Friday, May 23, 2008

Vendor versus partner

I had an interesting week. I'm glad to be home, exhausted, and processing everything that happened in the last 6 days with our client.

The past 8 years or so I've been involved in custom learning projects. These types of projects require a level of intimacy with your client that you don't need or typically have with product sales. It's good and bad--in order to be successful, you need to really know their business. You need to understand the interpersonal dynamics and company politics. You have to know the process for getting things done. You have to recognize your advocates and the people who will throw you under the bus. You have to constantly walk the fine line of knowing all of these things, but realizing you don't actually work there.

You also develop relationships that are richly complex. You, in essence, work for these people. Some people will treat you like a slave, some a partner, and some a friend. For custom projects, the goal for continued success is to bring enough value and develop strong relationships so that you are seen as a partner, not just a vendor.

Entering into the product development realm again, I'm already a little sad that we'll be sacrificing some of these close relationships. I realize that we really will start to simply be a vendor. We'll have no need to be as integrated with our client teams, or at least not to the extent we have been. I wonder if, after I've focused on products for awhile, I will want to start being a partner again.

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