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Chapter 8: Partner

Overview

Partnering has proven to be an effective strategy in achieving increased leverage from technology as well as increased profitability in the current competitive business environment. Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) provides the structure for initiating and establishing the partner relationship.

Scenario...

Linda and the technology team have been working on the deployment plan for Windows Vista BitLocker and EFS technologies for the Financial Analysts Group's new desktop profile. The team has already gone through the initial Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) steps of planning the deployment. Based on her work with the organization's internal teams, Linda realizes that a partner can better handle the chores of deploying the Secure Data Profile and providing support to the Financial Analysts Group, due the flexibility and regional availability of partner resources. Engaging with a partner also alleviates the problems and cost of hiring and managing individual contractors. With the deployment plan and requirements in hand, she goes to Doris Krieger, the Partner Account Manager, and asks for a short list of viable partners.


Partner Catalog

The Partner Account Manager handles relationships with partners, vendors, and suppliers. An important capability delivery tool is the Partner Catalog; used by the Partner Account Manager to track and help ensure that partner activities are aligned to the organization's needs.

A catalog provides a repository for sharing partner information that can be quickly consulted for multiple purposes.

Table 8.1. Create a Partner Catalog

Tool

Partner Catalog

Owner

Partner Account Manager

Description

The Partner Account Manager develops and tracks information on an organization's existing partners. This information should include contact information, a listing of historical engagements, and satisfaction ratings in terms of timeliness, expectation fulfillment, quality of service, and ease of communication.

Input

The Partner Catalog is populated with input from:

  • Infrastructure, Services, and Support teams through interviews.
  • Other partner management teams within an organization through interviews.
  • Contracts database or records.

Output

The Partner Catalog is used by:

  • Partner Account Managers.
  • Infrastructure, Services, and Support teams.
  • Partners.

Steps to Develop and Manage the Partner Catalog

The following steps help ensure that necessary and sufficient information related to partners, their activities, and possible future engagements is gathered in a single repository for reuse for multiple purposes.

Figure 8.1. Steps to develop the Partner Catalog

Step A: Review Existing Partner Information

Investigate and gather information on the organization's existing and past partners. Use this as a starting point in your discussions with internal groups and partners.

Objectives:

  • Determine the partners already engaged with the organization.
  • Determine common contract length and scope.
  • Track any discrepancies or other notes.
  • Note organizational groups and contacts for the engagements.
  • Determine the partners' related capabilities and experiences.

Success Criteria:

  • Develop a list of existing partners and contractual history.
  • Contact information for existing and historical partners.

Frequency:

  • Initial work to establish Partner Catalog.
  • Quarterly review to document new activity.

Step B: Interview Internal Groups Regarding Existing and Past Partner Engagements

Get history from your internal groups on their previous work with partners to determine past partner performance. Use this information to improve your delivery of effective partnerships to the organization.

Objectives:

  • Determine organizational satisfaction of existing and past partner engagements.
  • Profile historical and current partner engagements with the organization.

Success Criteria:

  • A satisfaction rating for each partner by the organization.
  • Record of engagement information such as underpinning contracts (UCs).
  • Record of engagement information such as dates, project titles, and locations.
  • Context for partner engagements including project vision, scope, and goals.

Frequency:

  • Initial work to establish Partner Catalog.
  • Quarterly review to document new activity.

Step C: Interview Internal Groups Regarding Future Needs of the Organization

Gain insight on where your organization may need help in the future. Use this information to plan your partner recruitment and expansion strategies.

Objectives:

  • Determine possible future direction of organization.
  • Determine upcoming projects that may require partner interaction.

Success Criteria:

  • A list of possible projects and high-level requirements and priorities.

Frequency:

  • Initial work to establish Partner Catalog.
  • Quarterly review to document new activity.

Step D: Interview Existing Partners for Current Engagements and Future Responsibilities

Gain insight from your partners and their plans. Understand their strategy and how they plan to improve their service to your organization.

Objectives:

  • Determine partners' future plans and capabilities.
  • Determine partners' areas of interest in engaging with the organization.

Success Criteria:

  • A description of partners' future directions.
  • A list of partners' suggested engagements with the organization.

Frequency:

  • Initial work to establish Partner Catalog.
  • Quarterly interview with partners to document new activity.

