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6 essential steps for managing vendors

Lou Markstrom | Sept. 23, 2014
Gartner once predicted that in the future, an IT career will not be about technology but rather managing a range of service providers.

Gartner once predicted that in the future, an IT career will not be about technology but rather managing a range of service providers.

Several years down the track and that's exactly what is happening and the shift will most certainly continue. More and more, IT professionals must be efficient and effective in managing third-party service providers.

The model for successfully managing vendor partnerships consists of 6 steps.

Step 1: Process evaluation

A good vendor relationship starts well before you ever sign a contract with a vendor.

The first step is to make sure you understand the business process that you are considering outsourcing. A close look at business processes today will very often reveal cross-departmental processes that are fragmented, unmeasured, unmanaged, and disconnected.

There is absolutely no use in outsourcing these. To profit and receive the benefits of outsourcing, you need a true understanding of your processes, their outputs, and their end-to-end costs. This will then allow you to develop meaningful and appropriate performance metrics.

This is the critical ingredient that will allow you to establish a shared understanding with your vendor about performance and management expectations.

Step 2: Insource versus outsource

Once you understand the processes, you can now objectively evaluate which ones are candidates for outsourcing. Some considerations to keep in mind when making this decision are to evaluate whether a process is core to a competitive strategy or non-core.

Keep in mind, however, that this can become very subjective. A stronger approach is to focus on areas in which you developed the most specialised skills and to keep those in-house, paying particular attention to the industry in which you are operating. No matter which criteria you use, never make the decision to outsource lightly because once it is done, it can be a very time-consuming and costly endeavour to bring something back in-house.

Step 3: Vendor selection

The days of selecting vendors on cost alone are over. There are several other considerations. One that is often overlooked is the cultural fit between the organisations.

Some items to keep in mind when evaluating cultural compatibility include time orientation, organisation structure, decision-making processes, rate of change, and the age of the workforce.

Key questions to ask when selecting your vendor include:

  • Do the provider have experience with the work you want it to do?
  • Has its staff worked in an environment similar to yours?
  • Is it financially stable?
  • Does it have standardised processes?
  • Can it provide economies of scale?
  • Has it been sued by previous clients?

You and your team should also meet with the vendor's representatives, the people you will be interacting with, on a regular basis. Don't just speak with the vendor's salespeople. Get the process owners involved early.


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