Management Strategies

10:46 AM
Fred Cook, BlueShore Financial
Fred Cook, BlueShore Financial
Commentary
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The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource

Banks should borrow from professional sports the 12th Man concept -- leveraging support from their key vendors to gain an untapped resource for creative, collaborative and additive opportunities over and above standard support.

Post -2008 economic slowdown, doing more with less -- or, at best, with what you already have -- has become the new norm. So how do you ever get ahead?

This is especially difficult for IT departments in small- to medium-sized financial institutions, since there's far less flexibility in schedules and budget allocations. But regardless of size, all financial institutions must contend with new regulations, ongoing regulatory requirements, application and infrastructure upgrades and security threats, all while ensuring key systems are available 24x7x365 -- and all before even beginning to think about new products and services, and meeting consumer demand for banking service availability on the latest e-gadget. So much time and energy goes into keeping the lights on; forget about finding extra time or resources to leverage existing systems for new opportunities or exploring new innovations.

[Many community banks are planning to increase investment in IT and new products and services like mobile banking and payments, KPMG forecasts: 2014 Forecast: Community Banks to Increase IT Investment Next Year]

To do more, we need to look outside technology and banking -- we need to look to sports. Now hear me out: There's a phenomenon in professional sports, particularly in the NFL, called the "12th man." The concept refers to a team gaining so much support from fans in the stadium that it's as if those fans were an additional player on the team. Although fans turn out in stadiums across the globe to support their teams, very few teams actually tap into the 12th man phenomenon. If you want to see it in action, check out the Seattle Seahawks' home games, or home games of the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders.

In much the same way, some CIOs can leverage support from key vendors as their 12th man, and in so doing gain an untapped resource over and above the standard support. This approach is definitely not for the CIO who shops for technology the way they would shop for shoes or a plumbing fixture. Instead, consider that some vendors are key to your overall strategy rather than just a tactical purchase, and therefore, explore the value of a partnership focusing on a mutually beneficial approach to your relationship. Stephen Covey puts it best, where he describes "price-based transaction with suppliers" as being part of "industrial age thinking" versus "synergistic, mutually beneficial partnership networks" as "information age thinking."

Personally, I much prefer "information age thinking" and have always strived to work with my key vendors in a strategic partnership model that's mutually beneficial to both of us. My goal is to have vendors, particularly Relationship Managers, understand our business model as well as our market differentiators. After all, how can they help you if they don't know where they can help you? By understanding our business model, Relationship Managers can go beyond merely pushing more hardware, software, or their latest corporate product objective, but instead identify areas to bring more complete solutions that truly add value.

It's through these relationships that I start seeing the 12th man in action, as vendor partners start to bring us creative, collaborative, insightful and additive opportunities. I start to think of these partners as "arms-length" extensions of my IT department that facilitate a deeper corporate relationship with them. Based on pure customer-supplier-spend ratio, this approach can result in advantages on par with, and even beyond, what your larger competitors receive in support from shared suppliers.

Reciprocally, as vendors get a better understanding of our business, they are able to identify opportunities with other financial institutions and clients that they may have missed before. Therefore, it truly becomes a win-win for both sides.

As the relationship deepens, this approach also opens up access to knowledge exchange between team members. The vendor-partners are more forthcoming in sharing business and technical practices, as well as bringing in experts to share further insights long before any contract proposal is on the table.

You will be surprised at the depth at which the spirit of collaboration takes hold, resulting not only in a major reduction of CYA syndrome, but also inspiring vendor partners to step in to help when a problem isn't even theirs.

Even though BlueShore Financial is a regional, niche financial institution, we still have to compete with local, regional, national, and international organizations, and 12th man support has been extremely helpful in giving us a global perspective, particularly since a number of our key vendors are global players. Because they have a good understanding of our business model, our vendor partners often look for opportunities on our behalf within their own organizations and with their other customers and partners. Ultimately, these vendors provide more opportunities for our success, which in turn leads to their success, thus cementing a mutually satisfying and beneficial long-term relationship.

This tough competitive environment is not going away anytime soon, and we all need to find additional support wherever we can and leverage it to our best advantage. Look at your relationships with your key vendors: Is there potential to add the 12th Man to your team? Not all vendors can step into this role, since it hinges on collaborative thinking and striking a balance between Best-of-Design (BOD) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

Only in a collaborative, working relationship will you find a willing "12th man" partner who can provide you with that "extra bit" of support edge to help you thrive in this tough economic climate.

