Are budget overruns, gaps, or missed requirements common challenges on projects at your company? If so, you’re not alone. Many companies, regardless of industry, find that even after hiring an experienced vendor, strategic projects are delivered short of expectations. There are steps you can take to prevent this from happening. Establishing a strong, collaborative partnership with your vendor is a crucial step that often mirrors to what degree a project will be successful. Creating a partnership is more than simply hiring the “right” vendor; it’s about cultivating an environment where you and your vendor share the same vision: they work with you and not for you.

Whether you’re in the early stages of a project or find yourself in the middle of one that is already showing signs of challenge, it’s not too late; there are opportunities in either scenario to ensure your project’s success.

vertical-stonesPartnership: Setting up for Success

Gaps and Drags

When companies work together to solve a problem there will always be differences in work styles, expectations, and even culture. These differences are an inevitable part of any project that, without careful management, can create gaps that result in ‘drag.’

One of the first things that should happen on any project is establishing an environment for success. This is an intentional process that begins with setting clear expectations for how you want to work as a cohesive unit or partner with your vendor.

Group working sessions at the start of the project reinforce the tone and vision and prevent information silos that cause drag and must eventually be broken down. Common activities in working sessions include reviewing documentation, developing design alternatives, assessing standards, and weighing priorities. These activities lead to early discovery and identification of unknowns, leaving adequate time for mitigation. This also fosters an environment of communication and collaboration, which not only enables the project to be successful, but also allows the partnership to flourish.


The understanding gained in the working sessions encourages the team to work together to define how industry best practices should be implemented with legacy components. This allows for in-depth discussions of the solution and integration points. These discussions are often where ‘gotchas’ are discovered.

Early collaboration creates buy-in, a sense of ownership among all parties, and produces a design that fits your unique environment and needs.

It’s Not Too Late to Achieve Success

Establishing a successful environment at the beginning of a project is ideal; however, you’re not alone if you find yourself in the middle of a project where a collaborative foundation is missing. This can be addressed midstream by adding a client advocate to the project.

The resource best suited to create and foster a strong partnership among all those involved is often an independent third-party. They serve as your advocate, providing oversight and governance to drive the project’s success and cultivate an environment of collaboration.

Client Advocate

A client advocate’s emphasis is on relationships, both in managing individual team members and in growing team dynamics. The key components an advocate addresses are facilitating work, fostering a positive and collaborative work environment, and holding individuals and the team accountable for delivering the project and meeting expectations.

An advocate oversees and nurtures the partnership, remediating inter-team issues and promoting consistent and open communication. The advocate identifies individual work styles, misaligned expectations that cause drag on the project, and partner with the team to devise resolutions. An advocate also manages outside issues that affect the team’s progress such as monitoring dependencies and removing roadblocks.


The advocate provides rigor needed to hold team members accountable to their roles and responsibilities, and ensures delivery commitments are met. They regularly review the execution of work and ensure issues that arise are resolved as a team.The advocate also provides an objective view of the project, monitors progress against expectations, and reports back to their client.

Success is Yours

Setting up a collaborative environment requires intention and investment in the success of the project. The benefits that can be received from building a strong partnership are greatest when this environment is set early. If you don’t have the right resources on your team, engage a client advocate to ensure the success of your next project – or even to turn around your current one.