Australia’s wine industry is a big business, and one of the biggest players in the local epicurean sector is Yalumba.
To help maintain its market lead, the company continues to stay on the front foot when it comes to technology.
Enter, Yalumba Wine Company CIO Brent Jones who has headed up the organisation’s technology team for more than six years.
In that time, Jones and his team have, for the most part, maintained close relationships with a small handful of trusted IT partners.
“We probably draw upon about 25 key partners,” he explained. “And that covers everything from support services to consulting practices and advisory services.
“These days, we seek long-term relationships. We’re really happy to say that our partner network hasn’t really changed enormously in the six years I’ve been here.”
This arrangement works well for both Yalumba and its roster of regular partners.
But how did those partners initially make the cut, and what is it that keeps Yalumba coming back to them for more?
Much of it comes down to a potential partner’s ability to take a genuine interest in Yalumba’s business, the industry and what’s best for the company — usually a less- than-difficult task in the delicious world of wine, according to Jones.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that our partners are kept abreast of what we’re up to, and where we’re going as a business,” Jones said. “And equally on their part, it’s critical that they are taking an interest in our business.
“We get uncomfortable when partners really want to have just project-level conversations. Our objective is to have partners that are experts in their field looking at the opportunities in the marketplace but with a Yalumba hat on.”
Jones and his team usually engage partners for one of two purposes — to provide deeper competency in particular areas that the company can’t generate internally and to provide capacity expansion.
Once a partner has been engaged for a project or for ongoing work, there are a number of factors that can help to keep the relationship going strong over the long term.
Two of the most important elements, according to Jones are good communication and a balanced relationship.
“A lot of communication underpins all of that,” Jones said. “Having that open communication, the mutual trust and the bigger picture allows us to have those conversations.”
But this relationship needs to start somewhere. When Jones engages partners for the first time, the leads often come from vendors, which is not uncommon.
Other leads, however, come from the broader partner network, along with advice from peers. No matter where leads originate, past engagements are always important.
“We don’t look at the glossy brochures, so to speak,” he said. “But we look at the projects they’ve done in the past and how they’ve done those projects, and what scale they’ve been at.
“We do get nervous when partners bring projects that bloat, that just get bigger and bigger, offering grander solutions that take more and more time.
“And very much also looking at the nature of the companies they have worked with in the past is a really important consideration.”