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How to pick a partner
by Josie Cluer, public sector lead at Moorhouse,
Monday, March 31, 2014

The public sector is increasingly asking more of the outsourcing industry: not only is it outsourcing the “front office” as well as the “back office”, it is demanding greater savings, more service transformation, and more innovative delivery models. In response, many outsourcers are forming relationships with other organisations – to form consortia, joint ventures, or partnerships – in order to bid for government contracts together.

This can be a fantastic way to bring a broader capability to your clients and to help you access new opportunities. But if you get the wrong partner, working together can be extremely frustrating, and ultimately, less likely to help you win that all important contract. So how can you make sure you find the right partner? Here are top three questions that you should be able to answer clearly before you sign on the dotted line.

1. Why do we need each other?

First and foremost, it is helpful to be very clear about what each side needs in order to be successful. The answer is usually about more than capability. It usually involves brand alignment, market understanding, client relationships and capacity too. Being dishonest will lead to tension further down the track: every charity has experience of being used as “bid candy” to win a government contract, only to be ignored after it has been won. Being explicit about what your organisation is looking for and being clear about what your organisation will – and will not – bring to the table will help prevent wasted time and effort on all sides.

2. What kind of relationship do we want?
There are many ways that two (or more) organisations can work together: a consortia of organisations which would work in association; a prime who manages the relationship with the client and then lets subcontracts to other companies; or a “joint venture” – a new legal entity which is co-owned by more than one organisation. These different models all have pros and cons, but you should make sure you’re comfortable with your organisation’s role before agreeing to partner. 

3. Do we understand each other?

By definition, you won’t have an in depth understanding of the capability of the organisation you’re planning to partner with: if you were experts in what they did, you wouldn’t need them. But it is worth making sure each side takes the time to understand the other’s capability, both to ensure the client gets a coherent solution and to maximise the impact of bringing it together. Similarly, make sure you understand each others’ culture. After all, the relationship will only work if you can have an open and honest relationship with them and your teams can collaborate effectively. If you can’t, delivering the contract will be a real challenge.

Once you’ve picked your partner, how can you set it up for a win? Next week, I’ll be writing about how to make a successful partnership work during the bid phase.

Josie Cluer is public sector lead at Moorhouse, the transformation consultancy.

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