Fred Cook is Chief Information Officer, BlueShore Financial, and a 2009 Bank Systems & Technology Elite 8 honoree.

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FredCook
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FredCook,
User Rank: Author
2/23/2014 | 7:51:42 AM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
I appreciate PaulS178's perspective outlining the 3 approaches and like the way he has captured their differences. I believe he's spot on based on my own experiences. Also as Greg MacSweeney has mentioned in his comment, that establishing a trusted relationship is key and I would add that's when it really becomes a working "partnership".
Only when trust has been earned between the parties can this support boost - 12th man concept be realized, experience and leveraged through your on-going account support interaction and within your projects.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2014 | 3:26:19 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
PaulS178, thank you for your perspective. Establishing trust is so important in any business relationship (or any personal relationship, for that matter). Getting the WOW can't happen without trust, that's for sure.
PaulS178
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PaulS178,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/11/2014 | 9:26:11 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
Fred,

As a 35 year consultant to the financial industry I
appreciate your perspective and approach to vendor relationship building. When
I look back at the most succesfull relationships in terms of client results and
their representatives peronal satisfaction and my and our staffs enjoyment of
the work, the 12th man position comes instantly to mind.

There seem to be three distinct levels in vendor
relationships; #1 absolute trust and friendship resulting in high mutual value
as you suggest, #2 - arms-length partnerships that are limited and focused by
contract language, and #3 - bid projects that are often driven by lowest cost.
In terms of getting the work done, all can function with good management. But,
there is a direct correlation between the level of trusting engagement and
success project to project and long term for both sides of the relationship.

The reality for some clients is that their board or vendor structure
makes it more difficult to establish these trusted on-going relationships that
can create GǣWOWGǥ. Some of our clients have moved their boardGs opinion by incrementally
proving the value of these relationships and building a structure of trust and accountability
with vendors. Simply put, I know that clients get the highest return from our
teams when they are willing to openly engage, share information and share the
recognition and rewards. This way we all get to share the WOW and possibly drinks
some great wine together.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
2/6/2014 | 2:45:27 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
Yes, the trick is finding value for both parties. That often means that both parties need to do a little extra work to make the partnership. It can't be all "take" on the bank's part....there has to be some "give" as well.
FredCook
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FredCook,
User Rank: Author
2/5/2014 | 8:28:06 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
i would agree, the 12th man support concept requires the vendor and customer to have a shared value. In fact, I would say it is critical .... and again, not all vendors and/or their customers are comfortable with this spirit of partnership ... but as mvermilyea has pointed out; it's not always easy ... but when it occurs - WOW! ... and I should also add - a lot fun!
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
2/5/2014 | 1:51:01 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
That's a big hurdle to overcome; firms are so protective of their data and often are unwilling to share anything.
mvermilyea
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mvermilyea,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/4/2014 | 11:58:41 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
Following up on the 12th man concept, it seems to me that the partnerships that work best are those (like the Seattle fans and the Seahawks) where both partners, the team and the 12th man go all in ensuring the success of the venture. the interesting thing about going all in is that there is success for both. Every time! I have been part of flat partnerships and I use that term partnership to include efforts within an organization as well as between organizations and I have been part of focused, cohesive energetic, fun partnership endeavors. The difference between the two is the "all in" part of the equation. That said, it is not always easy to get the synergy going but when it occurs - WOW!
FredCook
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FredCook,
User Rank: Author
2/4/2014 | 1:02:33 AM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
Speaking from a customers perspective, having this type of working partnership can provide a platform for a company (Technology Team) to up their game!
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
1/30/2014 | 2:48:52 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
I guess a lot depends on the particular vendor. Some technology providers have a wealth of knowledge to share and are more than willing to work with customers to help them improve. Other vendors, while they have the knowledge, may not be so willing to share it unless it is specified in an agreement, believe it or not.
JimL655
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JimL655,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/29/2014 | 7:47:39 PM
re: The “12th Man” -- Leveraging An Untapped Support Resource
As one of the people on the Vendor side of what Fred is talking about I look at it this way; Fred and his team are friends in the true sense of the word. We share problems and when times get tough we help each other out. When times are good we share that too.
The term "partnership" started out as a legal term to define a business relationship, and the first time I had a customer talk about "partnership" corporate legal for my company actually said "you can't use that term". It has become so diluted that now it is overused and mostly meaningless. except in the true legal sense.
I don't know what to call this corporate best friends without sounding trite, but I know it is a two way relationship that will be around for a long time.
Jim Leedham
HP
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