In any industry, projects are often done with the involvement of a vendor when you are short of resources or expertise for the implementation. Vendors, the good ones of course, contribute to your project with their knowledge, experience and resources. From the change management perspective, vendors are also in a unique position that brings you extra value. Two areas where they provide value while you may have challenges fulfilling within your organization:
- Access to your leadership.
- Subject matter expertise.
Executive Sponsorship is one of the three pillars of Prosci Project Change Triangle (PCT). Based on Prosci’s renowned industry study in the past 20 years, Active and visible sponsorship is identified as the top contributors to change management success. However, one of the challenges that face Change Managers in an organization is often adequate access to the right level of executive sponsor. This is often due to misunderstanding of change management in the organization and underestimation of it’s role and value in projects. It takes time and effort to change the situation if it happens in your organization. Among other efforts, you need to spend time with your sponsor to raise the awareness of the value of change management, provide coaching on their role as a sponsor and set up regular communication channels for feedback loops and continuous engagement. However, you only have a chance to make all such efforts if you have adequate access to your sponsors. If the change your are leading is part of a project that is delivered with a vendor, you have a handle to leverage to access your sponsor. Leadership in a organization often has a communication channel open to vendors. This is at least another route to get to your sponsor if you are struggling with your internal paths.
Another areas where vendors value add is their expertise. Every change management project is unique. Vendors, again the good ones, strive to succeed in the market through specialization and accumulated knowledge and best practices through years and even decades of industry experience. They are experts of the technical side of the project in the first place. The good ones are also experts in the people side of the change. Taking the example of Microsoft Office 365 adoption, an organization only does it internally once. However, for a Microsoft partner that is specialized in this domain, they do this repeatedly, across geographical locations and industries. When you work with them in training needs analysis in preparation for a tailored training plan for example, your vendor often gives you insights that enlighten you and save you effort. When the training plan is built, they also have ready resources with the right expertise to deliver the training.
Where vendors usually fall short though, is a deep understanding of the organization structure and the continuous engagement after the project. Therefore, when performing sponsor assessment for the change initiative, your vendor will need your help in mapping out the structure of sponsor coalition, identifying each person’s level of support for the change and their respective competency level. Another aspect is that project engagements with vendors are usually deliverables based. After the project is commissioned, the engagement is finished. However, it is often the prime time for the reinforcement stage of ADKAR®. You often need to rely on your internal resources for this stage while of course you can involve your vendor in devising the strategy and plans for reinforcing the change before they are let go.