Only a fool would dispute the importance of getting the written contract right in any major business relationship. But the relationship will always be more important than the contract if things are to go well rather than fall into dispute mode.
With offshoring, cultural issues assume greater importance than ever. Communications challenges can prove a stumbling block to the understanding on which a fruitful relationship is based.
As Helen Beckett points out in our feature article, Bridging the cultural divide, even if even the offshore provider's staff are fluent English speakers, non-verbal cultural differences can create misunderstandings. For example, a cultural reluctance to question the client's decisions can lead to problems by allowing a less than optimum route to be pursued.
That can also apply to UK-based relationships. Understandably, suppliers often follow the motto "He who pays the piper calls the tune" rather than risk unsettling the client by raising objections to their proposals.
Partnership is a word much used to describe supplier-customer relationships. A sound partnership will generate profitable relationships, but it depends on both parties' ideas being given full consideration - whether the deal is onshore or off.
When we talk about our partners, it is worth taking a reality check that we really mean it.
Security lessons for all
The scale of the identity theft and fraud involving the online tax credits system has shocked even seasoned observers (Government puts cost of online tax credits identity theft at £2.7m). But it would be folly to view this as simply another public sector IT problem. It is not yet clear where blame should lie.
While we wait for answers, it is worth reminding ourselves of causes of major ID thefts reported in recent months. These have included external hackers, insiders planted by criminals, the loss of unencrypted data by logistics companies, security breaches at outsourcing suppliers and lost laptops.
These demand a range of responses from IT departments. Defences should be improved with adaptive technologies that can build a profile of normal activity, then alert security teams or block traffic if user activity strays beyond the norm.
The security message must be drilled into the business and staff should be disciplined for lapses.
Make sure your business partners' security is as tough as your own.
Data security has never been about simply ticking boxes, and the current spate of ID thefts shows why.