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10 Qualities of Successful Business Partners

Are you business partnering or business pandering?

~ By Duncan Haughey

Business partners standing on a train station

Not long ago, I saw a situation where an IT business partner was being run ragged by the business making demands that frankly didn't make much sense. The problem was not the business, but reluctance on the part of the business partner to engage properly with the business and help them formulate a realistic approach in planning for the IT element of their project.

The role of a business partner is to help and guide the business through projects, not to pander to their every need while panicking to get things done in an unreasonable timescale and risking delivery of sub-standard solutions.

All too often, business partners are pandering to the business, putting unreasonable demands on their teams and expecting high quality in less time than is needed; complaining when expectations are not met.

So, what does it take to be a good business partner while still supporting the business effectively?

As a business partner, it is your responsibility to work closely with the business to help them understand the approach that will be taken for their project, the amount of work needed, and the complexity of that work. They do not need to understand every detail, but they do need to appreciate the effort and skills required to complete any given task. Below are the qualities needed for successful business partnering.

Qualities of a Good Business Partner

  1. Good communicator: being able to communicate in a clear and concise way with people at all levels. Good communicators ask for clarification if something is not clear and can put themselves in the other persons' shoes.
  2. Trustworthy: doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it. Trust is earned over time through a succession of good experiences.
  3. Shared vision and goals: the point at which we share a vision of what the future could be. It answers the question, "what do we want to create?"
  4. Highly motivated and passionate: feeling strongly enough about the project to pursue it with great vigour and energy. Highly motivated and passionate people are driven to work towards the best possible outcome for their projects.
  5. Good problem solver: using both logic and intuition to come up with solutions. Good problem solvers solve the root cause of problems and do not just address the symptoms.
  6. Team player: working well with other people to do what is needed to achieve common goals. Good team players are reliable, participative, and co-operative with other members of their team.
  7. Self-confident: believing in one's powers and judgement in a way that instils confidence in others. To be self-confident is to have a positive yet realistic view of oneself.
  8. Effective delegation: the ability to trust others enough to be a little lazy and let them do the work without too much checking and control.
  9. Strong execution: focusing on the road ahead and the result the customer wants to achieve. It means creating an environment where people can work out how to deliver results.
  10. Business and market awareness: having good knowledge about the business and the markets in which one works. For this, it is necessary to possess the ability to talk confidently about current issues and future trends.

What to Avoid When Business Partnering

  • Accepting 'false' deadlines imposed by the customer
  • Providing snap estimates under pressure in meetings
  • Blindly accepting last-minute scope changes
  • Accepting poorly defined goals and objectives
  • Cutting corners to meet unrealistic deadlines
  • Trying to satisfy every customer need, no matter how ill-advised or frivolous
  • Taking all the credit for success and blaming your team for failures
  • Letting politics get out of hand and take over your projects
  • Becoming defensive if anyone questions your approach
  • Forgetting a touch of humanity in your quest to deliver at all costs

In conclusion, business partnering is not about jumping when the business shouts, but working together collaboratively to achieve the best possible results.


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Comments (1)

Topic: 10 Qualities of Successful Business Partners
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4th August 2014 2:22pm
Kit says...
I love this article! Some really good points made here. I also think Stakeholder identification and planning is key with Business Partnering. Missing out a key user of the project product could be to your peril!

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