Development partner outside the customer’s core competence area

Mutual exchange is the basis of all relationships, and this is especially true of business relationships. The strongest business relationship is one characterised by strong trust, transparent communication and clear expectations. In other words, where the partnership is seen as a natural extension of the own business. One way of building a strong client relationship is to offer new pathways for collaboration, one of which could be acting as a development partner. What does this mean, and what is the most important factor for success as a development partner?

While the traditional consultancy agreement often focuses on meeting a need that arises directly within the client’s core area of expertise, a development partner strives to identify underlying needs and create added value on a broader spectrum, where the client themselves lack the time or ability to define and lead the work. A broader spectrum means looking beyond the client’s core area of expertise to create new opportunities when it comes to business setups, revenue models, delivery forms and approaches. The framework for such a collaboration is often a project agreement capable of generating new opportunities for both parties, but which also imposes strict requirements on the development partner’s business and how the partner works with the client.

The single most important condition for success as a long-term development partner is the insight that you are there to help the client and not to sell hours or a pre-packaged solution. The project agreement does not replace the consultancy agreement but rather complements it by adding more options and approaches.

The other condition is to plant this idea with the client and ensure that the right conditions are present internally. You often meet with a curious but somewhat confused reaction when you speak about the development partner concept in various contexts. “Do you mean that you work internally?” “Do you get paid for that?” “Do you use dedicated consultants?” The reaction is to an extent understandable, but at the same time it is deeply rooted in a consultant mindset.

Working as a development partner requires adaptability and scalability, an established external network of subconsultants and suppliers, functioning development processes, sound project management, an alternative way of measuring results and, perhaps most importantly, a long-term strategy. A common theme connecting different projects, from sale through to implementation and from client to team, is another prerequisite for success. Such a common theme requires a fixed core of experienced people who continually feed experiences back to their own organisation and ensure a seamless transition between project agreement and implementation. The team are the carriers of culture and processes and contribute to an understanding of the conditions of each new case, i.e. the client’s expectations and expectations with regard to the agreement, scope and schedule, “definition of done” and what the most important factors and challenges are in the project in question. 

Avalon currently has around ten development projects in progress within various disciplines and of varying scope and complexity. Each has its own unique set of conditions and challenges, but in general it tends to be the case that the longer the relationship, the more effective the project. A successful project agreement lays the foundation for a longer partnership where the long-term perspective is just as important as a targeted one-off initiative.

About the author:

Peter Timling, Project Operations Manager at Avalon Innovation