The relationship runs based on managed outcomes and defined objectives related to developing the technology, evolving the technology and then building the business together. Vikrant observed, “we evolved our working together from questions of what we do, to how we do it together, to how we execute in the market.” The principles for this relationship revolve around the following:
- No unmanaged outcomes, both JCI and Accenture share the results we want to create and engage on those.
- Leading and managing the relationship as if it is a business unto itself, rather than an initiative or side business.
- A standard cadence for managing the business and bringing all stakeholders together from the two company CEOs to the leadership and operational teams.
- Shared metrics and transparency on performance at all levels. Same projects, same purpose, same dashboard.
- Joint teams who work in a badgeless way, badge less in the sense that you cannot tell JCI team members from Accenture team members.
The relationship gives both parties flexibility in how they go to market. “Sometimes JCI is in the lead, sometimes Accenture, but more often it is the two of us together working on something neither party would have readily gotten on their own,” Vikrant commented. Each party manages its costs independent of the other. Both feel that approach is fair to the other partner. Regarding revenues and margins, they commented that the margins on these joint solutions are at least equal to or better than other products in JCI.
The relationship has accelerated the pace of closing deals from a year or more to less than a few months. Clement shared, “Our deals are bigger, close faster and have better close rates when we work together. Much of this comes from the way both of us see this opportunity. It is not a zero-sum game or dividing a pie between us. It is all about how together we make the opportunities bigger.”
The JCI-Accenture relationship reflects the realities of a technology company in an information-intensive solution space. Neither side controls the other. JCI is dedicated to providing open and interoperable products and solutions. The relationship is not exclusive with Accenture, which likewise works with other partners in the sustainability space. Traditionally, this open relationship would reduce the potential and power of working together. “We stick together because we are better at this together in ways that best benefit our customers,” observed Vikrant. There is no need to tie the two companies down.
Clement described this aspect of the relationship in this way, “we are friends with Accenture, but we have other friends as well. We know which friends you can count on to deliver and do more business with them than our other friends. Only so many people can actually deliver on this type of outcome.”
A generative relationship requires a different level of leadership and organizational maturity
Overall, the relationship runs on a clear understanding of each party's strengths and a joint commitment to a shared outcome. The two leaders observed that this requires a greater level of leadership and organizational maturity than traditional customer-provider relationship. Intellectual property is one illustration of this maturity.
JCI protects its IP, but it knows the pragmatic difference between the IP they need to protect versus protecting all IP. Clement commented, “IP literacy is critical, you need to know what it takes to protect IP while getting value from it. Those who are less literate are the ones who default to being overly protective.” This is an example of the level of maturity involved in supporting a generative relationship.
Lessons and Advice from this Generative Relationship
The JCI and Accenture relationship is an example of a generative partnership. Each party brings their own strengths and working together they create something new in the marketplace. In this case, it is a new set of return to work and sustainability offerings. Clement described the relationship in the following way. “Relationships exist across a spectrum. There are average ones, ones at the bottom of the distribution, others at the top. We are shooting for that top of high-performance relationships.” This context shapes the advice both Clement and Vikrant shared.
- A relationship that concentrates on achieving a positive outcome – creating rather than preventing or controlling something. In this case, it is growing the pie of sustainability opportunities.
- Opportunities are focused on customers and the market, rather than a relationship based on one company selling something to another.
- “A closed or uneven exchange of views is a killer to this type of relationship,” cited Clement. “A frank dialogue about customers and needs is the best way for both parties to learn together.”
- The relationship is based on managed outcomes rather than a vision or good intentions. This keeps attention on what is happening rather than what should happen.
At its foundation, both companies need to have a level of maturity around their strategy, leadership, and operations. A higher level of maturity is mandatory as an effective generative relationship requires thinking and working in new ways. Thinking about achieving an outcome via a relationship with a generative partner.
This requires working in ways that maintain that joint focus together without devolving into issues of control. As Phillip Clement put it, “A high-tech provider who is able to partner beyond the next incremental sale, is able to deal with the natural ambiguity of creating something new, and is willing to commit themselves to the same degree as we do, is a partner of choice.”
About JCI, Inc:
Johnson Controls (JCI) is a $22 billion-dollar industrial company focusing on building management products and services. It employs 100,000 people in more than 2,000 locations across six continents. Johnson Controls is transitioning from product focuses on an intelligent buildings company. Their joint working relationship with Accenture is an important part of that transition to being a high-tech company.