Successful Collaboration and Partnerships with Outside Teams

November 21, 2018

In our most recent Master Class, Bob Klein from our strategic partner, Digital Scientists, explained how best to partner with outside teams and why these relationships can become a vital part of your product development team. Other topics included:

  • Factors that drive partnerships
  • Different ways to engage outside teams
  • Best practices for exploring partnerships in your ecosystem
  • How to best transfer knowledge from partnerships

Klein is the CEO of Digital Scientists, an Atlanta-based software innovation and product lab. Read some of the highlights, or download a PDF of the slide deck.

During the webcast, Klein explored four different types of partnerships: startup collaborations, staff augmentations, teams for hire, and collaborative teams. According to Klein, these partnerships can help companies move fast and tap expertise that they may not have in-house. However, finding the right blend of partnerships internally and externally can prove challenging.”

Whatever stage you may be at with your innovation organization, it’s incumbent upon you to build a partner network. And as you’re building partners internally, you should do so as well externally,” Klein said. “In my mind, I think of a decision tree. How do I decide what do I want to work on internally? What do I want to work on externally? And if it’s external, how do I decide which one of these models works for me?”

Klein walked through key considerations for each type of partnership, including the pros and cons. For example, staff augmentation can bring on new talent, often for a part-time or contracting position, with skills the team currently lacks. However, Klein said that growing the staff can require additional training, and new hires may not always gel with existing employees.”

You can add a skill set pretty quickly … [and] maintain control over the existing team, so [if] it’s really just plugging in one or two people, it shouldn’t be too disruptive,” Klein said. “[But] you may need to train these people on internal processes — so onboarding can be tough. If you hire enough [people], there’s going to be a need for capacity just to manage them. That may slow down the team. … The culture of the team you have or are trying to create can be disrupted from the outside, [by people] who [were] ostensibly hired for their skillsets —  but you still need to hire for cultural fit.”

In any type of partnership, Klein emphasized the importance of ensuring that knowledge from the project is transferred to the company. “Once you’ve invested the effort, whether you worked with one person, or [a] team, you want to make sure that knowledge gets [integrating back into] the organization,” Klein said. “There’s a need to document the process and practices and lessons learned. [One way to do that] is to make sure the in-house team can support and extend a new product. So if we create a product outside, our goal is to turn it over [to] someone inside so they can run it.  …You want to know that your team can take this over and keep things moving.”

For more best practices on partnering with external teams, check out the full set of slides that Digital Scientists showed during the Master Class.