As technology continues to advance at an exponential rate, many industries are focusing on their core competencies and turning to managed services providers to handle their IT needs. This is especially true for utility providers. Communication networks—and the associated hardware and software needed to maintain, deliver and monitor utility resources—often require expert staff, certifications and security beyond the capacities of the providers. So, as many utility providers jump onto the managed services bandwagon, it’s vital that the partnerships created breed success for both sides of the relationship.
It’s like a good marriage…
The aspects of a successful partnership between a utility provider and a managed services provider are analogous to any strong and longstanding relationship. In fact, as you assess the following advice from an organizational standpoint, you may even learn a few things applicable to your spouse or partner.
1. Find common ground
Each company can share its guiding principles and primary goals to determine a similar direction and focus. For example, the utility provider and managed services partner may each have a diversity and inclusion objective that could bind their partnership at a foundational level.
2. Appreciate complementary ground
Sometimes the best relationships are composed of personalities that balance each other—the scheduled and the flexible or the spendthrift and the frugal. When companies understand each other’s corporate cultures and goals, they can determine how these differences can balance for good. Working through conflicting priorities also becomes a bit easier when there is a mutual regard of respective viewpoints.
3. Be customer-centric
At the end of the day, both the utility provider and the managed services partner have the same purpose: to provide solutions that positively impact the community. It’s all about the customer—about people. What do they want and need? What will they pay for? A great example of solving for this foundational issue is pilot programming. Many utilities embark on small-scale pilots to test new ideas and new markets. And, as a managed services partner, Sensus can come alongside to help push for innovation. Together.
4. Ask “Why?” Then, ask “Why?” again
Jumping can be fun…but not when it entails jumping to conclusions. Instead, when something goes wrong—and even when something goes very right—ask “why?” to gain understanding. Identifying problems and determining solutions comes from digging through the first “why?” to the next. And then the next. If you’re not asking “but why?” more than five times, you’re not going to get to the root cause. This root cause analysis is an ideal approach for rapid resolution and future prevention (or replication, if the initial outcome was positive). Think “onion” and keep peeling until you get to the center of the issue.
5. Communicate with transparency
It probably goes without saying, but it really needs to be said: Open and honest communication is crucial. Ultimately, the utility and the managed services provider are on the same team. So, it’s a great idea to bring people from all divisions and business areas of one organization together with their counterparts in the other organization. When the right people get together in the same room, understanding turns to synergy. Then ideas are sparked. And resolutions are expedited.
6. Learn from mistakes
Forget the name-calling and finger-pointing. Mistakes happen—on both sides. Create a learning culture and move forward by assessing what happened, why it happened and what valuable information was learned. Most importantly, work together to determine how not to let it happen again.
7. Create agreed-upon definitions
In addition to understanding each other’s cultures and corporate goals, aligning business definitions is key to harmony and success. For example, the utility’s “priority” rating might determine one expectation of action. But for the managed services provider, it has a different definition and action requirement. This misinterpretation can create huge issues for the partners, the partnership and, ultimately, the utility consumer.
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It’s the long-term commitment that matters most
Let’s hope a few of these themes for good partnership have struck a chord. Implementing even two or three should make a positive impact in any business relationship. At Sensus, we’ve established a managed services goal of reaching a 100% renewal rate with our utility partners. We believe this speaks to our commitment more than any other metric.