The Strategic Supplier Relationships Group, which brings together 10 of the UK’s most influential IT user groups, was formally launched last week with an initial focus on software licensing.
The SSRG aims to provide a frank, confidential and constructive environment for user groups and suppliers to discuss policy change, generic issues such as licensing, and the wider implications of supplier decisions.
Hooman Bassirian, editor of Computer Weekly, which played a major role in bringing the SSRG together, said, “Users need a powerful, unified voice when speaking to suppliers. The SSRG can provide that and we will do all we can to make sure its message is heard.”
User group leaders at the launch were told that the contract was king when dealing with suppliers. Chris French, managing partner at consultancy French Thornton warned users to beware signing a last-minute “agreement to agree” on unresolved issues when negotiating with suppliers, to keep the contract on their desk even when projects went well, and never to hold fire on tackling poor delivery.
Debunking common myths about contract management, French said the idea that you should not need to refer to the contract if the relationship was working well was “balderdash”.
“If your supplier’s US audit team wants to look at the contract, there is little that you can do, even though you may have a superb relationship with its account directors,” he said. “Putting the contract in the top drawer is dangerous. It is the user’s responsibility not to be naive.”
French urged users to address issues with their suppliers as soon as they arose.
“Typically, a supplier will agree that it is not delivering, but will say, ‘Hang on for three months and it will get better.’ That rarely works. You need to manage the contract.”
At the SSRG launch, Ray Titcombe, chairman of the SSRG and the IBM Computer Users Association, said businesses’ dependence on IT had magnified the damage that could be caused by not getting the user/supplier relationship right.
Welcoming the launch of the SSRG, Kate Mountain, chief executive of local government IT managers’ organisation Socitm, said, “This event has demonstrated that there are issues where we as customers can improve our working relationships with suppliers. Socitm has worked with the Office of Government Commerce on similar issues but now the SSRG gives us a broader community to take advice from.”
Founder members of the SSRG
- The Corporate IT Forum (Tif)
- IBM Computer Users Association
- UK Oracle User Group
- British Computer Society Elite Group
- Institute for the Management of Information Systems
- The Society for IT Management (Socitm)
- Charities Consortium IT Directors Group
- Charity IT Resources Alliance
- Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
- Computer Weekly 500 Club