HW Fisher holds a tender for its IT services every time its agreement runs out, and despite being offered lower costs it has ended up with the same supplier for the last 15 years.
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The London accountancy firm, which has 300 staff, has used IT service provider CCE for a broad range of services since IT director Tony Blonk put out his first tender. At the time he wanted to outsource but did not want a relationship that required a lot of management.
“Like many companies looking to reduce costs and minimise risks, outsourcing was the right direction to take, but finding the right provider was proving a challenge,” said Blonk. “We needed a partner dedicated to building a business relationship with us, keeping us operational in times of networking and hardware failure.”
He said he wanted a “common sense” relationship that was not controlled by a strict contract but lent flexibility to the agreement.
It all began when a contract to support its printer estate went sour. “We had break/fix on our printer estate but we were always having disputes over what was covered,” said Blonk. It took up a large portion his time managing the contract as a result, he said.
“I do not want to be worrying about managing the relationship with a supplier so we wanted a partnership,” said Blonk.
Despite the 15-year relationship CCE is kept on its toes by Blonk’s insistance on retendering regularly. “I go out to tender at the end of every contract and always end up with CCE,” said Blonk.
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Each time he decides how to go forward after a tender he has to justify to the board why he does not just go for the lowest price.
“A good relationship is worth more than any normal price differential,” he said. “You are unlikely to have a good relationship if the price difference is massive so, in reality, the price differences are not often that material. I personally do not like being asked ‘can you give me a budget’ or ‘what are you currently paying’ by a supplier. I don’t provide these details and instead ask that I’m given their best proposal, as price on its own will not determine success, but it will influence it.
“The aim is in establishing a feeling that there is a genuine and mutual benefit to each and not feeling that each is out to simply squeeze the most out the other. One barrier to this is allowing the time and opportunity for the trust to develop. Too often the first problem also becomes the last.”
In the current enterprise IT climate where new technologies, such as cloud and automation, are emerging fast and businesses don’t want to miss out on the benefits, trust in a supplier is valuable, said Blonk.
“Adopting new technologies is all about confidence. I always think of the Apollo 13 mission, you want confidence in the people when things go wrong as much as you do in that they will get it right in the first place,” he said.