The IT world is still a young community. It sprung from humble beginnings with accounting machines and unit record equipment, through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with mainframe/mid-range and mini computers, to today's complex and beguiling world with its numerous products and services crying out for the attention of the IT director.
Through this explosion of technology and birth/growth/death of IT products, some of the relationships that IT professionals have developed have matured greatly. Integration with the business and links between business development and IT innovation have made headlines regularly, with IT becoming a valuable asset to the business.
The open approach
However, there is one area that has lagged in development: awareness and appreciation of the value of long-term open relationships with suppliers.
It may be that many senior IT staff who deal with suppliers have no background in contract negotiation, and frankly are motivated by just wanting a "good deal" at the point of purchase. Perhaps there are many IT suppliers who still use contracts that are very restrictive, and as such introduce a "them and us" approach rather than a partnership model.
One thing is certain, a solid long-term relationship that enables both parties to enjoy an element of certainty and stability (together, of course, with flexibility) is a valuable objective for all parties. Sounds impossible? I think not.
Most IT corporate users have a hardware/software/communications/development strategy and work hard to ensure this serves their business. Why not share this with key suppliers?
If you communicate this openly, the IT supplier is, in my experience, prepared to "open up" with product roadmaps that tell you more than the sales material. Commercial considerations apply, but non-disclosure agreements are easy and effective.
Negotiate and revise
IT management could benefit from spending a little time with the legal/procurement groups within their organisations. Supplier contracts do not have to be accepted as offered - negotiate and revise terms and conditions.
The goal for all parties should be a commercial agreement that satisfies the business needs of the user in the use of the products or services, and the supplier in providing revenue and responsibilities/service levels.
Participate in IT supplier advisory councils/groups virtually all of the significant IT suppliers are keen to organise user participation in products and service development. This is a user's chance to see what ideas and plans the supplier has and comment on them, influencing the future development through to delivery.
This is also an ideal opportunity to make the supplier aware of developing or potential industry trends and needs for the future. If you do not participate, how can you complain when the products do not do all that you would like?
Have your say
What is your take on Ray Titcombe's opinion?