There's a crucial difference between firms that know how to leverage their solution providers to become more successful and those that view technology as a necessary expense.
The top accounting firms see their vendors as partners and value the knowledge and experience their solution providers possess. The latter view their vendors as pesky callers who want to sell a product they’re not interested in buying. The result is an arms-length relationship built on skepticism rather than trust.
How can your firm go about building better strategic partnerships with your solution providers? Of course, the first step involves seeking out the right partnerships. Look for solution providers who are:
Trustworthy and collaborative. Solution providers should work with your firm to come up with key performance indicators (KPIs) and enlist the help of firm leaders to develop new offerings, products, or updates and features.
Knowledgeable about accounting/advisory firms and their clients. Solution providers work with firms of all sizes. This should give them insight into challenges facing the profession and enable them to offer practical, cost-effective solutions.
Communicative. Candor and comfort are two critical aspects of a strategic business partnership. Solution providers should be interested in communicating beyond making the sale. Firm leaders need to feel comfortable sharing information about goals, challenges, and strategy with their solution providers.
Proactive when issues arise. Problems can and do occur, so solution providers must be responsive, even to ad hoc needs and requests that fall outside contract parameters. Your strategic business partners should be honest when they make a mistake and be comfortable having tough conversations.
Benefits of Better Vendor Relationships
When you partner with the right solution provider, you’ll benefit from their years of experience working with firms of various sizes and with various technology infrastructures. Given the opportunity, your vendors can draw on these experiences to share best practices as knowledge of what works and what hasn’t worked for other firms going through the same implementation or transformation as your firm.
You’ll also gain an advocate that is vested in your success. When your firm wins, your solution providers win. This motivates them to bring solutions to the table far beyond the product or service they are known for. They’re not just trying to solve the current problem, but looking ahead to identify challenges on the horizon.
We’ve found that most solution providers in our profession not only welcome but actively seek out feedback and input from their partner firms. Encouraging this dialog is a win/win, as the firm can have their pain points addressed while the solution provider gets insight into what they need to build or enhance to keep their customers happy and attract new firms.
We regularly get firm and IT leaders in the same room with solution providers. In this collaborative setting, knowledge, experiences, and connections flow freely, and the conversations provide value beyond the traditional firm/vendor relationship. It’s that collaboration that ensures technology supports the shared goal of improving and transforming the profession.
The next time you meet with a current or potential solution provider, move past measuring the strength of the relationship based on speed, price or functionality. Look to what more a solution provider can offer when you are willing to view solution providers as strategic business partners.