It’s Not You, It’s Not Me – Recognizing When You and Your Service Provider Have Grown Apart | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On October 6, 2011

I am an avid golfer, and it consumes more of my thought, time, and finances than I am willing to quantify. The first round of golf I ever played was during the summer between eighth and ninth grade, and I was hooked. When I started high school, I immediately joined the golf team – although I must admit I was the last man selected for The B Team, as I was absolutely terrible at the game.

On the first day of practice, I met Harry, a member of the country club at which my high school golf team was allowed to practice and play. As a passionate golfer himself, Harry volunteered as an assistant coach for the team and took me under his wing. For two years, he taught me the basics of the game based on Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. In addition to the swing, he instructed me on things like etiquette and golf course management. With his guidance, I was a bogey golfer within a year of first picking up a club.

I was reminded of Harry during a recent client engagement. This organization has a managed services agreement for IT services with a service provider that has lasted nearly a decade. During that time, the client grew quickly through organic growth and acquisition (nearly doubling in size every two years), dramatically increased its geographic footprint, and went public. By the end of the most recent outsourcing contract term, it had become one of the largest companies in its industry in the United States.

During this same time, the IT service provider remained focused on serving the client’s industry. But as few clients in the sector were as large as our mutual client, the provider found more success growing its business with small- to medium-sized firms. Many of these new accounts looked more like our mutual client a decade ago, small and private with simple IT needs more necessity than anything else.

Our mutual client, however, has grown to the point of using IT as an enabler. It is using technology to standardize processes and drive efficiencies, benefit from scale and centralized technical design, and leverage new cloud-based solutions to take advantage of new IT economics. With the service provider consistently investing in capabilities for a different type of client than this one has become, both parties need to take a step back to understand each other’s direction. There’s nothing wrong with either organization, it’s just time for a recalibration of sorts.

I probably could not have experienced the growth I had without Harry’s expertise, but at some point his focus no longer correlated with my needs and I made the tough decision to part ways. That did not make him a bad instructor or me a bad student. There were other students who could better benefit from Harry’s time, and there were other instructors from whom I could learn more.

The situation is similar for my client and its IT service provider. Identifying that the organizations have grown apart is a crucial first step in deciding how to move forward. This may be an excellent opportunity for the service provider to invest in new capabilities it can leverage for its existing client base, allowing this particular client to continue to leverage the service provider’s industry expertise. Or, the client may be better served to go through a potentially challenging transition to a service provider that is a better fit for its current needs. Understanding your IT service provider’s already-made investments and its investment plans is a good way to assess fit with your organization.

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