Partnering For Success, Part 2: Multiple Consulting Partners
Every enterprise on the planet is undertaking some sort of transformation work. They understand the need to digitize their business operations as well as the experience of their customers and workforce. If we asked many organizations today, the way work gets done doesn’t “feel” like it matches the way we get things done outside of work. Digital transformation projects span the organization. The HR function is no exception to the transformation craze; more and more, HR is leading the enterprise. Transformation in any function requires specialized support, as does executing the process design and technology transformation work that follows.
Just as surgeons span a wide spectrum of specialty areas, consulting partners offer subject matter expertise in a variety of disciplines. If I need brain surgery, I probably won’t entertain work done by an oral surgeon, no matter how good they are. It’s rare to find a true one-stop shop: refer back to Partnering For Success, Part 1 to know if one partner can meet the entirety of your project needs. So for the sake of argument, let’s assume you will bring in different specialists to tackle different types of work. How, then, do organizations successfully partner with multiple consulting companies to support their singular HCM Transformation vision?
Companies want to transform in order to remain viable, competitive, and attractive to talent. When it comes to workforce experience, they’re approaching workforce design differently (i.e., Design Thinking, which needs to include these important elements). They spend time learning more about their workforce and identifying trends and opportunities based on the needs and wants of their actual employees. The idea is that this will help to build a set of actionable requirements to ultimately improve the experience(s). It’s typically at this point where organizations enlist the help of an external consulting firm.
These are the most common benefits organizations seek when enlisting the help of external partners:
- Outside Perspective | It’s typically unbiased, and it can bring new ideas to solve complex problems based on experience working with other clients in similar situations. In other words, they come with trends.
- Ready Resources & Cost Consideration | While clients have the right intentions and want to solve their problems, many times they just don’t have dedicated resources or funding to support their initiatives. Without resources and funding, even the greatest want in the world fails to keep a project prioritized. Reaching out to an external partner can be a cheaper option to resource a project (think short-term gig worker v. full-time hire).
- Challenge the Comfort Zone | A trusted advisor looking from the outside in will tell you the truth; that’s what you’re paying them for. Long-held beliefs, “we’ve always done this” reflexes, habits, routines, and processes can be hard to look at objectively because of the emotional attachment to them. Partners help to bring you out of your “comfort zone” – they push you to think differently and try new things. It’s uncomfortable going through a transformation and the partners make you “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
IS THERE AN ALL-IN-ONE?
You might be able to find one consulting partner that will meet all of your Strategy, Design and Implementation needs, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have to enlist the help of multiple organizations, and that’s not a bad thing.
Everyone brings a different set of strengths, and it’s important to acknowledge them. There is so much value to the diversity that each partner brings. We all have different skill sets and different perspectives to bring to the table. It’s important partners are 1) aware of each other and 2) aware of the value each is bringing so we can better leverage our skills to collaborate more effectively.
There are specific things you can do to ensure smooth transitions between consulting partners and to ensure each individual and your overall partnership strategy as as successful as it can be. There are too many reasons a transformation project can fail; don’t let failure to fully activate and empower your partners (who want you to be successful) be one of them.
3 KEYS TO SUCCESS
(It’s so simple, I made sure they all begin with A.)
I’ve been on projects where clients don’t let us know there are other consulting companies at play. It’s almost as if they intentionally want to keep us separate. Not sure why this is the case, but it can cause more harm than good in the long run. Simply put and it should go without saying, it’s important everyone is aware of each other. Early awareness of others is the key to avoiding any friction, “pressure,” ego, etc. It’s a huge game-changer to know others are involved. While consulting companies may not want to hear this (it may require an adjustment to their methodology), the sooner a company is aware of multiple advisors, the sooner adjustments can be made to allow for smooth overall project management and handoffs.
So, aside from the first step – communicating the existence of other players – how else can you facilitate Awareness?
- One Project Plan
- Who is responsible for what?
- What is happening when?
- What are the major milestones where partners should have opportunities to collaborate?
- The project plan should show how all workstreams can work together.
- All Hands on Deck
- Establish a cadence of regular status meetings with all consulting parties.
It’s important that everyone get on the same page and have a clear understanding of your shared vision. At the end of the day, we always have the client’s best interest at heart; that’s why you hired us. It’s also important for the client to clearly articulate what and why each partner was brought to the table. Highlight their strengths, your reason for choosing them, and the value you expect them to add.
Some things you can do to ensure clear Alignment:
- Vision Map Development
- Before you embark on any technology deployment, you should do a Phase 0 / strategic alignment and create a vision for what you want.
- Vision Map Alignment
- Once the vision has been set and communicated to all parties, they must ensure their recommendations and methodology are in direct alignment to it.
- Each partner should walk the project team through their methodology, approach, activities and deliverables.
- This will help identify if there is overlap in deliverables or duplication of work. It will also point out natural opportunities for touchpoints or exchange of feedback.
We’re aware of each other, we’re on the same page and understand your shared vision: Now it’s time for us to work together. We need to create an alliance. We’re all on the same team now.
If they’re good, consulting companies will not and should not always wait for the client to initiate cross-functional conversations. It’s acceptable and should be encouraged for a good partner to take ownership and help to bridge communication lines.
Some things you can do to create a true partnership: an ALLIANCE:
- Communicate often, attend status calls, encourage your consulting partners to attend each other’s sessions to read out deliverables (where it makes sense)
- Problem solve together
- Foster opportunities for partners to show you they remain on the same page.
Successful projects, especially when it comes to complex, multi-pronged, multi-phase transformation projects, are best positioned for long-term success when partners are aware of each other, when each stakeholder shares and exemplifies a unified understanding of your vision, and when they’ve made adjustments to each other for the best outcome of the client. Likely to happen in all of this is that you’ll all have more FUN. You’ll learn from each other. Creative juices will flow. Better ideas will come out of diversity of thought and contributions.
And your project will prevail.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth is passionate about helping customers truly transform the way they work. Her primary focus is to provide guidance to organizations who want to enhance their digital workforce footprint, empower them to think differently and equip HR teams to make decisions that fit their needs. Elizabeth comes to Leapgen with 12+ years of experience as both a technical consultant implementing Workday & SAP platforms as well as a business strategy consultant. Elizabeth has led several engagements across diverse industries including healthcare, financial services, and retail globally. Her engagements regularly include design thinking, fit-gap analysis, future state process mapping and business process optimization.
Leapgen is a global digital transformation company shaping the future of work. Highly respected as a visionary partner to organizations looking to design and deliver a digital workforce experience that will produce valued outcomes to the business, Leapgen helps enterprise leaders rethink how to better design and deliver workforce services and architect HR technology solutions that meet the expectations of workers and the needs of the business. Contact us to get started.