I am sure some of you may find that this week’s title is a bit confusing because there might not be any difference at all between a technology partner and a Vendor. Is it really the case? Perhaps we are simply looking at the same object from a completely opposite angle?
Allow me to bring this discussion further. I shall be sharing my thoughts from the Customer’s point of view, as I have always been on the Customer’s side throughout my 21 years of working. I am sure that being on the Vendor’s side also has its own challenges, but I have no such privilege nor experience to comment on their behalf.
Synergy Between Customer and Vendor
I always treat my Vendors as my technology partner. Not only that we subscribed to the services from them, but they helped me to deliver the best services to my organisation. They are part of my professional team, and we are working together to achieve the same goals.
However, I have also seen how these Vendors were shouted at, scolded, and got an earful when a project got delayed or deliveries were not up to expectations. Please stop. This is so not professional. Just simply because we are paying for their services, it does not give us the right to treat them like second-class citizens. The IT world is very small, and you may end up bumping into each other again in the future, but the roles may be different then. You would not want to end up in an awkward position to become a Vendor while they are on the Customer’s side.
The truth is if there were any lacking in the quality of delivery, or roadblocks that had caused your projects to bust the deadlines, you are as much of responsible as the appointed Vendor. You were initially part of the vendor selection process, and you were also involved in making decisions throughout the whole project. That’s why on top of good Project Management, it is very important to have good IT Vendor Management in place. You can refer to Eugene Chung’s article which discussed at length on IT Vendor Management.
The Customer and the Vendor should work together to make sure all the products and services being rendered were up to the mark. This creates the right synergy and both sides, the Customer and the Vendor shall benefit from it. The Customer will get the expected support and services, whilst the Vendor would get a long-term business relationship.
Going Beyond Just Being a Vendor
The pandemic has changed the business landscape and we can see many companies that are still struggling to recover from the impact. These new business challenges would demand the Vendors to step up and lend a helping hand to their Customers. This is the right time to act as an advisor because you really understand the Customer’s environment through the years of being their Vendor.
This is the time to add value and give back to all your Customers. What more services can you add on top of the existing contract? This would allow the Customers to reduce their OPEX by having some extra services while maintaining the same IT spending. Is there any ‘all-in-one product’ you could offer to your Customer, so that the Customer could remove other products and have a centralised system instead? How about the payment cycle? Can you allow your Customer to re-negotiate the payment cycle and to break it down into Quarterly or Monthly? In these difficult times, the Customer would really need to improve and hold on to their cash flow if they can.
Becoming a Technology Partner
Going the extra mile would differentiate you from a common Vendor and become a Technology Partner. As a Customer myself, these are the things that I would be expecting from my Technology Partner:
1. Understanding Customer’s Needs
Go beyond the mentality of what you can sell. Take this opportunity to listen to your Customer and understand what the Customer needs. Add value by helping the Customer to chart the technology journey, or to come out with a blueprint so that the Customer could provision the budget accordingly and not being left out from the competitors.
2. Right Fit Solutions
The Customer expects you to be product-neutral. As a Technology Partner, you should be recommending the right solution for the Customer and not push a brand or a specific product that you carry. Don’t push for the Customer to get a Ferrari when all they need is just a Proton or a Perodua. This is where you add value, and the Customer would only be spending on whatever they need and not on the nice-to-have.
3. Be Honest
There is no way that your company is good in everything. Be honest and advise the Customer in which area you are good at. Recommend a partner in the area that is not your forte so that business could expand, and other people would be able to get a slice of the cake as well. It’s a Win-Win situation, where the Customer gets comprehensive protection and the Vendors in the circle of business would also grow together.
4. Convince by Practice
I have seen a lot of marketing talks and Vendors who do not walk the talk. If you are coming to convince a Customer to purchase IT Security services or products, please make sure you have implemented the same control and practice in your own company. A genuine implementation site would also be good. There were cases whereby Vendors presented their solutions and claimed that they have these big corporate companies as their existing clients. When we conducted the reference checks, the works done for those big corporate companies had nothing to do with the solutions being presented.
5. Compliment Expertise
The Customer expects the Technology Partner to complement their internal IT team in terms of expertise and knowledge. Be proactive in sharing the latest technology and threats so that the Customer’s IT team could grow together and not be left out. The Customer expects that the Technology Partner offers expertise in the areas that they are lacking and to transfer the knowledge so that they could sustain.
6. Light The Path
The Customer is not interested in reinventing the wheel. No matter how unique, I am certain that the solutions must have been used by some other companies around the globe. The Customer expects to tap this experience of implementation in hundreds of sites by their Technology Partner. The Customer expects their Technology Partner to guide the path so that they will not stumble upon the same difficulties and challenges as per the other completed sites. This is where the Technology Partner adds value, by improving the method of delivery and learning from the previous mistakes.
Finally, if you would be able to choose from a Vendor or a Technology Partner, which one will be your preference? If you asked me, I would always prefer a Technology Partner because at the end of the day, the foremost important is to deliver the best IT Services to my organisation and Stakeholders.
Catch When Expert Meets Expert by Ts. Saiful Bakhtiar Osman articles every bi-weekly Tuesday. Don’t forget to subscribe to stay connected. You are also encouraged to ask questions and seek advice from him.
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