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Who's riding who? The CIO versus the Vendor

Peter Hind | May 1, 2008
The relationship between an enterprise and its vendors is, too often, an adversarial one. Both sides can come to regard it like riding a wild horse at a rodeo. But one Asia Pacific metals producer has developed a model to keep everyone smiling.

Relationship value

However, Dean, showing perhaps his mathematical heritage, considered that before Zinifex invested in trying to improve this relationship, it needed some way to measure its effectiveness. This would then give it a yardstick against which it could monitor progress. As such, the company developed an approach called Relationship Value Transformation. At the outset, this required a candid acknowledgement by both organisations on the problems in the partnership and an agreement that they needed to work co-operatively to address these difficulties.The approach developed by Zinifex entailed a four step process (see Diagram 1). Firstly, it measured the existing relationship. Next it identified behaviours that were harming that relationship. Then it established a steering committee to address these issues. Finally, it reinforced the new desirable behaviours by cementing them in to the day-to-day activities. These steps are then repeated in a continuous improvement cycle to ensure that the relationship keeps moving forward. Zinifex's experience has been that the repeating of the process has been the key to gradually building up the necessary trust between the partners. In the first step, Zinifex used the GSI tool. This allowed an analysis of what each of the four key participants believed was the desired relationship between Compaq and Zinifex and how they thought it actually was in reality. The process used an individual questionnaire for each participant. The results from these surveys were then combined to assess the style of the work group. This information was then charted in to the GSI tool. The findings revealed a wide discrepancy between actuality and the ideal relationship. While these results did not surprise either Compaq or Zinifex, they did help quantify the problems.The next stage began with a three-day workshop, (the time involved was seen as a commitment by both sides to improving the relationship). This looked at issues such as behavioural styles, the quality of the business engagement, co-operative strategies, ownership and accountability, the quality of the relationship, and business and relationship needs and issues on both sides. In particular, it required participants to honestly look at the behaviours of the people involved and to acknowledge how these were harming the relationship. To facilitate this examination a tool called DISC was utilised to identify the prominent behavioural style of individuals, (see Diagram 2). The results of this were then shared with the steering committee members so that, through improving their understanding of each other, they could learn how to work better together. The workshop also utilised some very confrontational activities including individual face-to-face declarations of the issues without allowing any rebuttal by the other parties. While this was at times very uncomfortable, Zinifex found this approach an extremely powerful tool in uncovering each person's concerns.


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