The idea of sealing partnerships or contracts with just a handshake is appealing from both an intellectual and emotional standpoint.
Certainly, it signals a high level of trust between the two parties, plus it helps keep corporate legal fees in check. Those are worthy aspirations, but entering into any arrangement like this without assigning accountability is a really bad idea.
"You can't capture the information conveyed with a handshake, especially when someone how is party to it moves into a different role," said Tobi Evangelisti, senior vice president of Operations and PMO for GreenPages Technology solutions and LogicsOne, the $130 million Kittery, Me., solution provider's professional services arm.
No matter how great you feel about a potential partner – even if it's someone or some company you've known for years – the only way to keep both sides accountable is to document intentions and obligations in writing. That goes for vendor relationships, partner-to-partner teaming arrangements, for customer projects and any other situation where your company must rely on some other entity to hold up its end of the bargain.
"It's the only real way to tie goals to metrics you can track," said Daniel DiSano, president and CEO of Axispoint, a New York-based solution provider that has been recognized multiple times by Cisco as partner of the year for mobility and vertical solutions. "If you have a stated goal and you are tracking against it, if you fall behind, you can determine why and work to solve the issues."
The idea of handling more paperwork filled with legalese that often makes IT jargon look easy to translate by comparison might make you groan. But if one of your company's "to-do's" involves overhauling formal contracting or partnering policies, here are three ideas that might streamline future procedures or at least make the process of signing on the dotted line slightly more palatable.
Idea 1: Create templates, and update them regularly
Both Axispoint and GreenPages maintain templates for their most common partnering or customer relationships, which have passed muster legally but can be personalized for a given arrangement.
This helps speed up how quickly contracts can be written and reviewed. "We use counsel, but because I have looked at so many of these things, I know what I should go in and examine closely," DiSano said.
Evangelisti's team writes more than 100 contracts per month, even covering simple quick-hit project. Roughly 8 percent of those also involve a contract with partners that are teaming with GreenPages to complete a job. Some of the items that her team examines with particular care include how solution partners' billing policies align with GreenPages, so there are fewer misunderstandings when it comes to payments.
They also use minimum billing increments for services rendered. For example, GreenPages learned long ago that the minimum contract for on-site work should reflect eight hours of service or the arrangement might not be worthwhile, she said.
"If we come off a project and have learned a lesson, we will update the template or add what's necessary to make the next experience better," Evangelisti said.
Don't forget to clearly define metrics for successful completion. While five years ago, technology spending was mostly aimed at generating cost reductions or higher levels of efficiency for the client, the aim of many new projects today is on disruption or innovation, which are much harder metrics to define, DiSano said.