Make supplier relationships work for you

David Taylor recommends some important steps by which an IT manager can vastly improve relationships with suppliers

David Taylor recommends some important steps by which an IT manager can vastly improve relationships with suppliers

David Taylor

Inside track

Three of the biggest and longest-standing challenges facing IT directors can be tackled in one fell swoop - and to significant all-round advantage.

Internal customers' perceptions of IT departments, relationships with external IT suppliers, and strategic business alignment, can all be significantly improved, at little or no additional cost.

The success of your IT department now depends as much on what people think of you, as on the service you provide. It is mission critical to make friends in key areas of your business.

Similarly, forward-thinking companies appreciate the need to work well with external suppliers. IT departments are no different, and already have such suppliers in place.

There are several ways that suppliers can work with you to manage and transform internal perceptions:

  • Hold an open day - when suppliers exhibit their software and services, demonstrating how they are used in your organisation
  • Invite key business people to a drinks reception and demonstration. Your supplier will pay for this, so that you cannot be accused of wasting money
  • Ensure that your key software suppliers include training and on-the-job familiarisation packaged with their solution. It is the buy-in of new software that will decide its success, as much as its functionality.
  • One word of caution - if this strategy is to work, you must retain ownership throughout. The best laid plans will fall foul of supplier over-promising, or exciting business peers so much that their expectations can never be realistically met.

    This process will improve business strategy, because decision-makers will:

  • Have the opportunity to understand technology developments they have previously only read about
  • Hear from third parties about the issues that you and other companies are facing in these fast moving and changing times
  • Have the opportunity to ask suppliers questions in a safe, relaxed environment
  • Meanwhile, suppliers also stand to gain from the arrangement because:

  • Regular contact at this level will help them to stay focused on the business, to see your corporate objectives first hand, and to understand better how to help you to meet them
  • They may find that you will return the favour by presenting to your supplier's organisation the ways in which you are working together, and by providing valuable endorsements.
  • The active promotion of IT services, and results, is a growing priority on IT leaders' agendas.

    By working together on a local basis, many strategic, communication and alignment problems can be resolved. By uniting IT directors and leaders from the supply side on a wider scale, our industry could take giant leaps forward, to the benefit of all.

    David Taylor is president of the association of IT directors Certus

    Read more on IT supplier relationship management