Next-Generation Options Change Relationships with Service Providers | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The 16th century political theorist Machiavelli wrote that there is “nothing more dangerous, or more doubtful of success, than to attempt to introduce a new order of things.” I think we should remember his words as we embark on the journey to embrace the next-generation solutions entering the services marketplace. Next-generation options are now changing the nature of the relationship between buyers and service providers. And there is plenty of significant change for both sides.

The traditional structure of solutions focused on cost reductions, RFPs prepared from a proscriptive perspective, and rigid MSAs included in the RFP package along with process descriptions, service level specifications and pricing exhibits. Value was created by onerous contract terms or traps for the provider.

Next-generation solutions give way to a much more fluid partnership approach to create value. The parties distribute the risks and develop a relationship built on flexibility and innovation. Contractual documents evolve with the discussions and negotiations. In a next-gen deal buyers and providers collaborate on how they might execute the buyer’s business objectives. Together they create value through building a framework for a successful relationship rather than through an onerous contract. The contract reflects the principles the parties agree to rather than predetermined contractual terms and conditions.

This highly collaborative process in developing the commercial requirements of the contract covers such issues as who owns the intellectual property. In many of these constructs, buyers ask their providers to develop or bring intellectual property with the buyer using it on a consumption basis. The discussions and negotiations articulate both parties’ risk, understanding of the business impact and the desired solution. They jointly develop the initial governance model and also participate jointly in refining it over time.

In a relationship developing a next-gen solution, the parties need to discuss — not dictate — the commercial requirements. Competitive tension is far less useful than in the traditional RFP structure where price is the dominant issue discussed. Instead, in next-gen deals, the parties discuss capabilities and design as levers for creating value.

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There is another significant aspect that differentiates next-gen relationships. The commercial construct must allow for a journey rather than a destination. As the commercial constructs take place, the buyer often faces substantial change in organizational philosophies, policies and processes. This journey of change can be as daunting and significant as the one the provider must go through.

From our experience in working with clients in these kinds of relationships, the first step toward success is for the buyer to build a robust strategic intent that includes both its objectives and its vision of how to get there. Both parties can then use this strategic intent to keep all parties aligned over time and create a North Star to follow as they navigate through a collaborative but complicated process.


Photo credit: Hartwig HKD

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