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A new romance

Carol Ko | May 1, 2008
<p><span>There are many nuances to the delicate art of handling IT purchaser-vendor relationships. A project management executive, from a US firm that has helped thousands, discusses this specific art.</span></p>

The IT purchaser-vendor relationship has experienced significant changes in the early 21st century. IT purchasers are now being held jointly responsible for the business results achieved through IT spending, according to J. LeRoy Ward. As the executive vice president of consulting services and training firm ESI International, Ward is responsible for ESI's worldwide training programmes and international partnerships. The US firm has helped some 800,000 people from 100 countries achieve excellence in individual and organisational performance.In a career that has spanned 17 years with four US federal agencies, Ward has delivered project management programmes to clients in North and Central America, Europe, Asia and Australia. ESI International provides project and contract management, business analysis, sourcing management and business skills training. "Purchasers have become much more savvy and demanding of their various vendors, and they are more conscious of costs and the need to nail down specific deliverables," says Ward.In the areas of training, for example, IT purchasers are always "looking for ways to get more services 'on demand'. "They want on-line training, virtual training, and any other way to deliver training that will minimise downtime and travel costs for their employees-flexible training alternatives," says Ward. Return on investment (ROI) has now become a watchphrase for IT purchasers, alongside their peers from the marketing and finance departments. According to Ward: "The relationship value is constantly being measured, so vendors really need to show the ROI of their products and services."

Tips for ROI

Ward, author of several articles and publications including Project Management Terms: A Working Glossary, PMP Challenge! and ProjectFRAMEWORK: A Project Management Maturity Model, has these tips for IT purchasers seeking to get the very best value from their vendors:1.Be very clear about your needs and goals. It sounds simple but you would be amazed at how much time can be wasted trying to get this right and understood by both parties. If you can't clearly articulate your needs and goals in less than one minute, you really don't know what you want.2. Research the various vendors who can deliver the service you require and talk to only those top two or three who you know can help you. 3. Don't make your vendors go through unnecessary purchasing 'hoops'. The money they spend doing this will only limit their ability to be more flexible on either pricing or services delivered.4. Be fair and reasonable in your expectations on price and terms. Don't ask for the world as a starting point knowing you will be willing to accept considerably less. This does not bode well for a strong relationship.5. Be willing to work with your vendors to achieve the results you want and need. Work towards a mutually beneficial business relationship based on trust. Don't continuously 'beat them up' over minor costs. In the end, it's not worth it.6. Treat your vendors like partners, as far as possible. 7. Put yourself in your vendor's shoes when making requests (or demands). If you were running their business how would you respond? In other words, treat them as you would like to be treated. 8. Always remember your vendor is in the business of making money too.As much as deals can go well, they can also go wrong. Ward cautions IT executives to beware of the pitfalls where IT purchasers could have problems in dealing with their vendors and he recommends solutions to overcome them. He says there are two areas that IT purchasers should highlight in any deal. Firstly, they should understand and agree on "requirements and deliverables". Secondly, they should alert themselves when there is a "lack of trust and respect between the two parties".


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