Step E: Create Partner Catalog

With the above information in hand, create a catalog to store and manage the information for shared use. Use this as a backbone for your analysis.

Objective:

  • Combine information gathered in Steps A through D to form a central information repository of partner information.

Success Criteria:

  • A single data repository that the Partner Account Manager can use to quickly answer internal requests for effective partners.
  • A single data repository for the Partner Account Manager to track and grow new partner relationships.

Frequency:

  • Initial work to establish Partner Catalog.
  • Quarterly review to document new activity.

Partner Catalog Suggested Contents

The Partner Catalog is an informational repository that includes key information about each partner. The contents will vary according to the organization, but may include the following topic headings:

  • Partner ID
  • Company Name
  • Company Subsidiaries
  • Contact Information
  • Current Engagements
  • Historic Engagements
  • Satisfaction Rating
    • Experience
    • Response Performance
    • Flexibility
    • Dependability
  • Strengths and Areas of Expertise
  • Weaknesses and Mitigation
    • Relevant Expertise
    • Bench Strength and Consistency
  • Locations and Geographic Coverage
  • Rates, Rate History, and Costs
  • Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) Status
  • UC Status General Availability

Figure 8.2. Partner Catalog example

Note Within the Partner Catalog, you may decide to include different entries for each historical engagement. It is recommended that you consult with your accounting or contracts department on how to track each engagement in accordance with their best practices.

Scenario...

Doris looks through the Partner Catalog to create a likely list of quality partners for Linda's consideration in delivering the Windows Vista BitLocker and EFS features to the Financial Analysts Group. She is looking for partners with great histories in delivering services to the organization. She knows that a large part of that success is a partner's ability to understand and interact with the organization. Thanks to Doris's prior efforts in educating partners through the Partner Engagement Guide, some partners have excelled in working with the organization. She focuses on those partners that have been involved in security projects and scored high ratings from Kevin Cook, the Enterprise Security Administrator. She provides Linda and Kevin with the short list of likely partner candidates to review quickly and efficientlyPartner A is a perfect match. In addition to meeting the base requirements, Partner A has delivered high-touch security projects around public key infrastructure (PKI) and smart cards for Kevin in the past.

Tools

Exhibit 8.1. Sample Partner Catalog

Access this content as part of the WVSLM download package.

Exhibit 8.2. Partner Account and Relationship Management Partner Catalog

Underpinning Contract

Scenario...

After working with Doris, Linda and her team have selected a partner to handle the manual process of delivering the Windows Vista BitLocker and EFS Secure Desktop Profile deployment to the Financial Analysts Group. She now needs to ensure that the partner delivers on agreed-upon service levels. Linda works with Doris to create an underpinning contract (UC). Doris uses existing UCs and works with Woodgrove Bank's internal Legal Group and Partner A to further refine the UC. The end product UC should meet service level needs for Woodgrove Bank and Partner A.

Note An underpinning contract is a legal contract between two firms and is created with input from the internal organization's customer, partner, and legal departments.

Include your organization's Legal Group early when working on an underpinning contract with a partner. They need to be involved in order to protect your organization and provide governance guidance. Including your organization's Legal Group early in the process will also save you time, effort, and embarrassment by eliminating potential partners that do not meet current legal requirements.

Table 8.2. Create an Underpinning Contract

Tool

Underpinning Contract

Owner

Partner Account Manager

Description

The Partner Account Manager works with the organization's internal teams, including the Legal Group, and partner to create and refine the underpinning contract. An underpinning contract can be thought of as a service level agreement (SLA) between an organization and its individual partners. UCs may vary in scope and duration based on the type of engagement they cover.

Input

The underpinning contract is created with input from:

  • Infrastructure, Services, and Support teams.
  • Partners.
  • Legal groups.

Output

The underpinning contract is used by:

  • Infrastructure, Services, and Support teams.
  • Partners.
  • Legal groups.

Steps to Develop an Underpinning Contract

Underpinning contracts have legal and compliance considerations that require input and evaluation from non-IT groups, such as your legal group. By working through the following steps, an IT pro will be taking a comprehensive approach to contract development.

Figure 8.3. Steps to develop an underpinning contract

Step A: Review Existing Partner Information in Partner Catalog

First, determine if the partners being considered have existing UCs in place with the organization. Also check to see if all supporting agreements are in place, such as the proper level of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). This will prevent confusion and extra work in the next steps.

