A colleague and I were talking about past projects. When I mentioned one of my favorites, he was surprised–he thought people found the business partner on that project to be “difficult”. Not me—she met all my criteria for a great business partner:
- They know their stuff.
- They provide you sufficient meeting time and respond to your email in a reasonable amount of time.
- They will make decisions, including prioritization.
Didn’t hurt she also had a great sense of humor. But, I don’t require that–if I get my top 3, I’m pretty happy.
Since we always monitor risks to our projects, it’s interesting to think about the risks that arise from a business partner that doesn’t meet the criteria. Here are a few that come to mind:
|Business Partner Weakness||Risks|
|1. Insufficient knowledge||
|2. Lack of time/unresponsive||
|3. Inability to make decisions, including prioritization||
Now the tough thing—once you identify the risk, how do you mitigate it? I wish I had the magic answer, but all I can do is make a few suggestions that sometimes help:
- For 1, identification of additional resources—people, materials, etc.—is your best bet.
- Frank discussion with the business partner about the impact of the behavior can help with 2 & 3.
- I used to periodically meet with one unresponsive person and walk her through open questions and get answers. When I needed a written response, I’d get her to respond while we were meeting.
- As to the person who won’t meet, learn when you can ambush them—do they get to work early or stay late so that you can do a drop-by?
- For the indecisive, help them–propose a decision with supporting reasons and request agreement.
- For prioritization, use the Business Objectives Model to get them thinking about and prioritizing based on business value.
Our business partners can really impact the success of our projects, if you’ve already got a great one you’re lucky. If not, maybe you can help them become one.