13 Feb 2013

Getting the most from your IT service providers

Business technology partnerships are becoming increasingly important, numerous and complex. Your relationships with service providers can deliver a tremendous competitive advantage if they’re managed correctly. Find out how to leverage your vendor partnerships for maximum gain. Choose the right Service Provider The most important part of relationship management is finding the right people to work with in the first place. Vet your potential service providers thoroughly, and make sure they’re up to the task you require of them. Ensure they’ve got experience in similar-sized projects, and have delivered for their clients in the past. Experience with other companies in your vertical, or closely related ones, is also a big plus. Make your expectations clear Have a discussion about your expectations for a particular product or service, and make this discussion an ongoing one. Building your partnership on the basis of proactive negotiation about methodologies, outcomes and timelines can save innumerable headaches at later stages in your projects. Nurture and pursue strategic alliances While there are times you just want a service provider for a short-term contract, viewing all service providers through the lens of individual projects and contracts will deprive you of the strategic value these partnerships could yield. With IT developments increasingly driving business, partnering with a service provider who can deliver long-term strategic value and actively working with them to leverage the partnership into a competitive advantage for your company is a must. Talk money, in detail Your financial discussions should be similarly frank, transparent and thorough. Talk about rates for services or hours that might arise but are un-budgeted in the contract, management or pass-through charges, and any discounts or rebates that might apply in certain circumstances. This can help contain costs and give you a better knowledge about the shape of your project and department budgets. Stay involved in projects If you’re partnering with a service provider to develop software for your business, ensure you have access to the systems they’re using to build the solution throughout the project. Take an active interest in a project from the early stages. If you wait until the project is 80% complete before discovering there’s a fundamental flaw built into it, both you and your vendor will have an unnecessarily difficult (and expensive) time fixing it. Stephen Sims is the General Manager – Sales and Marketing