Project management teams rarely achieve success without some level of outside support. Staying in tune with external collaborators and vendors is something smart Project Teams do, because they know they’ll often receive better service and sometimes even better pricing when the relationship benefits everyone involved. Below are a few steps project teams can take to ensure they’re getting the most out of outside partnerships and that they’re providing the right kind of support in return.
1 – Know the marketplace. Project teams know which forces drive their own strategic decisions, but do they understand the market pressures influencing their partners? Everything from material shortages to labor disputes have the potential to impact a project, so Project Teams should know what’s going on within partners’ industries at any given time. Network extensively with your preferred vendors as well as their competitors, and stretch your connections outside your own region when it makes sense to do so.
2 – Know the employment landscape. People often stay within a single industry even when switching employers. If your Project Team relies on partners with niche expertise or specific backgrounds, it’s prudent to know where key experts are employed. Keep your ear to the ground for word on staffing changes and coordinate with your organization’s human resources group so they’re doing the same thing with their contacts. If you’re aware of a job seeker who may be a good candidate for one of your partners, be sure to make an introduction.
3 – Know who’s growing. As economic conditions change and industry needs evolve, your partners are likely to expand and contract, to enter new markets and to refocus their activities. Your team should have a good handle on which providers are growing and which are shrinking, as well as who may be ripe to acquire a competitor (or to be acquired by them). This will give you a better sense of where contract prices are likely to be when you’re ready to begin negotiations. It’s also a good way to know if your usual short list of preferred contractors might undergo some changes in the near future.
4 – Know what you can do for them. Savvy Project Teams know that every business partnership involves give and take, and your organization may be a more valuable client if you can provide something other clients can’t. Determine if your project might be a good candidate for a case study or presentation at a conference, something many vendors do as part of their marketing efforts. Some organizations also choose to offer internships in conjunction with key partners, so new professionals are able to learn how the vendor’s services can best benefit the client.
5 – Maintain good communication. Very little of the knowledge your team gathers about its partners is confidential or difficult to obtain. Open communication channels between you and your vendors should provide the vast majority of the data you’ll need to maintain good partner relationships. Be sure key partners receive press releases and other public information announcements so they’re aware of what’s happening on your end of the relationship, and ask that they do the same. Connect with them regularly, even if you aren’t currently working together on a specific project. Discuss strategic initiatives as much as is appropriate (barring confidential information, of course) so they can be looking ahead for new ways to support you. If you hope to utilize them in an upcoming project but feel your needs are beyond their current capabilities, consider discussing the situation with them to see if they’re interested in adding the necessary staff or expertise to secure the job.