The supplier landscape is changing as IT buyers shun inflexible traditional vendors

IT suppliers have always been an easy target for criticism and cynicism. IT managers will raise their eyebrows at the mention of vendors and share war stories with their peers of the relentless sales pressure to buy more products.

They are often seen as a necessary evil, and as such, one with little need to reform their ways. But the balance of power is changing.

In the same way that the command and control approach to corporate IT is being washed away by the balance of power swinging to users, so too are suppliers seeing their influence in the IT department waning.

Look at some of the recent evidence.

John Lewis recently launched its own tech startup incubator, putting cash into helping small firms develop innovative new products for the digital retail world. This can only be necessary because traditional IT suppliers are failing to deliver the innovation that John Lewis needs.

Similarly, many banks are putting more money into working with startups – examples here include Citi, Barclays and La Caixa, among others.

Across the public sector, IT buyers are moving away from the big outsourcing deals of the past. Instead, they are growing their in-house skills base, and turning to multiple deals with smaller suppliers – recent examples include the BBC, the Post Office, and the Department for Energy and Climate Change. Why? Because their traditional suppliers have not delivered the flexibility, innovation and transformation they promised.

At the recent Cloud Expo conference, HSBC’s global head of innovation lamented the failure of IT suppliers to sell products and services that match what companies really want. “When I was walking round the show, all I could see were people selling me lots of tools – screwdrivers and spanners,” he said. “We really have to move the game on and become a lot more innovative.”

The mismatch between IT buyer expectations and IT supplier products and services is growing. When IT leaders have for so long had little choice but to make the best of what they are sold, they have muddled through. But increasingly, the most successful digital organisations are those which develop their own capabilities or use smaller, nimbler suppliers, and turn to bigger vendors only for commodity products.

Technology companies come and go, and outside the biggest names, many vendors that were well known 20 years ago have disappeared. Many of today’s suppliers are going the same way, but more quickly – and they only have themselves to blame. By 2020, the vendor landscape will be very different from today.