The path from A to B is rarely linear. Even when aiming to achieve something relatively straightforward like revising the financial model for a contract renewal, seasoned leaders know that there are several foundational pillars that must be shored up before meaningful and sustainable change is possible.
This case study describes our work with two large financial services organisations who have been doing business together for decades, whereby one is providing backend technology and administration services to the other. A change in the regulatory environment prompted a need to pursue cost savings, and so their long standing contract was on the table to be reimagined.
These two organisations knew that they needed an independent third party to help them through this process. Some stakeholders favoured taking the very objective approach of focusing solely and immediately on the financial dimensions, for which a traditional consultancy would have been adequately geared to do. However the senior leaders knew that the same thinking and approach which had brought them to this point could not take them further. They were seeking a different approach in order to drive a really meaningful outcome, and they found that in Vibrance Partners.
So, what was it about this situation that required a different approach?
All large scale business to business (B2B) relationships are complex. There is a strong interrelationship between the daily lived experience of staff and customers and the overarching strategic intent, however keeping these aligned is challenging – especially when the relationship has previously been optimised for efficiency and cost control.
Part of the evolving business and technology landscape is that expectations are changing. Customer expectations are increasing, as we all become accustomed to the experience associated with instant, digital channels. Gradually, business expectations are also increasing as services become more modular – a specialist provider can offer one focussed value proposition while integrating with core systems via application programming interfaces (APIs).
This was the set of dynamics that our clients were grappling with – increased customer expectations that create competitive pressure, and a desire to have optionality around using best of breed technologies and service providers – all the while needing to minimise costs.
Responding to these changes requires a significant level of agility both from a technology and a ways of working perspective. Simply taking out cost from the contract, while achievable, would have actually been counterproductive in the long run. Rather, both organisations needed to develop a shared understanding of each other’s perspective, and use that to arrive at a set of decisions that encompassed the whole relationship and operating model, while also demonstrating a financial model that met key objectives.
The central goal was to create conditions where meaningful dialogue could occur.
Our initial work was to level the playing field so that all participants of the joint working team could have their perspectives heard, reshaping the existing client/vendor dynamic that had existed between these two organisations. This was achieved through considered workshop design and facilitation. While standard tools and frameworks are generally geared for surfacing the needs of one organisation, Vibrance developed frameworks that allowed for the exploration and synthesis of the two broad points of view.
These workshops were very hands-on, and were all conducted virtually using online collaboration tools so as to cater for team members spread across three states.
We needed a way to ensure that our conversations encompassed multiple perspectives and thinking styles. We chose to leverage the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) – a framework that helps individuals and groups to take a step back to understand their natural tendencies when it comes to how they think and work, and to be able to move forward with a more balanced and holistic approach.
This framework was used as a guide to provide a consistent vocabulary throughout the engagement to frame the conversations and exercises across the four dimensions of rational, experimental, relational and practical ways of thinking.
Participants of the working team used the HBDI framework to self identify and share their personal dominant thinking styles. This helped the broader team to maintain an awareness for when conversations were becoming too focussed on the analytical dimension, for example, and to self correct towards a more balanced dialogue.
Genuine shared understanding of capabilities, challenges and opportunities
In addition to supporting the core working team through the process of co-designing a set of relationship principles and a new operating model, a key part of the journey was creating the opportunity for people from across the respective organisations to come together to have deep dive conversations related to seven discrete capability areas of strategic importance. These sessions bridged the gap between the executives and the people at the front lines who have deep domain expertise, and who know first hand where the opportunities and challenges lie. Vibrance facilitated joint preparation sessions for each capability area to ensure that the right questions were being both asked and answered, and then provided coaching around utilising diverse presentation styles to demonstrate capabilities and build a shared sense of confidence that together the organisations could achieve the desired outcomes.
The Vibrance Difference
Vibrance brought to this engagement the essential balance between structure and adaptability. A structured approach was required to drive outcomes within a compressed time frame, corralling busy executives across two organisations. Adaptability was key in facilitating a process worked through the many dimensions that underpin a reimagined B2B relationship, operating model and commercial construct.
We enabled our clients to reimagine their partnership, which reduced overall operating costs by a significant amount, while enabling the other party to be able to deliver more value more efficiently by streamlining and integrating services – a genuine win-win scenario. This was underpinned by making visible and explicit the joint commitments change across the dimensions of technology, process and culture that would be required to make the reimagined partnership model achievable and sustainable.
Our team leveraged deep expertise across strategy, commercial, innovation, new ways of working, organisational development and technology – all of which played a role in facilitating a holistic approach, which ultimately led to exceeding expectations by not only arriving at the target level of cost savings, but also provided confidence that both parties were aligned in understanding their respective commitments that would be necessary to ensure the ultimate success of their organisations and the customers they serve.