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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.

Vendors' marketing and sales teams are also becoming more quantitative, aligning “soft” product messaging with discrete calculators and toolkits to demonstrate tangible return on investment (ROI). Strategic buyers' procurement teams and strategic vendor partners need to collaborate more, in an effort to co-create more personalized and comprehensive KPIs; these KPIs, in turn, must demonstrate true value between buyer and seller and hold their respective sales and delivery teams accountable.

Inspire passion in people. It’s a truism, but when the morale of the internal IT staff sags, it hurts performance, through decreased individual productivity and increased turnover. The same holds true if a key vendor's staff become demoralized during a project.

While the vendor’s management team unquestionably is accountable for the performance of its own staff, ultimately the buyer owns the business outcome — and, in a true strategic partnership, strategic buyers are much more conscientious of how their own strategic imperatives could affect the vendor’s rank and file.

Ultimately, the IT leader needs to think of the vendor team as an extension of his or her own organization, since an inspired team (whether they are internal or external) will deliver superior performance. IT leaders therefore need to ask themselves:

  • “Does my vendor’s staff seem as excited about overcoming this challenge as we are? How can we help close up an enthusiasm gap?”
  • “Are we describing our needs in a compelling way?”
  • “What are the career aspirations of key people on their team, for our account? How can we potentially align their ambitions with our needs?”
  • “What can we do to show that we care?”

Conscientious framing and re-framing does not just help expedite things on a project-by-project basis; it is, in fact, a competitive advantage and the bedrock of strategic partnership.

Tell me something that I don’t know — so I’ll actually care. The SPI reveals that a minority (46 percent) of IT leaders indicate that their most strategic partner has identified business challenges that they did not explicitly mention.

This is not due, necessarily, to a lack of technical expertise or domain knowledge on the part of vendors. In many cases, they have deep insights into buyers' operations. Ultimately, where vendors fall short is in translating relevant insights into value — requiring not only active listening but intelligence and creativity. Vendors need to work on engaging storytelling that resonates, using data and information on hand to probe for further opportunity. To encourage this dialogue, buyers must also do more than just “tell” vendors what they want – they need to “show.” They need, in short, to take their strategic partners onto the factory floor and provide direct access to business leaders to help vendors think two steps ahead.


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