You’re staring at a project – you have fought hard for the budget and you’re selecting your partner for the project.

I’m a huge believe that for any difficult project, you want a partner. You don’t want a “vendor”. A vendor is a replaceable piece and the relationship is based on them fitting into a defined box. The problem with the model is that you likely don’t have your boxes perfectly figured out. The worst part is that even if you do have everything figured out you’ll be changing your organization by pursuing your project, which means those boxes will change too. A vendor may not fit the new box and may not be willing or capable of fitting it even if you want them to. A good partner on the other hand will help you fit your processes, procedures, and technology together – they’ll be there to meet and anticipate your needs.

You know you have a vendor when you hear either of the following all the time. Yes or No. A vendor that wants to hold to the requirements that were old before you started will say No all the time – without change requests or amendments at least. A vendor that is desperate to please you will say Yes all the time – even when either they can’t handle something or when you really needed a No (but perhaps you didn’t know this). A partner will say both – with your mutual interests at heart.

On any project that is really making change, you will have to engage in heated debates and make some agonizing decisions. When those meetings end in anger and pain – you have a vendor. When those meetings end with goosebumps and exhilaration – you have a partner. And that my friends is when the magic happens.