Is managing your IT vendors getting to be a big chore? Here are our top tips for managing your vendors as efficiently as possible and getting the results you want.
1. Provide pertinent information to your vendor. A knowledgeable and committed vendor will ask the right questions to get the information they need so they will understand your needs and goals. This will help them match the service or product that best meets your requirements. You will sometimes have to decide if you should give sensitive information to a vendor. If you have a relationship based on mutual trust and respect, the decision won't be too difficult and will help you meet get the results you are looking for.
2. Pricing. Stay knowledgeable about the marketplace by getting competitive bids. If you have an ongoing relationship with a vendor, it's fair to check pricing from time to time by entertaining bids from competitors. If you are negotiating with a vendor, here are a couple of things to keep in mind regarding price. First, if you are buying a service or product that doesn't require a long-term relationship, it's probably appropriate to put the heavier focus on pricing since neither party has expectations beyond the transaction itself. However, if you are entering into a long-term relationship with a vendor the focus should turn more to value than overall price. The outcome that is best for the relationship is where both parties win. There are several reasons for this:
- If you are getting long-term support it is in your best interests to be a valued client. That way you will know the vendor is motivated to keep you satisfied.
- You are probably more focused yourself on the value you are seeking
- If a vendor settles for a price that is too low, the viability of either his own enterprise or that of the agreement between you is threatened. You may end up discovering at a most inopportune time that "he's just not that in to you."
3. Collaboration and advice. A trusted and highly knowledgeable vendor is an asset that can't be overstated. A vendor with expertise can provide valuable advice and even guidance. For example, if you are outsourcing your IT Support to an outside vendor, you can get help with IT planning and assistance with a special project. Today, many large companies have executive level information officers and directors that report directly to the CEO, CFO or the COO. Smaller companies that cannot afford or don't need that level of leadership hire high-priced consultants. These IT leaders help their companies develop highly detailed, fact-based strategies and budgets to ensure that they have cost-effective and efficient IT systems and equipment sufficient to meet their current business needs. In addition they develop similarly highly detailed plans to support their goals for growth. If a CIO or consultant is not in your current business structure, a good outsourced IT company can help you determine factors such as capital expenditures, operational expenditures and more to help you develop your own detailed strategy and budget.
4. Partnership. See your important vendor relationships in the context of partnership. A good vendor will not only be interested in your success, he or she will feel invested in your success. Your success is theirs. It should go both ways. If you value the service or product the vendor provides, you should have a genuine interest in their success.
5. Have a backup plan. When things go wrong, and they will, you need to have contingency plans. Have you and your vendor established protocols in the event of gltch? If you haven't you need to have that conversation. If you are evaluating vendors, it is a good topic for discussion. Since IT is such an important link in many businesses today, you need to make sure that you have a proactive problem solver on your side.
6. Look for and eliminate redundancy. You'll need to take a look at all of your IT vendor relationships and determine if there are any overlaps in services. If you find any, take the necessary steps to eliminate them. Your cost savings could be significant.
7. Develop a selection process. Before you can effectively manage an IT vendor you have to hire one. You would benefit greatly by having a process in place to select a vendor that will meet your needs. Consider past mistakes, have clear expectations of what you want and need from each vendor, and communicate these expectations directly during interviews. A successful vendor with expertise will have his or her own selction process. You're being interviewed, too.
8. Evaluate vendor performance. Once you engage a vendor, monitor their performance and or productivity. This is a natural extension of establishing clear objectives from the outset. Communicate directly with the vendor. Are they meeting or exceeding their objectives? Are they falling short? Guidance and feedback provided at regular and mutually agreed upon intervals can help keep production at an optimal level.
While all vendors and all situations are different, it is important to establish trusted relationships with your important vendors.
Do you have anything to add to this list of tips? Let us know in the comment section below.