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8 ways to form managing service partnerships

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Creating a spatially aware system to solve a client’s business problem often means orchestrating at least three different sets of specialist expertise. The client knows their own business; we know how to apply spatial thinking and GIS knowledge to integrate information; and there is usually a third party who knows the intricacies of system design for a particular sector.

Mike Steyn, Aspire Solutions Director

As a result, we often find ourselves partnering with other service providers who are already experts in a particular domain: banking systems, urban planning, property management, or transport engineering, for example.  In fact, many of our favourite projects have started this way: with an approach from an IT service provider who is an expert in their domain and needs access to GIS expertise to spatialise an application.

Done properly, service partnerships can create incredibly powerful solutions to customer problems. Integrating diverse information in a spatial system, so that users can visualise data easily on a map, can lead to startling new insights about the business. At the very least, it makes information a lot easier to understand and communicate.

Not all service partnerships work, of course – they’re most likely to fail when they’re pushed by the client against the wishes of one of the parties. The technical aspects of adding a GIS component to an application that’s already under development can be relatively simple; the political aspects are less easy to get right.

From our experience, these are the eight most important ingredients of a successful partnership between expert suppliers:

  1. Seek out partners who have similar values and corporate cultures. If solving the client’s problems is really what turns you on, a partnership with someone who’s chasing a revenue target is unlikely to work.
  2. Create the partnership early on and take a joint approach to the client.
  3. Respect each other’s expertise.
  4. Be prepared to learn about each other’s systems and areas of expertise – at least enough to make the partnership work.
  5. Aim for a long-term relationship; “partners” who see themselves as future competitors do not make for a good experience.
  6. Treat the first project as a pilot: Limit the risk to both parties and test the working relationship.
  7. Be flexible about costs and billings – a lot of this has to be worked out in practice.
  8. The relationship is the key ingredient of project success: Manage it accordingly.

When all these conditions are met, the fruits of the collaboration can be remarkable.

Mike Steyn, Aspire Solutions Director

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