September 3, 2010

Partner Or Vendor: You Make The Choice

Working With Partners & Vendors Is Sorta Like Double Dating

Working With Partners & Vendors Is Sorta Like Double Dating

What’s The Difference Between A Vendor And A Partner?

When you become CIO, you’re going to be faced with the challenge of picking your friends. No, I’m not talking about being nice to the CEO and CFO – let’s hope that they are already your friends. What I’m talking about is the collection of outside firms that provide your IT department with goods and services. They can’t all be your best friend, so you’ve got some decisions to make…

The first thing that we should all agree on is that not all companies that you will be doing business with are created equal. What this means in practical terms is that the world is divided into two groups of businesses: vendors and partners.

A vendor is someone with whom you simply be doing business with. This is not to say that they aren’t important, it’s just that there’s not a lot of additional value to be found in the relationship. A case in point might be the firm that supplies your IT department with paper: it’s important, but it’s not really a part of IT’s long term strategy.

Things are different when you are working with a partner. In this case you are both always seeking a win-win solution because it’s going to be a long-term relationship and it turns out that you are both in a position to help each other out.

Why Worry About What A Partner Is Thinking?

When you are the CIO, you’re going to be busy. Worrying about your relationship with your partners is going to take some of your time. Why bother?

It turns out that it’ll be worth the effort. The IT department’s relationship with it’s partners is a long-term investment. This means that how you treat your partners today will end up being remembered for a very long time.

This is a relationship in which you always have to be thinking about what the next step needs to be. The key is to identify those steps that both companies can take together in order to add value to both firms.

It’s when things go bad in the marketplace that the real value of having created a partnership with some of your suppliers will benefit your IT department. Taking the time to sit down and work with your partner in order to find ways that both of you can remain whole during a market downturn will end up benefiting both firms in the end.

How To Make Life Better For A Partner During A Downturn?

One of the secrets to being a successful CIO is the ability to show creativity when it comes to dealing with partners. During a rough patch, cash is probably going to be tight. You’re going to have to come up with some innovative ideas if you are going to be able to help your IT department’s partners out. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Add an extra year to a contract at a lower rate: even though you may need to renegotiate a contract with your partner at a lower rate, help them out by extending the contract so that they know they have a guaranteed revenue stream.
  • Acting as a reference: although your partner may not be able to get more cash out of you, by acting as a reference for them you may help them to close business with other companies that they couldn’t get without your help.
  • Allow them to leverage your organization’s brand: something as simple as giving a partner permission to put your company’s logo on their web site in order to identify who they do business with can be of great value to them.
  • Get a testimonial from you: taking partner support to the next level, providing a partner with a testimonial that they can incorporate into their marketing material has a tangible value to them and will be appreciated.

What All Of This Means For You

In today’s global economy, an IT department no longer consists of only your employees. Instead, it’s a spread out entity that includes both internal staff as well as your partners.

By treating your partners well, you’ll actually be able to expand the impact of your IT department. An added benefit of doing this will be that when your partners come into contact with your customers, they will do a good job of positively representing both your firm and your IT department.

Just in case you’ve missed the final reason that cultivating a select group of partners is worth your while, remember that your CIO job may not last forever. When your time as CIO is up at your current company, it sure would be nice to have a collection of firms in your industry that thought favorably of you…

Contact Blue Elephant Consulting to find out how your team can be trained to be ready for their shot at the top spot. We’ve can lay out the skills that they will need to develop. By working with Blue Elephant, your IT team can be ready for the day that they call their name to become the firm’s next CIO…!