Objective:

  • Determine target partner's existing engagements and UCs.

Success Criteria:

  • A list of existing UCs including reference information.

Frequency:

  • As needed per engagement requiring a UC.

Step B: Contact Internal Legal Group for Framework and Process Guidance

It is very important to include your Legal Group early and often in developing a UC. Each organization has its own legal requirements that must be accounted for in a UC. Follow the Legal Group's processes and guidance in working with partners.

Objectives:

  • Gain the Legal Group's process model for partner UCs.
  • Retrieve legal framework of draft UC to work with internal groups and partner.

Success Criteria:

  • Use the legal group's processes to initiate the UC process.
  • Gain Legal Group's approval to begin UC service creation.

Frequency:

  • As needed per engagement requiring a UC.

Step C: Work with Internal Groups to Define Service Requirements Within the UC

Like an SLA or an operating level agreement (OLA), UCs specify the requirements and constraints of both the provider and subscriber to the rendered service, as well as the terms and conditions of the service. Work with your internal groups to define the requirements of the partner SLA/OLA using this as a basis for UC content. Include groups that specify guidelines for SLA/OLA content and your legal group.

Objective:

  • Define services within the UC.

Success Criteria:

  • A service level agreement that can be used as a draft UC.

Frequency:

  • As needed per engagement requiring a UC.

Step D: Work with Partner and Internal Groups to Refine Services Within Draft UC

Once the internal requirements have been through several revision cycles, bring in the targeted partner to help further refine and negotiate the UC.

Objective:

  • Further refine the service level information with input from the partner.

Success Criteria:

  • A refined draft UC is ready for the internal Legal Group for release approval.

Frequency:

  • As needed per engagement requiring a UC.

Step E: Submit Draft UC to Legal Group for Clearance

Now that you have a fairly refined UC, you need to gain clearance from your Legal Group. The Legal Group may have been involved earlier as well (based on their processes and guidance).

Objective:

  • Gain clearance from the Legal Group to release UC to partner.

Success Criteria:

  • UC released to partner for clearance.

Frequency:

  • As needed per engagement requiring a UC.

Step F: Once Approved by Legal Group, Submit to Partner for Clearance

The UC is near completion. The UC needs to be accepted based on the partner's legal requirements. It is critical for the partner to involve their internal Legal Group for clearance at this stage in the process.

Objective:

  • Gain partner's clearance of UC.

Success Criteria:

  • Partner clears UC.

Frequency:

  • As needed per engagement requiring a UC.

Step G: Mutually Agreed and Signed UC Submitted to Legal and Contracts

Once cleared by the respective legal groups, review for final agreement and sign. Submit to your Legal Group and/or Contracts Group as dictated by your organization's requirements.

Objectives:

  • UC agreed and signed.
  • Track through Legal/Contract departments.
  • Track in Partner Catalog.

Success Criteria:

  • UC agreed and signed.
  • UC tracked as per the UC requirements.

Frequency:

  • As needed per engagement requiring a UC.

Table 8.3. Contents of Underpinning Contracts

Windows Vista Service Item

Contract Considerations

Hardware Warranty

  • Warranty responsibility: customer or partner?
  • Service level commitments: turnaround times, communications, parts return, documentation.

Hot spares and definitive hardware store

  • What parts should be stocked by partner?
  • How fast will parts be restocked?
  • Will the partner stock at an on-site or off-site location?
  • Is the partner responsible for inventory?
  • Is the partner responsible for securing the hardware store?
  • Reporting: include items replaced, items in store, items that are in store over six months.
  • Improvement: review the hot spare list, are the correct parts available?

Security alerts

  • Will the organization incident management system communicate with the partner?
  • Communication: what is the proper communication method and process?
  • Escalation: what is the proper escalation path within the partner and the customer?
  • Note Both parties should have escalation and backup plans for personnel responsible for performance.

Reviews

  • Technology updates: what hardware standards may be affected (new components, discontinued models), what software updates may be required (hotfixes, patches, new releases)?
  • Will the partner perform initial testing and recommendations?
  • What is the purpose of the reviews, who should be involved?
  • How often should the reviews occur? Microsoft recommends partner reviews every 30 to 90 days when there are day-to-day accountabilities between the two parties.
  • What performance indicators should be reported on?
  • Identify improvement opportunities.

