When you manage an IT team or a full IT department, you work within limitations and constraints, limited resources, a smaller skills pool, and small budgets. You are managing the daily work using your team optimally, and you plan for the future, assessing the business strategy and the assigned budget.
You might as well accept it. You cannot do everything yourself, and many times it is more cost-effective and more efficient to work with external consultants and vendors. IT leaders in these organizations are excellent, and getting the most out of the budgets and staff.
Having the right vendors working with you will help you achieve your goals and get better value. They can prove essential in resolving technical challenges and can guide you on technological advancements—everything important to run a well-running IT engine.
However, it does come with certain challenges, and you need to select your partners carefully. It is almost like an interview process when you talk to the account management teams. The vendor needs to work with your team, so picking the right vendor is essential. It becomes a partnership, running for several years, and be very beneficial for both parties.
I interview vendors through several calls and meetings, talking about technologies and how they operate. It allows me to assess how they can help support my IT strategy, support our objectives, and work well with my team.
Unless you spend large sums of money, many vendors do not give you the necessary attention, especially if you are a small company with a limited budget. It is a money game—at least in the beginning.
Many technology companies will not agree with that crude assessment and may argue that they are very interested in your busy. Of course, they want your business, and they will attempt to convince you that they can deliver and work with the team, which they mostly can and will.
I’m very transparent when talking to vendors, whether I have a budget or not. I do not disclose the value but share enough information about the organization, so they understand what we are … and, more importantly, what we are not.
I do not doubt that their intentions are often genuine, but when they realize that you do not have a huge budget or that your annual technology changes are limited, it is hard for them to justify spending too much time on your account. I fully respect that. They have to run a business and have to make money.
On the flipside, and selfishly, I believe that building solid relationships with vendors will benefit both parties in the long run. In the old school of thinking, the growth matrix, it can become a cash cow. My MBA paid off after all 🙂
It is about investing in the future, and vendors who dare to provide quality service and attention to smaller organizations will gain huge benefits. Remember, these small organizations have to upgrade servers, phone systems, security tools, and computers too, and all these investments add up to a nice sum of money.
A service focused vendor will quickly realize that all that business is up for grabs, and with the right account manager, they can help influence and secure growth for smaller organizations.
Finding the right technology partner is a prolonged process. You need to invest time in the process to find the right partner for your team and organization. In my first 12 months at the new organization, I’ve met many great technology vendors, all with great missions and a portfolio of products. Settling on a few vendors, working with our tactical, operational, and strategical needs have helped us define future technology roadmap.
Don’t be afraid of reaching out to many vendors until you get the support and attention you expect. It will take time, and building these business relationships will help your organization’s future growth.
However, be clear with your needs and set expectations with the vendors you select as your key partners – without sharing all the budgets you have.
You also need to apply proper due diligence throughout the relationship to avoid the vendor becoming too comfortable with the SOWs and prices they present to you. My team still sot check estimates with competing vendors, ensuring that we will get the best price for our wallet.
A word of caution – there’s a fine line between key technology partners and developing a personal relationship with your key account manager. While I applaud strong relationships, we have to keep both parties honest. If it becomes too personal, it will be difficult to be impartial, and either of you might end up getting disappointed.
In the end. It is only business. We all have a purpose, and we all try to make the best deals. But that does not prevent us from treating vendors with courtesy and respect, which is what you want in return.