What Good Looks Like: Investing in the Enterprise-Provider Relationship

ISG Relationship360™ leverages impartial data to drive sustainable relationship changes

A global IT services and solution provider has a productive, 20-year-long relationship with a large BFSI client. As it entered contract re-negotiations with its client, the provider wanted to prove its commitment to enhancing its services. To do this, it needed to shine a spotlight on all parts of the relationship – not just the positives. By using ISG’s Relationship360™, the provider was able to identify a potentially dangerous and largely undiagnosed cycle of sub-optimal service and punitive retaliation between the two parties on the ground. The analysis revealed that the provider was failing to provide the levels of operational excellence the client expected, and the client was failing to collaborate and communicate efficiently with the provider.  

With empirical and impartial third-party feedback, both parties were able to recognize the problems, brainstorm solutions and take action to elevate the relationship to its full potential for their mutual benefit.

Bringing in the Impartial Digital Relationship Counsellor: ISG Relationship360™

“Firstly, [using the tool] demonstrated that we were a provider who cared about the relationship, who said it would change and then did.”
The provider leveraged ISG Relationship360™, a data, analytics, research and advisory program that produces customizable findings and actionable recommendations for improving the health of enterprise-provider relationships. It measures the health of business-to-business (B2B) engagements from the perspective of both the provider and the client. It also provides bilateral feedback on operational performance and project delivery. The program ensures joint ownership for driving improvements in the relationship.

Here is how it worked: First, ISG collected feedback on the health of the relationship from both the BFSI company and the service provider stakeholders. The provider gave feedback on its experience working with the client and the client provided feedback on the provider. A broader online survey was launched to service delivery owners, service recipients and commercial stakeholders on both sides of the relationship. ISG complemented the survey with in-depth qualitative interviews of senior stakeholders from both organizations. The program culminated in a series of workshops with and presentations to both parties’ stakeholders. The provider invested in these additional forums to boost the impact of the ISG Relationship360™ findings.

Because the program was independent and objective, the provider was able to highlight the responsibility of both parties in building a successful and mutually beneficial engagement. The provider used the findings of the study to apply an industry-leading approach to strengthen its relationship with its BFSI client through the creation of a detailed joint improvement plan.

To maximize the results of the ISG Relationship360™ process, the provider used these best practices:

  1. Secure sponsorship: Work to establish strong sponsorship on both the client and provider side. Logistical difficulties are only navigable with the investment of sponsors.
  2. Unify communications: Create simple, unified messaging for both the provider and client teams. This is essential not only during the period when the data is being collected but also to support all the change work that goes on afterward.
  3. Pick strategic timing: It is best to time ISG Relationship360™ to take place when both parties have the energy and motivation to invest in the process. If possible, pair it with a broader business strategy or, better yet, embed it into an existing transformation program.
  4. Don’t fear the data: ISG Relationship360™ is not a test for the provider or the enterprise. Rather, it provides independent and objective data to improve the experience for both. With that in mind, participants must be open to hear any feedback and make any changes required. In this case, the provider sponsors felt they had success because they took the attitude that “All data is good, regardless of the current status of the relationship.”

Disseminating Data and Diagnosing Problems

After delivering ISG Relationship360™, ISG supported the service provider by sharing the results, first internally and then with its client. These sessions were planned as a cascade with the provider, starting with the leadership team. The leadership team’s discussions focused on understanding the results and planning next steps. This leadership discussion established a platform for further dissemination of the results within the provider’s organization – a platform that prioritized consistency, engagement and alignment. Leadership also planned how to share the results with its client.

To distribute the results to the client, the provider again focused on consistency and alignment of its messaging. A key outcome of these discussions was a proposed series of actions for both parties to progress the relationship. The two parties agreed they wanted more out the relationship: the BFSI company wanted to attract the best talent from the provider to work on the account, and the provider wanted to engage in strategic discussions with its client. The results highlighted that the provider needed to focus exclusively on operational excellence. On the client’s side, the results highlighted the punitive and adversarial nature of the relationship. It was clear the BFSI company was not going to achieve the outcomes it wanted unless it significantly improved how it collaborated and communicated with its provider.

A-Ha Moments – Workshopping Lasting Solutions

Below are some of the key problem statements and solutions generated in the ISG Relationship360™ process. In each case, having ISG identify the challenges was essential to ensure impartiality and objectiveness in the feedback.


Service Provider



Sub-optimal service:

“We realized we had to get the day-to-day operational component of our relationship right. ISG feedback made it clear that strategic engagement by the client was dependent on operational excellence and stability.”

Adversarial behavior toward provider:

“The ISG results positioned the relationship as a marriage – in our case a 20-year marriage … A master/servant dynamic had developed over time and having ISG call this out to the client as an independent party allowed us to have a discussion.”



“We became obsessed with [operational excellence] at all levels for twelve months. It was really important for the client to hear the provider acknowledge this.”

The provider learned from the discussions that it needed to earn the right to more strategic engagement with its client through operational excellence.


The provider and the client “invested in creating a much more collaborative approach known as our One-Team Approach (OTA). The combined leadership made it central to how we engaged, discussed it, referred to it and called people out when it was not being demonstrated. This was really critical to actually driving change.”

The client embedded its new approach into all aspects of the relationship, modelling it at senior levels and taking a zero-tolerance approach to adversarial behaviour.

Measuring Success in a Five Ways

“ISG provided an independent and data-driven view of relationship-improvement focus areas.”

The provider and the client attained and measured success in a number of ways:

  1. Put your money where your mouth is: The provider wanted the ability to show a genuine interest in improving the health of its relationship with its client. Investing in ISG Relationship 360™ allowed it to show its dedication to the relationship in a concrete way.
  2. Accelerate and focus change initiatives:: Although some clients shy away from running a program like the ISG Relationship360™ when they have other large change initiatives underway, this provider found it helped create a greater impetus for change. The provider said “the ISG results dovetailed into a relationship-wide transformation that impacted all areas of the business. This allowed us to incorporate the recommendations and approaches into this program and take a systemic approach.”
  3. Identify success: The provider and its client initiated a “What Good Looks Like” approach wherein stakeholders from both parties were challenged to define what each meant by “partnership” and arrive at a joint understanding of what success meant to both parties.
  4. Promote your partner: The first obvious sign of the success was the increase in the client’s willingness to promote the provider. This willingness increased by 25 percent when a remeasurement exercise was conducted twelve months later.
  5. Adopt a One-Team Approach (OTA): Signs of success also manifested in people’s attitudes and approaches to working together. The provider said “there was the adoption of the new language (e.g. One Team Approach, what good looks like, etc.) by leaders and teams. There was participation in social events, inclusion of non-technical relationship topics on agendas and participation in values workshops.”

Perhaps most exciting for both parties is the future of their relationship yet to come. By using the ISG Relationship360™ and its results to drive a strong change agenda, the parties opened up new opportunities for collaboration and improvement. With a positive and committed relationship in place, the provider said it earned what it calls “a ticket to the dance” to engage in a broader range of strategic discussions.