What is Business Partnering?

Solomon Branch

Business partnering is a strategy that came to prominence in the mid-1990s. It entails looking at a business relationship as a holistic endeavor, and strives to create long-term relationships within a business or between a business and its customers. The goal is to maintain the relationship to create a successful partnership that will offer the combined forces a competitive advantage by utilizing the best possible business practices. It is used in a variety of business arenas.

The focus of business partnering is to create and maintain long-term relationships within or between businesses.
The focus of business partnering is to create and maintain long-term relationships within or between businesses.

The strategy of business partnering came about as a response to the traditional way of doing business. A traditional business model called for a more mechanical approach, wherein the different aspects of a business, such as the human resources department or the financial division, were seen as separate entities and only responsible for their portion of the business. In a business partnering model, the parts are seen as part of a larger whole. A business partnering model might require that different departments sit and work with the other departments in the company they support.

Collaboration can result when two companies produce goods that are worth more when used together.
Collaboration can result when two companies produce goods that are worth more when used together.

One key concept in business partnering is that increased communication will provide a more productive and visionary environment. This allows the business to consider how it can best serve the overall goal of the project, and at the same time improve the relationships between people. The participants don’t have to have the same reasons for achieving a goal. In this way, the communication and overall competitive advantage is kept while at the same time it respects the individual goals of the participants.

Increased communication generally provides a more productive and visionary business partnering environment.
Increased communication generally provides a more productive and visionary business partnering environment.

In addition to providing a more informed, and therefore profitable and beneficial, venture, another advantage of a business partnering model is reduced cost. It can replace a possible merger or acquisition as a business model, which saves money and time. In theory, the increased communication may also eliminate costs allowing the business to run more smoothly.

The business partnering model has been accepted by the business community, at least in conceptual form. The problem it has run into is in the implementation. Many companies seek to improve their relationships with other customers and within the business, but this requires that roles be re-defined. Where once someone needed to simply crunch numbers, for example, they now need to be communicators as well as teachers in order to get their input heard by other branches of the business or customers. This, combined with the overall difficulty of getting acceptance for a new model, has led to a slow implementation of the business partnering model.

Increased communication will provide a more productive business environment.
Increased communication will provide a more productive business environment.

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