By Jeremy Snyder

Project Manager, Access

When beginning a new healthcare IT project with a customer, there are many questions raised by members of their project team, in an effort to better understand the scope and responsibilities associated with the implementation. Customers typically ask about detailed project plans, delivery dates and the work commitment required by the project team.  They naturally have many technical questions, being somewhat unfamiliar with the software they purchased and the vendor’s implementation methodology.

These are all very important considerations that deserve to be thoroughly addressed; however, there are two question customers often fail to ask:

First, what level of personal commitment will the vendor bring to the project?

Second, what level of customer service should they expect?

All team members from the vendor and customer project teams should be aware of a very important dynamic which ultimately drives successful projects: the importance of creating a genuine and reciprocal business relationship.

Such relationships encompass the dimensions of trust, reliability, shared history and values, mutual respect, empathy, social support, and effective two-way communications. While both parties need to do their part in creating an atmosphere where the relationship can flourish, the primary responsibility for relationship-building lies with the vendor.

This is accomplished by properly and regularly communicating with the customer’s project team, while at the same time applying expertise to help them overcome everyday challenges that threaten the project’s objectives.  A genuine business relationship should allow the two parties (customer and vendor) to work together to make sound business decisions that will contribute to the overall success of the project.

Respect and mutual cooperation are at the heart of all good business relationships. They are the glue that holds everything together – teams function properly, partnerships are forged and relationships are easily managed.  Demonstrating this respect and cooperation both internally and externally is paramount and a prerequisite to relationship building.

The type of business relationship described above doesn’t automatically happen and cannot be forced on either the customer or the vendor.  Both must see and understand the value of such a relationship and take care to nurture it from the very first contact.  Building this positive rapport sets the foundation for all future contacts in the project and all business dealings between the two.  Customers and  vendors will know when this type of relationship exists, because communication flows freely, projects are completed on time and successfully and customers seek out the vendor for repeat business, by choice, rather than due to incentive. Unfortunately, vendors are often too distracted by their other projects, too disorganized, or too lazy to meet the needs of their customers. This should never be the case.

Vendors and customers alike should work on developing a strong rapport when engaged in project implementation, as both will benefit greatly.  Results include projects that are implemented successfully, on time and with a high degree of satisfaction. Vendors can also learn from their customers, and can therefore improve project management and implementation processes.  And who knows?  They may also end up having a little fun along the way.

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