MOF recommends including the following structure and details in any underpinning contract:

  • Introduction
  • Service Description
  • Service Hours
  • Availability and Reliability
  • Support Routes
  • Transaction Response Times
  • Batch Turnaround Times
  • Throughput
  • Change Management expectations
  • Incident Management: record, track, resources, and closure
  • Problem Management: record, document, resources, and closure
  • Expectations on partner participation in problem management meetings and CAB meetings
  • Statement of Work or Project Charter expectations
  • Release and Testing procedures
  • Project Management methodology expectations
  • Tool requirements or restrictions
  • IT Service Continuity and Security
  • Charging
  • Service reporting and reviewing
  • Performance incentives, rates, and penalties
  • Contractual obligations and termination clauses
  • Non-Disclosure requirements and agreements
  • Litigation approaches
  • Other protection requirements as required by corporate legal departments, such as indemnification clauses, penalties for non-performance, and so on.

Note An important component to an underpinning contract (as in an SLA or OLA) is a definition of success and how to measure it. In this example, criteria might include things like percentage of systems that successfully completed the upgrade policy without fail, number of problems and known errors, and upgrade durations. These metrics can then be fed back to Incident Management for handling.

Figure 8.4. Business requirements for underpinning contracts

Scenario...

After Linda chooses the best partner to deploy the Secure Data Desktop profile, Doris handles the management and creation of the underpinning contract. She uses the Partner Catalog to investigate the partner's activities with Woodgrove Bank. Within the Partner Catalog, she finds that Partner A has two current projects with individual underpinning contracts for each.

Doris requests Woodgrove Bank's Legal Group to help in creating a new underpinning contract with Partner A. She works with the Woodgrove Bank Legal Group to develop the proper underpinning contract framework and with Linda to lay out the service information required to complete the draft UC. As a last step before submitting the proposal to Partner A, Doris gets final clearance from the Legal Group. Once the UC is submitted to Partner A, the partner and partner's legal group accepts the UC and the UC is signed and tracked.

Tools

Exhibit 8.3. Create and Manage Underpinning Contracts

Partner Engagement Guide

Scenario...

Linda is ready to begin working with Partner A. This is made easier as Doris has developed a Process and Procedure Framework for Partner Interactions. This framework has already been published by Doris to the partner community in the form of a Partner Engagement Guide. With the help of this guide, the partner community has a clear understanding of how to interact with Woodgrove Bank.

Two key components to developing strong partner relationships are communicating expectations and facilitating partner-to-organization dialog. To ensure smooth relationships between the organization and the partner, a predictable and structured interaction framework is necessary. This collection of agreed-upon process and procedures is well represented through a combination of diagrams and a Partner Engagement Guide. The upfront development of a Partner Engagement Guide will help educate the organization's partner community on how to best deliver quality service. Meet with your partner community to understand the way they work and how they should work with your organization.

The Partner Engagement Guide will vary in scope and number of subscribed partners. There may be an overarching Partner Engagement Guide for all partners for the entire organization, but with limited depth. In addition, there may be subset Guides for particular organizational units (see the example for Woodgrove Bank Technology Lab) with more depth.

Figure 8.5. Partner Engagement Guide diagram example

Table 8.4. Create a Partner Engagement Guide

Tool

Partner Engagement Guide

Owner

Partner Account Manager

Description

The Partner Engagement Guide is a non-binding document for a partner that describes how to interact with the organization to better ensure engagement success. It contains information on organizational culture, business units, engagement and communication expectations, how to handle exceptions, and general contact best practices. The information is a mix of text and decision tree diagrams. It should be approved by the organization's internal legal groups. There may be more than one Partner Engagement Guide to cover subsets of partner types. However, it is best to keep this number limited for easier manageability. The Partner Engagement Guide may also be used by Internal Groups to understand how the organization wants partners to conduct themselves.

Input

The Partner Engagement Guide is created with input from:

  • Infrastructure, Services, and Support teams through interviews (include other internal groups, as needed).
  • Partners through interviews.
  • Other partner management teams in the organization.
  • Legal Group.

