e-mails, copying the world on them, just waiting for someone to slip up. You could just see the sender running to the printer to capture the desired “Gotcha” response.

Let me state the obvious: this type of arrangement is far from ideal.

Simon Says: Talk to Each Other

Given the subject of Message Not Received, I’ll have plenty more to say about communication over the coming months. For now, suffice it to say that there’s constantly emailing your partners invites a certain level of distrust. As Marshall McLuhan famously opined, “The medium is the message.

Fight the urge to bludgeon your partners with torrents of e-mails. Yes, it’s a business relationship and some things (nay, many things) need to be formally codified, not agreed upon over martinis. Still, clients who insist upon getting absolutely, positively everything in writing because things may break bad aren’t doing themselves any favors.

Feedback

What say you?


This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs. The opinions expressed here are my own.



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