Improve delivery and cut costs now, IT directors warn suppliers

Users show the yellow card on interoperability, standards, reliability and partnership.

Users show the yellow card on interoperability, standards, reliability and partnership.

Leading IT directors last week threw down the gauntlet to suppliers, urging them to make greater efforts in meeting the needs of corporate users.

Top of the list of demands were greater interoperability of products, the use of more open standards, the delivery of more mature products and a genuine commitment from suppliers to deliver the partnership ethos they talk about.

The IT directors spoke exclusively to Computer Weekly at the annual meeting of Tif, the Corporate IT Forum, which represents the IT departments of Britain's leading businesses.

Kevin Lloyd, chief technology officer at Barclays, said the bank was focusing sharply on quality in 2004. To achieve this, it had reduced the number of suppliers it was using.

"We work with fewer suppliers and we expect genuine collaboration, interoperability, better systems driven to standards and right-first-time delivery to an agreed time and budget," said Lloyd.

Mike Croucher, head of IT delivery at British Airways, said suppliers must improve the interoperability of their products.

"A lot of suppliers need to look at the quality of what they do in the interfacing of standard products. They have to think broader than their own product base," he said.

Ross Taylor, manager of IT services at Powergen, said suppliers "cry out for partnership but need to understand and articulate what partnership means in reverse - for the users".

The key issues for users are changing, he added. There is an increasing focus on flexibility, successful implementation and reliability and on suppliers meeting users half way. "There are examples of good suppliers doing that, but others fail," he said.

Jose Eiras, chief information officer of General Motors Europe, echoed the user determination to drive up the service they receive from suppliers.

Speaking at the Economist Conference CIO summit in London last week, he said that the car giant was using its outsourcers to maintain pressure on its suppliers.

"General Motors is completely outsourced. Suppliers need to work with our outsourcers and with other suppliers to deliver services to us. Suppliers need to do things in a standard mode and work with other suppliers in a standardised way," he said.

David Roberts, chief executive of Tif, said suppliers not only had to improve delivery but also cut costs to users.

"Suppliers have to change. They have to provide what they are providing currently at a much lower price," he said.

Microsoft's decision to extend the guaranteed lifecycle of its products to 10 years (Computer Weekly, 1 June) was an example that other suppliers should follow, he added. Microsoft is "showing that it is listening to key customers in large companies," he said.

Gough: bring your IT back home      

The head of one of the UK's largest IT user organisations has launched a broadside against user complacency. He has accused businesses of using outsourcing as the easy option. 

Michael Gough, chief executive of the National Computing Centre, which has a membership of over 1,000 user organisations and owns the Institute of IT Training and CIO-Connect, urged users to hang on to IT facilities and bring application development back in-house. 

"I am calling for less outsourcing and for users to regain control of the competency to manage information and use it to develop the business," he said, speaking at the Economist Conference CIO Summit last week.  

"IT as a commodity is a misconception put about by the outsourcing industry. Machines and networks are commodities, but identifying requirements and building value-added applications are not - they are a source of competitive advantage." 

Gough said there is too much emphasis on cost reduction over gaining business advantage. "If British firms do not shape the way they use IT, suppliers will do it for them. There is a choice to be made: cost or competency. 

"It is time users took control of their destiny and brought business applications in-house. That would be a welcome impetus to the UK's prospects of being the leading knowledge economy." 

More Computer Weekly coverage of the Corporate IT Forum conference:

Compliance costs 40% of budget >>

Consolidation is blue chips' priority >>

Read more on IT supplier relationship management

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