Strategic Vendor Management - From Buyer to Partner - Page 2

Jul 12, 2007

Anne Zink

These sessions tended to be outbound only. In a few instances there were anonymous question boards, but the real focus was giving vendors first-hand insight into the needs and expectations of the ultimate end user.

Vendor Participation on Virtual Teams: This practice was found in companies of all sizes. However, vendor participation was limited to a few of the most strategic vendors. The teams were typically addressing very specific projects. However, we did find a half dozen companies where vendors were considered an extension of the IT department and participated in all appropriate meetings.

These activities address the first two findings, but what of the third: Gaining insight into and contributing to a vendor’s long-term development strategies?

This is the most frustrating challenge for the CIOs we interviewed. Most did not understand vendors’ reluctance to share their visions. We heard, in almost every conversation, “They want us to invest in building a business process around their solution yet they won’t tell us their five-year plan. We get marketing fluff, at best.”

We only found five customers about of the 50 who participated in this research who felt they had a solution to this challenge. All five were Global 250 customers. In every case, they created leverage by engaging the entire executive team. These companies insisted on annual briefings by the executive leadership of their top 20 vendors. If vendors were unwilling to comply, they were phased out and eventually replaced. Needless to say, most vendors complied.

We found three additional companies, classified as Fortune 1000, which were able to convince their top vendors to share their analyst briefings. In these instances, the Analyst Relations Team either visited the customer or conducted a web briefing.

It is important to note, the focus of this article, is how customers took matters into their own hands to improve the strategic nature of their vendor relationships. Vendors are not idly standing by. Many are aggressively re-tooling their account management teams, investing in customer advisory boards and engaging customer in strategy discussions.

It is clear, from our research, there is work yet to do. We hope these leading practices inspire more customers to take the initiative and invite their most important vendors to participate more fully in their business. After all, the ultimate goal is to move beyond the transactional buying relationship to a true partnership.

Anne Zink is founder of AZtech Strategies and go-to-market strategy consultant for the high tech industry. AZtech is dedicated to developing multi-channel strategies based on customer expectations, channel input, and industry expertise. AZtech specializes in bringing emerging technologies and services to market.

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