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From IT vendor management to strategic partnerships

Brendan McGowan | June 2, 2016
According to the 2016 Strategic Partner Index Survey (produced by the CIO Executive Council and IDC), IT buyers and vendors need to forge relationships of trust and collaboration. Failure to partner puts both groups in peril.

Respondents to the CEC/IDC SPI Survey were asked to rate the relative importance of these categories from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most important (see Figure 2). Unsurprisingly, every category was seen as mission-critical, with no less than 75 percent of respondents reporting a score of 7 or above for any given category. It was, however, the responsiveness category that received the most 10 scores by a two-digit margin, indicating that, in the fast-paced world of IT, technologists view highly responsive strategic partners as more equal than others.

figure 2

There were far more significant fluctuations within these five categories themselves, as IT leaders stated whether their most strategic partners demonstrated specific behaviors identified by the Research Advisory Board. Because the single most strategic vendor was evaluated by each respondent respectively, the SPI in aggregate provides a summary of the “ceiling” of strategic partner behavior across industries.

While respondents generally report significant evidence of behaviors in the SPI’s client and market knowledge category, less than half of them (46 percent) confirm that their most strategic partners have “identified challenges within my business that I did not explicitly mention” (see Figure 3). This indicates that talking about general trends and responding to specific questions posed by clients are common table stakes — but proactively identifying business challenges, unexpressed by the buyer, is still relatively rare.

Additionally, one-third (31 percent) of IT leaders say that business unit leaders did not comment favorably on being brought into conversations with their most strategic vendor partner. Another 15 percent indicated that the associated behavioral statement, “My business unit leaders comment favorably on being brought into conversations with them [the vendor]” did not apply — leading to the logical conclusion that, in a significant percentage of cases, IT buyers are not bringing even their most strategic partners into conversations with their non-IT peers, or are not aware of such meetings.

figure 3

More than half (54 percent) of IT leaders state that their strategic vendors bring in technology startups and/or niche players on projects (see Figure 4). Roughly half (49 percent) of IT leaders state that vendor senior executives involve them in developing new offerings, products, or updates/features. Such efforts are time-consuming and expensive, and the implications are clear: Across vendors, there is an evident high-level imperative on the part of sales to stay engaged.

At the same time, given the prime importance of data and dashboards, only half (50 percent) of IT leaders indicate that their most strategic partner works with them to develop key performance indicators (KPIs).

Only one-third (33 percent) of these IT leaders state that their key strategic partner helps them structure Requests for Proposals (RFPs), while two out of five (44 percent) indicate that their vendor did not. This stands to reason: It is likely that a good portion of IT leaders still consider such behavior to be in conflict with the competitive nature of the bidding process — and this criterion, statistically speaking, is a true “ceiling” for strategic partnership for many of them.


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