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Getting a Little Help from Your Friends

When properly sourced and utilized, strategic partners can be just the boost organizations need in order to realize their innovation potential.

A recent CIO Survey shows that IT leaders are increasingly turning to technology partners for assistance with their top challenges. Specifically, 55 percent of the survey participants said their use of technology providers is on the rise, whereas just 14 percent said it’s falling. There are some solid reasons for this.

The rewards from forming technology partnerships depend on the goals you set. That’s why mapping out the organizational value chain up front helps ensure that you partner wisely. The mapping process not only outlines where your IT organization best adds value but it also helps you visualize how the organization is evolving and where future needs lie. Consider a manufacturing company transitioning from a job shop structure to a complete build facility. Such a radical transformation would usher in new requirements and spotlight weaknesses best served through strategic partnerships.

At the same time, strategically identifying and developing key skills within the IT organization enables you to leverage partner ecosystems in a way that drives innovation. For instance, building in-house data analytics skills lessens the reliance on partners with that specialty and instead enables you to look for vendor relationships that address your exact needs. So when it comes to innovation, you can zero in on the right strategic fit, not the one that sort of fits the role. That’s why, if you’re serious about finding better partners, you need to first develop skills in-house.

The key is to build double-deep employees—team members with job function skills as well as relevant IT skills. For example, consider the benefits of having marketing staff members with the ability to effectively leverage big data models, including formulating their own queries. Making such an investment builds bridges from your organization into the wider ecosystem of partners and increases your ability to innovate. After all, this skill depth enables the IT team to better focus its efforts on supporting innovation and enables you to best leverage partner involvement. Partners can focus on meeting more-specialized needs without having to bring team members up to speed.

Be mindful that such strategic maneuvers can potentially lead to an overall increase in IT spending. This uptick is not directly attributable to the partnership but, rather, reflects a more encouraging sign. Technology successes are quite often repurposed across other business lines to deliver even greater overall value. That said, you should work with your business counterparts to understand how next-generation technology investments affect their strategic plans and to help them manage the spending required to reap the rewards.

Bottom line, being able to leverage partner innovation ecosystems helps maximize internal resources, bringing new life to initiatives that are core to business growth. That may be driving key product and service evolutions or spending more time engaging end users to determine which future opportunities best fit with organizational competencies. This outside-in effect—engaging with partners through collaboration and co-creation in a way that enhances internal capabilities—can be a powerful strategy for internal transformation. It empowers CIOs to constantly improve and innovate—recognizing that meaningful ideas, opportunities and strategies can come from anywhere, including solid partnerships.

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