Output

The Partner Engagement Guide is used by:

  • Infrastructure, Services, and Support teams.
  • Partners (published by the Partner Account Manager).

Note The Partner Engagement Guide helps to ensure smooth relationships within a predictable and structured interaction framework. It is a non-binding publication for informational purposes only and eliminates guesswork and inefficiencies in order to facilitate quick and effective partner initiation on projects.

Standardization goes a long way toward efficiently tying the organization's processes and procedures to partners. One of the most challenging aspects for an external partner is to predictably interact with the organization. By providing standardized processes, the Partner Account Manager enables the partner to consistently meet the requirements of the project.

A Partner Account Manager should work closely with his or her internal organization to establish basic inputs and outputs expected from partners. The Partner Catalog and a study of existing underpinning contracts will help a Partner Account Manager develop a plan to handle expectations, exceptions, and contractual requirements for engaging with the organization.

Steps to Develop a Partner Engagement Guide

The following steps provide an approach that results in a well-reviewed Partner Engagement Guide that should help eliminate or streamline the interaction involved in establishing partner relationships.

Figure 8.6. Steps to develop a Partner Engagement Guide

Step A: Define Basic Inputs and Outputs for a Partner Engagement

Approach working with your organization as if you were a partner. Define information required to engage with your organization's internal groups. Ask such questions as:

  • What does a partner need to bring to the table?
  • What can they expect in return?

Objective:

  • Develop basic inputs and outputs for working with internal groups.

Success Criteria:

  • List basic inputs and outputs showing group's general needs.
  • List contact procedures on how to establish and maintain communication.
  • List expectations in methodologies and partnership responsibilities.

Frequency:

  • Initial for development of the Partner Engagement Guide.
  • Refresh as needed.

Step B: Get Internal Legal Group Involved

Be sure to include your internal Legal Group for guidance in working with partners and, in particular, in developing externally facing documentation.

Objective:

  • Obtain your Legal Group's process model for partner engagements.

Success Criteria:

  • Gain your Legal Group's approval and process to create and publish a Partner Engagement Guide (non-binding).

Frequency:

  • Initial for development of the Partner Engagement Guide.
  • Review with Legal Group with each revision of the Guide.

Step C: Work with a Subset of Partners to Refine the Partner Engagement Guide

Include partners in early test releases of your Partner Engagement Guide for feedback and refinement.

Objectives:

  • Get partners' reactions to the draft guide.
  • Gain partners' help based on their perspectives.

Success Criteria:

  • A published Partner Engagement Guide with guidance from the Legal Group and partners.

Frequency:

  • Refresh through revisions approved by Legal Group.

Step D: Improve Partner Engagement Guide Through Experience and Feedback

Your Partner Engagement Guide will become finalized through revision cycles. Continually improve the guide through follow-up with internal groups and your partners.

Objective:

  • Improve effectiveness of Partner Engagement Guide.

Success Criteria:

  • Revisions of Partner Engagement Guide.

Frequency:

  • As needed per desired schedule.

Partner Engagement Guide Suggested Contents

The Partner Engagement Guide is an externally available, non-binding legal document between the organization and partner community. There may be more than one Partner Engagement Guide for the organization that targets different types of service, partners, or regions. The organization's document and records management for external contracts will most likely guide this process. The information contained may vary according to the organization, but may include the following topic headings:

  • Introduction
  • Organizational Description
  • Organization's Culture
  • Organization's Locations
  • Communication Procedures and Expectations
  • Expectations on Engagements
  • Organizational Terminology
  • Partner Account Manager External Contact Information (general)
  • Description of Internal Groups (external audience focused)

Tools

Exhibit 8.4. Sample Partner Engagement Guide

Access this content as part of the WVSLM download package.

Exhibit 8.5. Define Process and Procedure Framework Partner Engagement Guide

Exhibit 8.6. Woodgrove Bank Technology Labs Engagements Example

Access this content as part of the WVSLM download package.

Scenario...

Thanks to Doris's work in strengthening the partner community with the support of a published Partner Engagement Guide, Linda was able to quickly work with partners regarding processes and expectations. The clear partner-to-organization conversations were concise and to the point.

MOF Process

 

For more information on MOF, see http://www.microsoft.com/technet/solutionaccelerators/cits/mo/mof/default.mspx

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