Monday, August 20, 2012

The delicate dance between vendors and clients

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Source: stock.xchng
More and more I get the feeling of not being taken seriously by my vendors. It appears that it is time for a few reality checks. 

Vendors: Not a single one of you provides such a unique and special product that there are no alternatives. 

Between reduced customer services, botched contract renewals, insane price increases and now the next one, trying to strong-arm me into re-negotiation my contract well before it expires in an attempt to lock me in for another 3 years. 

Is it really that hard to understand that the relationship between a client and a vendor is based primarily on trust? 

Sure, you offer a good product, and of course the price that I negotiated with you is making you take a loss on the deal, but do you really not realize that when you damage the trust that I have in you, I have pretty much no other avenue that not continuing our relationship?

In the last month, this happened to me twice. Two vendors have been told that I will not be renewing my contract; both of them acted as if they were surprised. Initially, I started to believe that my expectations are too high, until I realized that they work for me, and I do not work for them. No vendor can tell me what is best for my organization, or where I need to focus my resources. That value-decision is mine to make, and I will make it.

Sure, "forklifting" an existing solution out to replace it with another one can be expensive, but it does not have to be with proper leadership. It is time to realize that clients make decisions primarily based on value that they perceive, and a real prerequisite for me to perceive value is that I need to trust you.

And no, trust is not obtained by buying me drinks at Defcon or by serving me fantastic steak dinners at BlackHat. Trust is obtained by showing me respect, by being predictable, and not by blindsiding me with stupid requests and unwarranted changes for which I have not asked.

A few important lessons to take away from this:
  • Architecture trumps technology each and every time. Never build a situation where you end up with a technology lock-in.
  • Be open and receptive to your vendors, but do not let them give you the run-around
  • Always have a plan B in place for every technology that you use
  • Do not be afraid to use plan B
  • If you have the luxury of being able to do so, focus on VALUE rather than on COST


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