The art of successful collaboration: the importance of intention-based communication in building business relationships
By: Patrycja Dębska, Worldline Head of Merchant Services Outsourcing Management
It is always a bitter disappointment to everyone in a project when the undertaking fails. Sunken invested costs, disheartened workforces, unfulfilled expectations, instead of the exhilaration of ambitions met and objectives delivered
Needless to say, such disappointments and failures can occur for a myriad of reasons – some inevitable, some avoidable. But what could have been done better to avoid such situations? What lessons can and should be learnt and what are some easy-fix tips to make things go smoother in future?
Sadly, from the very outset there is often an unwarranted assumption that everyone understands the overall goals and objectives of any given task or project, an adequate level of knowledge and skill sets and unilateral motivation. Indeed, why are these shared prerequisites so important to the wider service provider-client relationship – and certainly no less so than in the world of payments?
Shared Service Centres (SSC) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) are business units that provide specialist payment services to other companies, as an outsourced alternative to creating new departments and units within their own structures. Or, perhaps, they may require support in a specific area such as language and co-ordinating differing time zones. By their very nature, SSCs or BPOs are supporting organisations. They assist. They solve problems. They offer guarantees.
But how do they protect against corporatisation, routine and broad stagnation?
The history of commerce shows that the biggest corporations were created not only through hard work, but through connections, acquaintances, and the ability to maintain relationships. To build a lasting relationship that will provide a long-term benefit, leaders and organisations must invest in intangible assets such as soft competencies. These include
- Intention-based communication;
- The building of long-term business relationships i.e. moving beyond the more traditional “pay and demand” relationship, principally through transparency;
- The power of humanity in business – speaking to hearts and minds through trust, stability and loyalty; and
- Creating the right corporate culture – fostering self-awareness, openness and authenticit
In short, it is only through conscious and sincere communication, and the building of long-term relationships, based on a mutual interest in the success or well-being of any project that will ensure its success.
While there is still a “pay and demand” arrangement in the relationship between the principal and the service provider, unfortunately, such a solution only works in the shorter term and only in certain sectors. To build a lasting relationship that will provide a long-term benefit, we need to invest in intangible assets, i.e. soft competencies.
Relationships are built at every level of an organisation and according to formal and procedural rules, as well as relatively informally in meetings (on-site and online). Internal rules and formal administration of relationships will be a significant driver of many contractual obligations. Closely forged relationships help to build a structure whereby regular and transparent communication guarantees a more tightly knitted control over the quality of services delivered, and over any changes that need to be implemented. Permanent, yet ongoing examples of this would include regular operational meetings at a level deemed to be necessary between the parties involved. More informal methods of maintaining a close contact and rapport are equally important.
From the outset, and as early as during the process of selecting a potential service provider or during any such negotiations, it is important to share the rationale for said co-operation. Without being as open as possible, we cannot expect good results. Likewise, it is important to be open and transparent about challenges and potential difficulties likely to be encountered throughout any such project.
So, what is intention-based communication in relationships?
Intention-based communication, in essence, encompasses the art of sharing mutual goals and aspirations within any endeavour. Collaboration can, of course, be seen in many guises. For example, a successful service procurement strategy should identify the elements that determine what is most appropriate for any mutual relationship. Within payments, this is often encapsulated within one of three distinct options: an internal shared service centre, outsourcing to an external company or leaving the service in the hands of local teams. This is where the conversation should start for any project affecting the development of a particular unit.
The same strategy would apply in the process of identifying a new outsourcing company once it has been established, within the RFI (Request for information) process, what information must be included for the external company to be able to prepare a suitable offer. Several interactive stages would aim to ensure the choice for both parties is mutually acceptable as well as being the one to deliver the optimal project result. At this stage, both parties have a chance not only to get to know each other but to agree the language used to describe their requirements or possibilities more coherently. The signing of the contract then seems like a mere formality and the transit project is built on a strong foundation. Establishing the goals for the relationship from the outset builds an affinity based on trust.
Experience suggests that focussing purely on the delivery of results that are described in minute detail within a contract still very often lead to misunderstanding. The natural inclination of people, and therefore also of organisations, is to rationalise facts or explain away mistakes. This, however, does not help deliver a solution. Uninformed individuals very often have the fear that asking about something they do not understand might be perceived as their being ill-informed. Therefore, it is important to communicate honestly and transparently at every step, in terms of objectives and expectations. It is unwise to leave room for interpretation.
Service providers, whether in the payments industry or elsewhere, need to foster an organisational culture based on self-awareness and authenticity among both management and employees. If relationships are truly based on partnership, then the implementation of solutions becomes not only much more assured, but also a pleasure.