Hewlett Packard grew its business using powerful partnerships with Intel (chips) , Oracle (databases) and Cisco (networking) – but as Judith Hurwitz points out in a recent article published in Harvard Business Review (HBR) – it now needs to revisit and reinvigorate these key relationships to regain its innovative edge.
Along with a need to discover new higher margin products and a more unified management culture – Hurwitz believes it is its partnerships that will be key to enabling HP to regain its position as a leader and innovator in the world of IT. She acknowledges that good partnering is ‘a matter of smarts’ – and implies that HP’s key relationships have drifted. As practitioners know, the irony is that it is when partnerships work well and are seen to be ‘running on rails’ – that they are often most at risk. After implementation and ‘business as usual’ success, senior management tend to focus increasingly on outputs and with natural changes in the personnel, the original chemistry and joint approach that helped get the collaboration moving can soon be forgotten – and the relationship can gradually drift and seem less important and less interesting and daring than when shiny and new. Even though the value is there, self-interest becomes more important than seeking common ground, seeking new areas of collaboration and building the personal and organisational trust. Without regular check ups on the health of the relationship as a whole, the drift can turn to neglect and ultimately into decline and termination. Partnership and relationship managers need to focus on the ‘soft stuff – the people, the fit, trust and culture because if these foundations become too wobbly then ultimately the deal will sour. As has been pointed out by Gibbs & Humphries and others, it is estimated that 70% of partnerships and alliances fail – and mostly due to poor relationship management, not a lack of business opportunity. Partnership managers need to focus their lens on the core elements that keep the relationship moving in the right direction. At Benchstone, we summarise this need for constant nurturing and progress within our three Partnership Gears; Fit – Planning – Momentum. Are the mechanics right? Are the right personnel in place and is their senior buy-in, support and leadership? Does the partnership have a clear plan with shared expectations? And ultimately: is there enough momentum and mutual value in the relationship? Hurwitz’s advice to HP is to reinvigorate these partnerships and crucially to make sure they are ‘well designed, well explained and well executed‘. It makes a lot of sense but like other areas of marketing, working ‘smart’ is often easier said than done. For more on the power of collaborative advantage in marketing, visit Benchstone. And to read the full article by Hurwitz on HBR click here.